Monday, August 20, 2007

Happy Birthday Compact Disc!

The Venerable CD Turns 25 Today



25 years ago today the first CD was mass produced in Hannover, Germany. Abba's The Visitors was followed by countless other CD releases, and CDs continue to be the number one format for purchasing music, although this will probably change in the next few years.
One of the interesting things that comes to mind is what this means for the age of individual CDs: CDs contain aluminum, which eventually rusts and makes the CDs unplayable. Accelerated aging and "stress tests" suggest that CDs should last about 30 years -- not as good as Vinyl -- and it looks like real-life is catching up. CD-Rs, at least the high quality ones which use gold, are said to last much longer -- up to 100 years -- but you have to keep them in cool, low-light conditions.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

ISRC Police

I got a call from RIAA yesterday. The name RIAA, perhaps most famous in the last few years for their aggressive litigation against filesharing, including suing a 12-year-old girl, might strike fear in your heart (especially if you've got Kazza or Limewire running on your machine), but this phone call was friendly.

The call was about how XO Wave comes up with a default ISRC code. If you are unfamiliar with ISRCs, you should definitely read up -- every day that passes will make it harder for musicians to get paid without them (in fact, I believe all songs sold on all the major digital music stores must have ISRCs associated with them). ISRCs are used for tracking royalty payments, tracking sales, and so on, and each recording of every song must have a uniquely assigned ISRC for it to work.

Without going into detail, an ISRC code consists of four parts: the country code, the registrant, the two-digit year, and the designation. By default, XO Wave assigns some values to these things, but unless you manually set the registrant, it won't burn to disk. RIAA was concerned because the default country code was derived from the computer, and you might accidentally associate the country code with the wrong registrant. For example, say you work for Tripple-A records in the UK, and have been given the registrant code 'AAA', your ISRC codes might look something like this: ISRC UK-AAA-07-00000, but if you're running XO Wave in the US, it will default to: ISRC US-AAA-07-00000, which might actually belong to another label (AAA Records registered in the US). Though this is an unlikely scenario (especially since you'll probably have to enter the ISRCs by hand which gives you another chance to check it over), I concede it does unnecessarily increase the risk of error, and anything that does so is bad.

Since RIAA's right about all this, we'll be fixing it in a future release by making default country code a preference. In the meantime (and, heck, even after it's fixed), be sure to be careful about how you use those ISRCs -- always make sure they are correct when burning your masters or someone else may be getting your royalties!