If you cannot find the answer to your questions on this page then please contact us. We are happy to clarify any questions that you might have about ISMNs.

More detailed information is also available in the ISMN Users' Manual.

1. What is an ISMN?

An ISMN is a 13-digit standard number that is used to uniquely identify publications of printed music anywhere in the world.

The ISMN service within Australia is managed National Library of Australia, on behalf of the International ISMN Agency located in Berlin, and operates as a free service to the music publishing industry.

2. What types of publications are eligible for ISMNs?

Most publications of notated music, whether available for sale, hire, or gratis, are eligible for an ISMN. These include:

  • scores (including full, short, miniature, vocal and so on)
  • sets of parts or individual parts if they are available separately
  • song books and anthologies
  • other media that is integral to a notated pubication (e.g., an electronic recording that is one of the parts of a published work)
  • braille music publications
  • electronic publications of notated music
  • any other item that is an integral part of the published work and which is made available separately (e.g., song texts/lyrics or commentaries that are integral to the work)

ISMNs are not allocated to stand-alone sound or video recordings, or to books or periodicals even if they are about music. These publications use other standard numbers available from the following suppliers:

3. Why should I get ISMNs for my publications?

Using ISMNs to uniquely identify your music publications offers several advantages to Australian publishers. They include:

Increasing the internet exposure of your publications

Most publishers seek to promote their publications to as wide an audience as possible, and when you allocate an ISMN to a publication, the National Library of Australia will automatically create a bibliographic record to be shared via Libraries Australia and Trove, widening the availability of your works.

Removing uncertainty about different versions of a publication

By assigning a specific ISMN to each type of publication that you make available you remove all ambiguity and uncertainty in distinguishing one version from another. Someone looking for music may be interested in a particular edition, publisher, binding, or electronic format, in full scores or separate parts, or might be looking for a particular instrumentation. Assigning a unique ISMN to each version you offer captures all of the additional information which the composer’s name and the title of the composition alone doesn’t provide.

Getting your contact details listed on the International Music Publishers Directory

If you agree to make your details public, your contact details can be included in the Music Publishers’ International ISMN Database of ISMN registered publishers administered by the International ISMN Agency. This allows potential buyers and sellers of your music worldwide to find you and obtain your works.

You can choose whether to share your details when you register as an ISMN publisher, or update your preferences using the Publisher information form. Further details about the security and privacy of your data can be found on the National Library of Australia website and International ISMN Agency website.

Facilitating stock control and barcode numbering

EAN barcode using 13-digit ISMNISMNs can provide a mechanism for stock control and delivery and can be used for producing EAN-compliant barcodes for retail and other purposes. ISMN barcodes can be obtained for free by selecting the barcode option in the request additional ISMNs form.

4. How much does it cost to get an ISMN?

Nothing! The Australian ISMN Agency is run as a free service to the music publishing industry by the National Library of Australia. There are no costs involved in acquiring ISMNs for your publications.

5. How do I get an ISMN?

Once you have registered with the Australian ISMN Agency, we will send you a list of ISMNs depending on how many you think you will need. The numbers on that list will be for your use only and cannot be used by anyone else in the world. You then assign numbers from that list to your publications as you require, and then let us know the details of every item to which you allocate an ISMN.

When you have used your initial allocation of ISMNs, you can request additional ISMNs at any time.

6. How long does it take to get an ISMN?

The Australian ISMN Agency works to a turn-around time of ten working days for ISMN registrations and allocations.

If you need a faster turn-around time, please contact us and we will do our best to meet your needs.

7. Can ISMNs be re-used?

No! Once an ISMN has been allocated to a publication then it stays fixed forever. Even if the work is no longer available, or the publisher ceases to operate, the ISMN continues to identify that publication in perpetuity.

Similarly, if a block of ISMNs have been issued to a publisher and the publisher does not use them all then those numbers will remain forever unused because they cannot be re-issued to another publisher.

Further detailed information about the application of ISMNs to your publications can be found in the ISMN Users' Manual.

8. Can a work have an ISBN or an ISSN as well as an ISMN?

The short answer is yes — it is possible to assign different standard numbers to a publication depending on the nature of that publication. For example, it is not possible to assign an ISMN to a serial, but it might be possible to assign and ISMN to a single issue of a serial if it is also a printed music publication. Similarly, it might be the case that a publication is equally eligible for an ISBN as well as an ISMN.

Please contact us to discuss your particular situation.

9. ISMN resources

10. What is the Prepublication Data Service?

The Prepublication Data Service (formerly Cataloguing in Publication) is a free service offered by the National Library of Australia.

The Prepublication Data Service (PDS) is for Australian music publishers and self-publishing composers who want the details of their upcoming publications made available to over 1,000 Australian libraries, library suppliers, and other members of the industry for acquisition purposes.

The PDS enables the creation of a prepublication record - a catalogue record which is created for a music publication before it is published. A catalogue record will be automatically created once you submit a Music ISMN Allocation and PDS form.

For further information on using the PDS for your music publications, please view the Music PDS information page.