Decoding the Music Maze: The Power of Identifiers in Crediting and Payments


In the intricate realm of the music industry, the simple act of identifying a person or entity can be akin to navigating a labyrinth. Unlike other industries where legal names suffice, the music space introduces complexities. Artists may operate under pseudonyms, songwriters might juggle between legal names and creative monikers, and individuals could be part of collaborative entities like bands. In this environment, a name alone often falls short in providing a clear identification.

Exploring Key Identifiers:

Two standard data identifiers play a crucial role in the music industry:

  1. ISNI (International Standard Name Identifier):
  • A global standard 16-digit number.
  • Identifies individual writers, artists, performers, and creators.
  • Utilizes unique data elements like birthdate and place to disambiguate identities.
  • Optional but gaining broader adoption.
  1. IPI (Interested Party Information):
  • A unique number assigned by collecting societies to songwriters and publishers.
  • Links parties to their musical works.
  • Usually 9 to 11 digits long.
  • Industry norm but often lacks widespread integration.
  • While these identifiers exist, the challenge lies in their cohesive implementation across the industry.

The Divergence in Adoption:

While the ISRC standard for sound recordings has been an industry norm for about 30 years, ISNI is an emerging player over the past decade. However, its true impact awaits universal adoption, especially by major music companies.

In an ideal scenario, a contributor possesses both ISNI and IPI. However, companies along the music distribution chain must consistently capture and verify these identifiers for correct attribution.

Why It Matters:

The absence of legal names, reliance on initials, and the presence of mysterious “unknowns” in label copy turn the crediting process into a detective game. Delays and inaccuracies become inevitable.

The significance of correct person metadata includes:

  • Higher accuracy in crediting contributors.
  • Expedited payment processes.
  • Enhanced analytics for performance evaluation.
  • Improved matching of recordings to works.
  • Accurate income tracking.

Building a Solution:

By creating awareness and taking proactive steps, the industry can ensure the effective use of key identifiers for crediting and payments.

  1. Capture All Identifiers:
  • Gather all available party identifiers (ISNI, IPI, PRO assigned codes).
  1. Promote ISNI Adoption:
  • Advocate for widespread adoption of ISNI as a standard identifier.
  1. Conduct IPI Reviews:
  • Fill gaps in IPI implementation.
  1. Establish Standards for Textual Representation:
  • Define industry-wide standards for capturing names as text.
  1. Training Initiatives:
  • Broad training on identifier usage and best practices.


In the music industry, the proper identification of contributors is not just a bureaucratic formality; it’s a gateway to fair crediting and timely payments. The more seamlessly and accurately contributors can be identified, the smoother the entire ecosystem functions. By embracing and normalizing the use of key identifiers, the industry can foster a more efficient, transparent, and equitable environment for all participants.

David Lotwin is an influential figure in the music industry, renowned for his expertise in artist development, business innovation, and recording studio business. David has left an indelible mark on the industry through his work alongside iconic artists and as co-founder of the legendary D&D Studios.  David possesses a deep understanding of the intricacies of the music world. With his wealth of experience, David has become a trusted advisor and mentor to aspiring artists, sharing his wisdom and guiding them on their creative journeys. His profound insights and passion for nurturing talent make him a respected voice in the music industry.


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