Expert panel talks progress with the upgraded ISWC system – now it’s time for adoption across the music ecosystem

From Left to Right : Sylvain Piat - CISAC, Cynthia Lipskier - SACEM, James Way - ICE, Matt Phipps-Taylor - peermusic, Tom Rettig - Gracenote Content Solutions,
Declan Rudden - SaorServices (moderator)

Paris, 16th November 2022 - The global music identifier ISWC has been comprehensively upgraded to be faster, more accurate and more efficient – the priority now has to be getting the new system implemented across the whole music value chain.

Extending the ISWC music identifier was the theme of a panel discussion organised by CISAC in the Society Publisher Forum, and involving experts from different parts of the music sector.  CISAC completed a major modernisation to improve the speed, accuracy and efficiency of the ISWC system in 2020. Now it is working to promote and develop new services to all partners to get the identifier implemented across the music ecosystem.

Hosted by French society SACEM in Paris on November 9th, the panel brought together Sylvain Piat, Director of Business, CISAC, Cynthia Lipskier, Deputy Director of Operations - Documentation, SACEM; Matt Phipps-Taylor, Chief Information Officer, peermusic; James Way, Head of Copyright Data Policy, ICE; Tom Rettig, VP of Product, Gracenote Content Solutions; Magali Clapier, Publishing Operations Strategy, Spotify; and moderator Declan Rudden, Managing Director, SaorServices.

CISAC is the administrator of the ISWC, which is the international ISO standard for musical works codes. The key objective now is that the  ISWC is uploaded with songs to digital services providers, together with the recording information identified by its ISRC, the recording industry’s identifier.

This will ensure accurate identification of the work and the music creators, avoid friction in licensing, and, in turn, ensure rightsholders are properly remunerated.

Upgraded allocation and resolution services

The panel discussed the improvements that have been made to the ISWC system. This includes the new centralised allocation service that has been widely implemented by societies and is now made available to publishers.  The main benefit is to get an ISWC allocated to a work for rapid circulation within the network of publishers and societies, and then to get it uploaded to music platforms.

The separate ISWC resolution service for publishers is also helped by a new centralised system with a more accurate matching. This allows publishers to validate the ISWC codes that they have on their systems for back catalogues.

All of CISAC’s 100+ music member societies have implemented the upgraded system, and the next priority is to ensure widespread adoption of the new services by publishers.

Cynthia Lipskier explained how SACEM uses the modern APIs to quickly assign ISWCs for SACEM’s domestic repertoire, validate ISWCs for the international repertoire and quality check ISWCs returned by DSPs in the digital licensing process.  

“Members, including both creators and publishers, understand the importance of the ISWC Codes and the challenges of providing and exchanging a single and authoritative code. The ISWC codes need to be reliable and accurate to avoid mismatches and conflicts between licensors. That’s the reason why since 2020 SACEM has integrated the use of the API in documentation and identification processes.  We hope that everyone will work in the same direction to provide this important and crucial data for the purpose of identification and correct distribution to the rightsholders.”

 Positive publisher feedback

Matt Phipps-Taylor of global independent music publisher peermusic said positive results with the new system have enabled them to significantly increase the coverage of ISWCs across the publisher’s back-catalogue.

“The availability of ISWCs to us in the past was quite limited, so when we started this exercise we had  ISWCs in the database for only a small portion of our catalogue, and we weren’t confident in sharing them externally without a way to easily check them or know if codes had been corrected or merged. We began by integrating with the resolution service - we are now approaching 2 million requests made to the service, and have already retrieved 1.2 million ISWCs into our system which we can now include in registrations and data files shared with partners and clients. We are also integrating the ISWC allocation service into our registration workflow, so that wherever possible we get an ISWC quickly assigned to a new work and included in the very first registrations we send to societies”.

Panellists agreed on the need to raise awareness of the benefits of the system across the value chain. The next step is to deliver new services for DSPs and data service companies, and continue with the improved use of the ISWC by all stakeholders.

Magalia Clapier of Spotify, said:  "We applaud CISAC's efforts to continue to modernize and share identifiers across the whole ecosystem so that royalties can reach songwriters in a faster, more efficient and more accurate way. Specifically, we are thrilled to soon be active participants in the ISWC dissemination initiative and look forward to other similar data collaborations"

Another key area discussed was the importance of implementing the link between the ISRC and ISWC codes at the inception of the musical work and recording so that all the information is available at the moment a song is ingested by a streaming service. 

James Way of ICE  said the panel was a great opportunity to raise awareness of the positive developments that increase the allocation and dissemination of ISWC Numbers.  “These tools ensure that ICE’s customers have access to their ISWCs at the earliest possible point in the administration process and helps further optimise our data management and matching services.  The Rapid Allocation Service facilitates the allocation (and identification) of an ISWC prior to the first registration of a work.  A publisher, or writer, can then to ensure ISWCs are ingested into society and partner systems at the earliest possible point.  ICE has worked with several publishers, international and independent, to implement the Rapid Allocation Service and we look forward to onboarding many more publishers on the service”.

ISWC key to collections growth

CISAC’s director of business Sylvain Piat said the confederation is currently working hard to promote the ISWC services to publishers and also across the ecosystem.  The recently-published Global Collections Report showed the vital importance of optimising digital collections, which now account for one third of all global collections.

The message was reinforced by Tom Rettig, VP Product at Gracenote.  “Industry standard IDs are essential for organisations to communicate effectively with regard to common data objects, particularly given the massive volume of streaming music transactions today. We're optimistic that CISAC's new 3rd party tool will help us further improve ISWC coverage across the ecosystem, ultimately making it easy for all parties to work with composition data."

Sylvain Piat ended by quoting CISAC President Björn Ulvaeus who, in his foreword to the report, says the lack of complete data means the streaming world is still “unfinished business” and that a lot of money “is being left on the table when it should be going into creators’ pockets”.