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Music Distribution - Everything you need to know about Soundscan and Your UPC Code
by Ken Cavalier

If you are an independent artist releasing a new CD with plans for any form of retail physical music distribution than it is essential that you are aware of and register the product release with Neilson Soundscan – especially if you are interested in attracting record label attention and eventually going for a record deal. Neilson Soundscan is the primary information system that tracks the sales of music and video releases throughout the United States and Canada.   They powerfully record your CD sales statistics which is ultimately picked up by the record labels who constantly monitor Soundscan looking for up and coming artists who are proving to sell CD units independently.

Sales data is generally collected weekly from over 15,000 retail, mass merchant, and online stores and venues.  Neilson Soundscan is also the sales source which is used to compile the music charts for Billboard.  So obviously, it makes a great deal of sense to register your CD releases with Soundscan.  The information system can only track and record sales on CDs that have what is called a UPC code (Universal Product Code).

What Exactly is a UPC Code?


A bar code or a UPC as it is also known, is "an arrangement of parallel lines and spaces that vary in width which represent data." Specifically, they represent a unique 12-digit number, sometimes called a Universal Product Code number. When placed on your product or CD, these bars can be scanned by lasers so that stores can digitally record what products they have sold. You've probably seen how much time they save cashiers at stores.  This data is picked up by Neilson Soundscan.  So when you sell a CD at a retail outlet utilizing scanning (as most if not all) do today, this is registered and you get credit for the sale.

Why is a UPC Code So Important on My CD?


First off, if you intend to seek retail and physical music distribution for your CD release, and have it sold in stores, it is required.  Secondly and obviously, if you want to eventually seek attention from record labels for selling significant CDs independently then you must have a UPC code so that Neilson Soundscan can pick up the sales and register and report them.  You can obtain your UPC code from the UC Council (uc-council.org), the cost to Indie musicians is generally $750. plus your annual renewal fee.  However, and this is very important to note.  If you are having your CD manufactured by a registered manufacturer such as Discmakers and most others, they will register and furnish your UPC code for around $20. and will also include the bar code in the CD artwork fees.  It’s a heck of a savings and obviously makes sense to go this route.  Ask your CD manufacturer for details.

Remember, when you have secured your UPC code you obviously must register the title with Neilson Soundscan unless your manufacturer does it for you – which in most cases they will but please make sure they do, or Soundscan will not be able to register sales stats on your CD.  If you are doing this yourself you need to fill out a “Title Addition Sheet” with soundscan and you can submit it to Soundscan’s Database by email at
dbase@soundscan.com.  Your barcode is good outside of North America but will only record your sales in North America and Canada.  You can find everything you need to know about Soundscan at soundscan.com.

 

©2016  Ken Cavalier  All Rights Reserved Worldwide

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