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The Truth About Barcodes
by Janet Fisher - Goodnight Kiss Music, April 2002

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I see many places that offer one a "personal barcode" for a small amount of money (which is illegal, by the way); or often a CD manufacturing company will offer an artist a "barcode with your OWN name" as part of the deal. Let's talk about the ACTUAL barcode number, all right?

Where Do I Get a Barcode?
Barcodes are assigned from only ONE official place -- the Uniform Code Council. They issue barcodes to everyone who intends to sell product(s). The barcode is ASSIGNED by the UCC, from a central database, so that all uniform scanners at stores, etc., can "read" the information on the barcode, and report it to whomever the information is relevant.

For example, SoundScan monitors albums sold retail, and that defines the charts, placements, awards, etc., or at least is an influential part of the mix. Any monies owed or earned can be tracked through this universal system. It is a world-wide, accepted identifier for you AND YOUR COMPANY.

Why Do I Need One?
As said above, it's the way a retail sale is identified, and sometimes wholesale sales, also. It is read UNIVERSALLY.

How Much is It?
A lot. About $750.00 last time I checked, but you can contact the UCC, and check the current rates.

What Does the Barcode Actually Say?
Sample of a barcode: 09789703563764

Four Basic Things:
1. The country identifier.
2. The COMPANY identifier (the name of the entity who purchased the barcode DIRECTLY FROM THE UCC.)
3. The specific PRODUCT number.
4. The verifier number.

In other words, the first number(s) identify the country the product is from -- in this case, the U.S..

The second set of numbers "say" GOODNIGHT KISS PUBLISHING.

The next set "say" MUSIC HORROR STORIES.

The next number(s) are the ones, when put to a UCC formula, show that the barcode is not "made-up" -- or consist of random numbers.

So? How Does That Affect My CD I'm Having Made at my Local CD Disc Maker/Replicator? They are Giving Me MY OWN BARCODE FREE.

Well, yes and no, actually. The second number will identify the Disc-Replicator/Manufacturing company. Only the next to the last set will refer to you or your CD.In other words, you will bear the name of the manufacturing company, unless you provide that manufacturer with your OWN barcode, issued directly to you from the UCC.

Your "free" Disk Replicator company-assigned barcodes will read like this:
US- Bob's Cheesy Disk Company- Dan's First Album- number verified.

You think you are getting:
US- Dan's Record Company (or Dan Smith)- Dan's First Album- number verified.

If you don't believe me, pin them down specifically. Then ask for it in writing.

Only a number issued to Goodnight Kiss FROM the UCC will reflect the product to be :
US - Goodnight Kiss Publications - Music Horror Stories - number verified.

OK, Janet, Get Real -- I Need a Barcode, I Have a GREAT CD, and I Don't Want to be Associated with Po-Dunk Replicators When People Scan the Code, and I Don't have ANOTHER $750.00 to Invest in This CD -- is There ANYthing Else I Can Do?
This is kind of a backwards way to get a "record deal" -- but it is possible (especially if you have a completed, with art and licensing, HONESTLY-COMPETITIVE-IN-ITS-OWN-FIELD CD that YOU had already planned to distribute at regional record stores and gigs). Go to a small, Indy label that you RESPECT, and that your music is appropriate for. Don't be desperate. Choose a company you WANT to be associated with.

Call the President of the label and see if you can strike a deal with them. They will be out very little, if you come to them with finished product they actually like. You will both benefit from cross publicity, so have some great promo plans in the works.

You can make a deal for "whatever" per sale of the CD to be on their label, if YOU handle everything else about your record (wherehousing, shipping, promo, live appearances, radio station interviews and giveaways -- all the things a label usually does that costs them lots of dollars).

You might stumble onto a mid-size label with actual physical distribution, where they might order "X" number of CDs directly from you, though one rarely makes much money the first time out in this arrangement.

You might create or discover a lease situation, where the label leases the CD from you for "X" amount of years, you serve as the physical shipper (sending disks to whomever the label asks you to, in a timely fashion). Or perhaps you would advance them the disks, or ship direct to them upon their request.

You work it out. What are you giving -- what are you getting? What can you offer (besides a Great CD, in at least YOUR opinon) that would entice them to associate with YOU?

The hard part is finding a small enough label to take you, but a large enough label to make sure you at least get some visibility, if not some sales (or, as with our company, hopefully USES and sales).

Bear in mind, you originally only wanted a barcode that didn't read "Po-Dunk Records" -- now we are trying to incorporate record deals! But, this IS a possible way to go. Then, at least when the barcode reads: "US- Cool Records- Dan Smith's Album- verified number" you feel good about it!

As ALWAYS, this is NOT legal advice -- but rather my own opinion of what I might choose to do. Always consult your attorney, and maybe your doctor, before you try my tips at home ...


Janet Fisher resides in the hills of Hollywood as the Managing Director of Goodnight Kiss Music (BMI) and Scene Stealer Music (ASCAP) Publishing Companies.Janet is also co-chair of the New Writers Committee for the Songwriters Guild of America, where she also serves on the Board of Directors for the Los Angeles chapter, and is a Voting Member of NARAS.

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