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  • Tim Turan

Session Notes 2 - CD Business, Metadata

Updated: Apr 6, 2021

Greetings noisemakers, last month i looked at how to prepare your files ready for mastering. This month i will address the thorny problems of METADATA. The stuff that isn’t music but is essential in identifying your music and ownership across the wide marketplace. This is relevant for anyone releasing material digitally and that of course includes the good old CD. The CD format apart from the area on the disc that contains the music also contains an area known as the SUBCODE. This subcode can contain a variety of information pertinent to the release. In the not too distant past CD masters were delivered to duplication plants on CD-R’s (Compact Disc-Recordable). Today they are delivered by a file-set known as DDP (Disc Description Protocol). Both master formats include metadata but the DDP format is completely error free … this obviously is a good thing. I send DDP masters all around the world via “wetransfer” and this error free format is now the common standard. Ok now what is METADATA.

Well, simply put, metadata is data that provides information about other data, i.e. your music.

I embed all metadata into the subcode area of the master for CD manufacture. This does NOT interfere with the music in any way, it simply provides information about the music. Let’s begin …

  1. ISRC codes -: Stands for “International Standard Recording Code”. This is a special code that identifies unique sound and music-video recordings. It identifies the recording not the composition or lyrics. You will need a different ISRC for any new versions of a track, i.e. radio edit, extended edit, remix etc. ISRC’s can also be embedded into files (WAV, FLAC, MP3, M4A and AAC). This is different to embedding into the CD subcode. The ISRC code is an alpha/numerical string that is broken down as follows. Here is an example. GB-XXX-19-00001. GB is the country of origin. UK is also used for British releases too. XXX is the ‘owner’ code or first registrant. 19 is the year of manufacture or year of reference, and finally 00001 is the designation code for that individual track. Subsequent tracks on an album will have 00002, 00003 etc. You can apply for your own ISRC’s and get a whole lot more information using this link. Lastly, ISRC’s are optional not mandatory. When you apply for ISRC’s you will register with PPL (Phonographic Performance Ltd). They will collect and track royalties across the entire globe/disc (hi flat earther’s) for you. This again is a good thing. The ISRC enables them to do this so … get ISRCing.

  2. CD TEXT. CD text is also stored in the subcode area and comprises of album name, song name, band/artist name, genre, composer and a few others including “comments”. I personally have never used the comments field despite really wanting to a few times … !!!! This text can only be read by CD players that are equipped to read it. A lot of CD players do not have this facility. Also please do not confuse CD TEXT with computer or car recognition systems. When you insert your CD into a computer for example it will not recognise your disc unless you have registered it with “Gracenote”. Formerly known as CDDB (Compact Disc Data Base) Gracenote will upload your info and make it available to anyone inserting your CD into their computer or car system. This link for more info. If you don’t do this your CD could accidentally match (in the table of contents TOC) with another registered CD and identify your album for example as “Stab Me Til I Cum” by “Gorerotted” ( i actually mastered that title) … so beware.

  3. Finally music CD’s are actually called CD-DA (Compact Disc-Digital Audio) also known as “Red Book”. Music CD’s comply with the Red Book set of specifications. Why Red Book? Well that was the colour of the binder cover when the specs were published!

Next month i’ll look at the CD track list, index points, the dreaded secret track, PQ sheets and more besides.

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