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What is ISMN (International Standard Music Number)?

An ISMN (International Standard Music Number) is an international notated music standard number which from 1 January 2008 consists of 13 digits. The capitalised abbreviation ISMN is followed by the prefix 979-0, which identifies music industry, and the core 8-digit number.

Example: ISMN 979-0-54001-000-3  

ISMN 979-0
ISMN prefiks
Publisher identifier
Notated music identifier
Check number

An eye- readable notated music EAN number below the barcode is identical to the 13-digit ISMN (printed with no hyphens). The use of ISMNs in Estonia is regulated by the standard EVS-ISO 10957:2010 – Information and documentation: International Standard Music Number (ISMN).

The EAN number at the bottom of the barcode of a book is identical to the 13-digit ISBN (except printed without hyphens).

The ISMN allows quick and exact identification of printed music in databases and their registering in libraries, and is applied in music trade, in accounting of music publishers etc. The ISMN is granted to every sheet of a music composition issued separately.

The ISMN is assigned to

All printed music (in print or electronic format) including:

  • scores,
  • vocal scores,
  • separately available parts of scores,
  • authors’ select collections (anthologies),
  • printed music sets, when the audio medium and the music composition form an integral whole and the audio medium is one of the parts of the composition,
  • song books,
  • microform music publications (microfilms and cards),
  • Braille (for the blind) music publications.

The ISMN is not assigned to:

  • sound recordings,
  • video recordings
  • books on music containing examples of printed music (ISBN)
  • music journals and series (ISSN), except for the printed music published as individual parts of series.

The ISMN is printed on the back of a score or a part, or at the bottom of the first page of a single sheet music. The ISMN can be printed together with copyright data. The publisher is responsible for the correctness of the ISMN.

It is recommended that the ISMN numbers assigned to constituent parts of an anthology be printed on the back of the title page in a common list of ISMN numbers and the titles of the parts.
The ISMN is printed on each individual part of the anthology.


When it is difficult to identify whether the item is a sheet music publication or a book (illustrated albums with an extensive textual part, song books, anthems), both the ISBN and the ISMN can be printed on the publication. If the publisher uses only one standard number, then in case of doubt the ISMN is preferable.


A series of printed music is granted the ISSN (which remains unchangeable until the title of the series is altered); and each separate part of the series obtains an individual ISMN.

A new ISMN is required when

  • the text or music is changed, except for minor corrections, e.g. misprints;
  • the text as an integral part of a music composition is changed in comparison with the previous edition;
  • the translation of the text is amended, modified or removed, even if the music remains unchanged;
  • the size of a composition is considerably changed (e.g. score, miniature score, or study score).

ISMN and EAN code

The basis for the barcode of printed music is ISMN.

International cooperation

The Estonian ISMN Agency mediates the contact information about Estonian publishers for „Music Publisher’s International ISMN Directory” issued by the International ISMN Agency.

The information collected may include personal data subject to the General Data Protection Regulation: names of individuals, e-mail addresses, phone numbers and personal e-mail addresses of individuals Please find the general information about data protection of ISMN registrants.

The Estonian ISMN Agency provides Estonian music publishers with new publisher identifiers and gives out ISMN numbers to printed music. The service is free of charge.

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