International ISMN Agency

The International Standard Music Number for Notated Music.
A System for Publishing, Distribution and Library Practices

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IAML, the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres, held its annual congress in Riga, Latvia, from 18 - 22 June. Reports and papers presented there - including an ISMN update - are continuously put on their website and can be viewed at http://www.iaml.info/congresses/2017-riga.

The U.S. music rights organization SESAC and the Swiss collective management organization SUISA allied in Mint Digital Services to administer licenses to use musical compositions in multi-territorial online music services on behalf of publshers. The company will be responsible for invoicing and administration of these licence agreements with online service providers.
View the press release at https://www.suisa.ch/nc/en/suisa/stay-informed/recent-news/detail/artikel/2017/mar/suisa-und-sesac-starten-mint-und-gewinnen-warnerchappell-music-als-ersten-kunden.html.

"Imagine looking at original handwritten manuscripts of a piece of music while listening to different interpretations of it, and reading a biography of the composer."
Europeana Music is a new websource bringing together music recordings, sheet music and other music related collections of libraries, archives and museums across Europe. So far, more than 320,000 items are to view at http://www.europeana.eu/portal/en/collections/music.

There is sometimes the question whether the ISMN is really useful to countries with a small music production.
There are indeed advantages:

  • Complete bibliographical control over published material
    It is necessary to list and preserve the national production of publications - usually the responsibility of national libraries which issue national bibliographies. If notated music is left out a possibly significant part of the publications would be neglected and would not be preserved. Bibliographic resolution is usually managed by international standard numbers, in the case of music by ISMN.
  • Making music publications internationally more visible 
    While music publications of large publishers and organisations are easy to find those from small music countries would not be included in databases and bibliographic catalogues without ISMN to allow easy record management. If not to be found in such catalogues the publications are considered non-existent or not available.
  • Facilitating identification, especially also those in less common languages 
    ISMN allows easy identification and overcomes the obstacles of foreign languages and scripts and can be read and used by anybody.
  • Allowing including of titles in music catalogues and music in print publications 
    As the ISMN is designed for notated music it filters out music items from the big amount of other publications and makes searches fast and manageable.
  • Facilitating ordering and distribution, especially internationally
    International standard numbers are the identifiers used by the trade for ordering and distribution. items without these numbers cannot be processed automatically and are neglected.

One of the few European countries that so far had not been members of the International ISMN Agency just signed the contract. The agency is run by the National Library of Montenegro and will be operational soon.

Myanmar is the third country in South East Asia and the 58th country worldwide that hosts an ISMN agency. The agency is run by the same institution, PYI Zone, that runs the ISBN agency and will be operational soon.

Music publishers often use an ISBN for their publications which is not according to either the ISBN or the ISMN standard. Hartmut Walravens, Chairman of the International ISMN Agency, listed the reasons for having a separate ISMN standard. Please view the paper here.

At the IAML congress in Antwerp 2014 Hartmut Walravens and Carolin Unger from the International ISMN Agency gave a presentation on the history and success of the ISMN. The text gives a good overview of the benefits of the ISMN and how the number is being used. It was first published in Fontes Artis Musicae, Volume 62, Issue 1, page 26-36. You can see the English version here and the Spanish version here.

As of number 25 the ISMN Newsletter will no longer be printed but published as PDF on our website only. It can be viewed here.

Pia Shekter, Secretary General of IAML, the International Association of Music Libraries, visited the office of the International ISMN Agency on 17 April 2015. ISMN and IAML are closely connected since the impulse to have a separate numbering system for printed music was made possible and promoted thanks to IAML colleagues. 
The International ISMN Agency was very glad to welcome Pia. We enjoyed a very vivid meeting and intend to intensify our cooperation.