Blank barcode vs [none] for digital releases

I have a discussion with editor @C5OK5Y on some of my edits and they mentioned their practice is to add [none] as barcode to digital media releases “by default” when a barcode can’t be easily found, even if there’s still a possible chance that the barcode exists. I personally think you should leave the barcode field blank unless you know for certain that the release don’t have a barcode. The “suggestion/guideline” when adding a barcode states: “If you do not know whether the release has a barcode or not, just leave this blank.”, which is in agreement with me, however I am aware that it’s not in the official guidelines and I was told by the editor that it can’t apply well to digital releases because these releases have their barcodes hard or impossible to find, therefore justifying the usage of [none] by default in such cases.

Here are the two edits with relevant discussion:

In this specific edit chain I’m doing, it’s not known until which point the single releases started having barcodes (maybe even all singles have one, maybe singles starting from 088, maybe singles starting from ~161), so I chose to add the barcodes to releases which exist on Spotify (extracted via the Web API) and changed the rest to blank (empty), which I consider the default state. The second edit chain is about the first three compilation albums from Monstercat. Those do have the releases on Spotify, but their release date is off by more than a month (in 2 cases) and the track order is different, so I wasn’t brave enough to slap the Spotify links with barcodes to the releases we have but chose to set them blank instead (the barcodes could still match). Another point is that if anyone should find a barcode or lack of barcode for these releases in the future, setting the barcode to any value (including [none]) would be an autoedit (which can’t be an autoedit if the barcodes are set to [none] beforehand).

I would like to know how other people approach such issues and whether there should be any clear guidelines about this (including mentioning digital media releases). Thanks for any input, much appreciated!


I tend to agree with @C5OK5Y on this point.
I’ve been repeatedly told iTunes releases have barcodes so since then I don’t set NONE any more as far as I remember but I don’t like it as I cannot see those barcodes myself.


I usually don’t set Barcode to [None] as i can’t be certain no barcode exists for it.


I would also agree with culinko, I would not set barcode as [none] unless explicitly knowing that this is the case.


As someone who fanatically enters [none] barcodes for digital releases, I disagree with leaving them blank.

First of all, do digital releases really have a “barcode”? From what I’ve seen so far, most have none or only a catalogue number at most. If there is a barcode field, is this only for compatibility with physical releases?

Secondly, do they have the same barcodes on different stores, e.g. iTunes and Spotify or are those automatically generated by the respective store? If the latter is the case, wouldn’t this require creating a release per-store just for the barcode?

And last but not least, regarding whether to use [none] instead of blank barcodes, I tend to look at and add links to all online stores selling a certain release and shouldn’t the fact that none of them display a barcode be enough to confidently set the barcode to [none]?

Anyway, just my two cents, but in any case I think the style guideline should be updated for digital releases as the current one does neither acknowledge the existence of [none] nor it’s appropriate use.


Secondly, do they have the same barcodes on different stores, e.g. iTunes and Spotify or are those automatically generated by the respective store? If the latter is the case, wouldn’t this require creating a release per-store just for the barcode?

This is an excellent question. As we talked about this on irc I can actually confirm that this release’s barcode which was extracted from the high resolution cover art from Bandcamp matches the barcode extracted using the Spotify’s Web API.

Additionally, I found out that Spotify’s release date (can also be extracted using the Web API) doesn’t even need to match the Bandcamp’s release date. For example the barcode extracted from the cover on Bandcamp for Hellberg’s Synchronize is 859716363240, which is identical to Spotify’s barcode, even though their release date differs by 15 days.

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My understanding, from editors with more experience in that area than me, is that iTunes should be left blank, because there is a top-secret mystery barcode floating around somewhere on their system.
I don’t love the idea, same as @Leo_Verto, but I cede that it’s ‘technically’ (not practically…) correct.

Bandcamp releases I always put as [none] if there is no mention or of a barcode in the download or on the page.

@culinko I don’t understand your point sorry, the cover art has a barcode on it and has been used across the board, why would spotify be expected to have the same release date as bandcamp because because of the cover art?

Spotify usually has the same release date as Bandcamp (at least for Monstercat releases), but occasionally it can be different. My point was that even if Spotify’s release date is different, the releases still share the same barcode for the same release. That means that online stores probably all share the same barcode for that particular release.

All of this means that it’s very likely that the release has a valid barcode if it’s being offered in one of the online stores or streaming services, such as Spotify, iTunes or others. The more I am learning about this, the more I don’t see why [none] should be preferred as a default barcode for digital releases over the field simply being blank.

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In regards to Bandcamp I can confirm that there is no backend default ‘shared barcode’ setting or field and what you see on the BC page is what you get.
Monstercat might identify all their digital releases with the same barcode (or simply be using the same cover art) but that would be a intentional choice, as opposed to a general rule that can be applied to all releases or all labels :slight_smile:

Yes, commercial music releases tend to have a UPC. For many years now, the download and stream releases have tended to be assigned unique UPCs which are not shared with a physical counterpart.

Yes. All 16-bit lossy releases should share a UPC if they were distributed by the same distributor. All 24-bit hi-res releases should share a UPC if they were distributed by the same distributor. “Mastered for iTunes” releases tend to have a unique UPC because it’s a different master, although there is a history of labels like Warner Bros. Records sharing a UPC between the 24-bit and “Mastered for iTunes” releases. (And in this case, the 16-bit non-iTunes version of the release has a different UPC.)

There’s plenty of examples of this in MusicBrainz already, for example*+AND+comment%3A24bit*+AND+barcode%3A60*&type=release&limit=100&method=advanced (Universal Music)
Search results - MusicBrainz (Warner Music)
Search results - MusicBrainz (Sony Music Labels (Japanese))*+AND+comment%3A24bit*+AND+barcode%3A88*&type=release&limit=100&method=advanced (Sony Music (not Japanese))