Release country by rights society

If available, I stick to rights societies to determine the release country.¹ If BIEM (Bureau International de l’Edition Mécanique) is added to a national rights society, I choose “Europe”. Would it perhaps be better to also enter the country for the national rights society? I know in many cases that would just mean that the release was manufactured in that country - but not always and in some cases it would help to distinguish between two European releases (e.g. BIEM/MCPS and BIEM/STEMRAOn Every Street, see remastered editions)

¹) primarily, and I do not remove specific release countries if it’s plausible that the releases were actually released there - but I myself do not add the country in which I bought most of my GEMA or S.I.A.E. releases

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Ii’s not a good idea to decide the release country by looking at the Rights Society alone. There are many cases, where the RS are misleading:
For example: German releases of the 50s and early 60s all have just BIEM as RS but they are German only releases for sure.
Many German releases of the 80s have GEMA/BIEM or even GEMA/STEMRA as RS without being released European wide or in the Netherlands. There are many more examples.
So The RS are just a piece of the puzzle. The distribution indicators like Price codes are more important but can also lead to wrong conclusions since many 80’s covers (where you usually find the PCs) has been used for more than just one release.
Unfortunaletly there are no simple rules for finding the release country / countries.


I find Rights Societies can be pretty misleading in the UK. I’d never use them. For example, there was a time when a big row had many UK artists move away from MCPS to GEMA due to getting better royalty payments.

I tend to find rights societies are more set by manufacturer than where it is released. I have plenty of UK CDs made in Italy with SIAE, Dutch made STEMRAs and so forth. Don’t think I have ever seen a French manufactured CD without French RS on it even if it was only ever sold in the UK market.


I said primarily and I think it’s a good and replicable criterion for the release countries (in most cases). But usage has changed over time and sometimes it’s really hard to understand why this particular rights society was printed. :smile:

No, there is not, and that’s the reason why I think it is better to use criteria that can be read from the release rather than specifying the actual place of purchase. Of course, I also look at the release label etc.

That’s true in many cases, and especially for more recent CD releases. My old vinyls have very often rights society Austro Mechana. This became much rarer with CDs that often had GEMA printed on them, even though they were probably mainly produced for the Austrian market.

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I tend to talk CDs from 1980s up to now. That is where my experience is. I have not got round to looking at my vinyl yet. If I could find the copy of Music Week with the various arguments over the rights societies in the 1990s I’ll post it here.

I never bothered adding the RS to my spreadsheet, so can’t do a quick lookup. But I am pretty sure I have not seen the Rights Societies get much outside of their manufacturing country.

Okay - found a few notes I made from July 1991:

“Shops” as in licensing. Warner and BMG dropped MCPS in the UK in 1991… I think Sony and EMI then followed not long after. Front page of that Music Week linked above.

(Don’t forget that 1991 UK was still kinda “outside” the EU with many things. Maastricht Treaty was 1992 so we had a clear UK market and “imports” which is why the above table looks like that.)

A 14 year old Discogs thread I once read (and have now forgotten):

That included this:

Just a little addition to this:

As far as I know (and I should know, because I worked for Stemra some 15 years) BIEM is now indeed not much more than an umbrella organization for mechanical rights societies.

Another thing I have posted many times already:
Large record companies like to have a one stop shop for licensing their releases - this is called Central Licensing. They pay all mechanical rights for all of their European releases to one mechanical rights org. regardless of where in Europe it was actually released, either pan-European or territory specific (to mechanical rights orgs acquiring a Central Licensing deal is also highly lucrative and a competitive business).
Universal now pay their mechanical rights to SABAM - check releases from 2006. Before that, to MCPS, and before that (end 80’s until halfway 90’s) to Stemra.
Warner has had a long lasting Central Licensing agreement with GEMA.
Sony now has a deal with GEMA, before that with SACEM/SDRM, and before that Stemra.

And so on and so forth, in other words, with these releases the so called “country code” does indeed say nothing about the actual country of release.

So the Rights Codes are only really about who is in charge of dishing out the royalties from the sales. And nothing really about the territories of those sales.


and I guess they have mostly BIEM/something printed on it.

Interesting facts (thanks). And in fact, many international, but smaller releases (Jazz) are actually always intended for distribution across the entire continent. I was mainly thinking about my old albums that I actually bought in record stores (until mid-2000s). Most of them have rights society GEMA (Germany and Austria were always one market, I have also many vinyls with GEMA). Those with other rights societies are almost always BIEM/xxxx and I have actually none (of these) with rights society MCPS. It seems that Britain was always a separate market.

Nowadays I buy online and I first look at where I’m buying the CDs from and then what’s printed on the discs. But more and more often there are no rights societies anyway and label codes are also becoming increasingly rare, and SID codes as well…

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It can be very noticeable when reading that Music Week magazine. UK has always been outside of Europe. In the 80s\90s we’d have a “Euro chart” to show what was happening on the continent, but generally ran our own path. EU rules had us come and play with you guys from 1992 onwards a bit more.

It is why I find some of the Discogs attitude a bit odd when they try and turn all the UK releases into European releases.

I don’t really know the before CD world too well, just not studied it in the same detail. I expect the distinctions between territories were much clearer. I think MCPS was a very British thing until the manufacturers got big enough to turn away from them. It is why that article in the above magazine is so interesting. It is the start of that more European of distribution that was to come in the later 1990s.

You then look at how big companies like EMI operated in the later 1990s and see them split their three main factories between BIEM/MCPS, BIEM/STREMA and BIEM/SIAE but still ship CDs from each factory to all the Euro markets with little thought. On my CDs I find generally BIEM is always there, along with the one for the factory location.

At the same time I don’t think I have any WEA German manufactured CDs with MCPS on them even if they are a totally UK band. Similar with various punk CDs I own that are relatively small pressing runs from French factories for UK sale. These mostly have SACAM and other French rights on them and not MCPS. (I am just relying on a shaky memory here… :upside_down_face:)

…though is not a big, but a very diverse continent. But I remember something similar - there was a show that presented the current hits from several European charts. UK was included, but I don’t think I heard anything from Spanish or Greek or Scandinavian charts.

That’s because of their guidelines and because you can’t enter two release events there.

Definitely. Often the same manufacturer would produce 3 or 4 different labels for the same record with rights societies depending on the intended market. With the CDs, there began (with larger batches) to be less differentiation between European regions.

Unfortunately I also got no rights societies in my spreadsheet and thus also rely on my shaky memory :laughing:

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I have no idea how it was weighted. UK has always had an Island attitude.

It is the Discogian USA editors who are actively deleting “UK & Europe” that I find the weirdest. Or swap UK to Europe for no reason at all.

After reading those above articles years ago I never bother adding RS to my spreadsheet as I soon got bored of Right Socs. Just tied them to factories in my head and ignored them. (Though I always add them to Releases in MB)

One day I may go mad and write a pile of SQL to pull MB data into a wider sheet \ database. Once I finish cataloguing my main collection.

You’re right - “UK & Europe” is possible. But there are some very enthusiastic editors out there. I usually don’t care if someone thinks it has to be that way.

Some day I will import my collected matrix data into database tables - a manageable effort, but I still haven’t done it yet :grin: