UPC/barcode on digital release

There are other topics discussing this in general, but this query relates to a specific release.

For this release, the barcode of 842812106514 is entered. Now, I can do a iTunes lookup by barcode and associate that barcode to this release. If I do the same for the ASIN (B07BLLVS2B), none of the references or lookups provide a barcode. So since they are both on the same release, how is it confirmed that the product on Amazon is in fact that barcode? It would seem to me that if editors want to associate a barcode to a digital release, only those references which are confirmed with reference to have the same matching barcode should be included. Others with different barcodes (obviously) or unconfirmed barcodes should all then have a seperate release, as the data that is being shared is not known to be correct.

Additionally, please note that I did not check the Spotify reference so I am unsure of that status. For the Discogs reference, there is no barcode listed, so I question that as a fit under that barcode as well. It appears that it could be referencing the iTunes release as it is a 256 AAC release that Discogs shows, but that is not a iTunes only format of release, thus also cannot be confirmed.

To be sure my query is clear, is it now acceptable to group references in the same release that cannot be confirmed as all sharing the same data that is entered for that release? Or does something like this need to be edited into separate releases containing only references that are an exact match to the data entered on the release? My opinion would be that iTunes needs to be separate (maybe with Spotify if that barcode matches) and Discogs combined with Amazon as both of them are “barcode unknown”.


At this time it appears that you cannot know the barcode on Amazon & Google Play. I’ve always assumed that Amazon/Google uses the same release as Spotify & Deezer or the “standard” digital release. I have no way to confirm this and have always worried about the same thing you are. This is why I no longer even bother with Amazon or Google Play. Deezer & Spotify almost always have the same barcodes. iTunes sometimes has the same barcode as those, even when “Mastered for iTunes”, but “Mastered for iTunes” should be considered different releases, even if they have the same barcode as an other online store. I do the same with Discogs, if it shows AAC, it’s iTunes. I think previously that it’s been stated that file format shouldn’t automatically warrant a new release the way that mastering does. So, some iTunes releases will share with Spotify/Deezer, some will not. Not sure about creating releases for unknown barcodes.

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You make some good points. I would disagree on a portion in specific. If a CD release has no barcode on it, would you just assume it is the same as another and assign it to the same release on a given barcode? If a CD has no barcode, it is a different release than the same CD with a barcode. Why are digital releases treated differently?

I would also agree, but disagree, on the Discogs on AAC. I know you are likely correct, but it is an assumption that Discogs AAC is iTunes. MB, to me, is a database of facts. Assuming that Discogs AAC is iTunes is, well, an assumption, therefore degrading the data standards at MB. This means you are knowingly introducing data that is based on assumption only, while during the physical media era, all data needed to be verified on the release itself, and ideally with images or pictures of the product as proof.

Now on the positive, yes, I agree with your generalizations and assumptions. But I disagree on using assumptions in a database of facts. Assumption != fact, and presenting it as fact is misleading to us, as well as generations to come. … Did this Amazon release have the same barcode as iTunes release? MB says yes, but is that REALLY true? I hope you see my point, and by your response I think you do. I just feel that MB is shifting from facts to assumptions.

I posted this resulting from a data pull on a release, in which I got a barcode that was not correct. Then I see that the barcode is just assigned to all digital releases, regardless if it is correct or not. You can see my disappointment … I have spent a fair amount of time adding data here and correcting data, I just hate to see it go to waste. Many have spent more time than me, I do not mean it that way … and I have also learned a lot here.

Aren’t all AAC files associated with iTunes? Anyways, I don’t link digital releases to Discogs, only physical ones. I just check the AAC against iTunes if another editor has connected them. Physical releases that have any differences on packaging, etc. are different releases even if the only difference is cover art variations, so a different barcode on a digital release should definitely be considered a different release, even if that’s the only difference. It helps to determine ISRCs from SoundExchange, etc. Also helps sometimes in not thinking every digital release is Worldwide as noticing barcode differences alerts editors to different labels, etc. You raise a good point on the unknown barcode thing which I still am not sure why all these companies just don’t all let us know this info. It sure would be helpful. Many, many, editors, unfortunately just think that that all digital releases are the same and they are all worldwide and they all have no barcode and it frustrates me to no end. :-).

Nope. AAC is not an Apple technology, contrary to common conception. They just use it and made it a popular thing. You can get (purchase) AAC encoded files from many other places. Apple did sort of “brand” the m4a file. There are many others, the m4p, m4b, and well, the mp4. It is all just a container holding AAC encoded audio (as it relates to audio files)… the mp4 can, and most always, also contain video.

On your other points, yes, I almost mostly agree. Digital releases are not at all “all the same”. It is a tough task, but unfortunately, you need to get technical to differentiate.

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Good to know! I had always thought AAC was Apple proprietary technology.

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To be honest, I had to learn that too. I thought that AAC/M4A was Apple technology for the longest time.

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I don’t think digital releases are per se treated differently here. If they have different EAN they should get different releases. But for digital releases the source data is not as good as it is for physical releases: If two physical releases have different EAN, or one has no EAN at all, there is usually (but not always) an actual visible difference between them (e.g. one having a barcode printed on it, the other not).

As you and @tigerman325 explored the EAN for digital releases is often not or not easily visible. And it’s not only digital releases where the data gets muddy if the EAN is not visible, the same is true for physical releases. E.g. I have seen releases where the EAN is only printed on a sticker which is placed on the shrinkwrap plastic. Once you have this release on your shelf you don’t see any visible barcode. Now if you enter it on MB you easily create a duplicate, because you consider your release different from the one already entered with EAN. Some releases also come with no EAN at all, but it may be listed on some catalogue listings of the label.

Just to expand and clarify this a bit more: mp4, m4a, m4v, m4b and m4p are all the very same container file format MP4. It’s just the extension that’s different, and certain extensions are meant to be used with specific content (m4a for audio, m4v for video, m4b for audio books, m4p for copy-protected files). But the extension is really just a hint for software and to some extend users to what to expect inside the file. Proper software should have no issue reading any of those (except of the copy-protected content obviously). And MP4 can contain other formats than AAC, but iTunes made the use of AAC for MP4 very prominent. But there is of course also ALAC also used by Apple inside MP4. You can even use the MP3 codec inside an MP4 container (whether you should do this is a different question).


That’s exactly how I would view it, too.

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Yes. I have also seen ones with a barcode sticker placed over a barcode. I have seen this on both shrink wrap and the case itself, under the shrink wrap.

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I’m not sure if this information is useful to you, but in case it is: if an artist uses DistroKid to upload a release, then DistroKid provides that release with a single UPC, and then proceeds to distribute that release to iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and others. (DistroKid also assigns an ISRC for each track on the release.) I’m not sure which of those shops and streaming services actually pay attention to the UPC, but it should be the same for all of them. This may well be different for other digital distributors.