Thursday, March 19, 2020

Music CD Barcodes and Identifiers


Today's Music CDs show a unique barcode on the back in either UPC (Universal Product Codes or GTIN-12) or EAN (European Article Number or GTIN-13) format. The US standard format is the 12-digit UPC, while the rest of the world favors the 13-digit EAN.
Both formats end with a check digit to verify the numbers. The mathematical formula for the UPC and EAN check digit calculation is the same. Since additional leading zeroes do not change the calculation, the 12-digit UPC can be converted to a 13-digit EAN by adding another zero in front. Online platforms often pad the barcode with leading zeroes to create uniform 14-digit numbers.

Barcode 731451063527Check digit calculation example:

Number w/o check digit 7 3 1 4 5 1 0 6 3 5 2
Multiply By 3 1 3 1 3 1 3 1 3 1 3
= 21 3 3 4 15 1 0 6 9 5 6 73
Subtract the sum from nearest equal or higher multiple of 10: 80 - 73 = 7
Number /w Check Digit 7 3 1 4 5 1 0 6 3 5 2 7

Try our barcode verifier and check digit calculator.

There is one minor flaw in the formula: Should the difference between two neighboring numbers equal 5, then the formula cannot detect an accidental transposition. For example 1 and 6: (1 x 3) + (6 x 1) = 9 and (1 x 1) + (6 x 3) = 19.  Both have a difference of 1 to the next higher multiple of 10. Barcode sellers usually skip these number combinations.

The dashes and spaces are not encoded in the barcode. The printed formatting makes it easier for humans to read.

Barcode Examples

731451253225UPC 731451253225

4990355305188EAN 4990355305188
074644552225UPC 074644552225 with missing check digit
Barcode 074644418620UPC 074644418620 with missing check digit and no leading zero
Barcode 339127070000 Invalid UPC 339127070000 (check digit wrong)

Club Editions

Music CD Clubs were very popular in the 1990s until the early 2000s. The less expensive CDs shipped by those programs used non-standard barcodes or no barcodes at all.

Barcode 020831474320UPC Style barcode 020831474320; the check digit is missing. There is an additional two-digit number (79) added. These barcodes are not always unique and there are multiple CDs out with the same barcode.
Bardcode D121455Non-standard barcode D121455
Label D125174 Non-standard identifier D125174 without barcode

Promotional / Demonstration CDs

Promotional and demonstration discs for radio stations and DJs do not have any barcodes. Here are 3 examples with the catalog number.

Promo Only notice RDJ 62096-2
Promo Only notice DPRO-79447
Promo Only notice DPRO-05403

Smaller record labels mark the CD as promotional by punching or drilling a hole into the barcode.

Barcode with punch hole

Other Identifiers

The catalog number from the record label is another unique identifier. It can be found on the spine of the CD, sometimes also on the back.

CD spines with catalog number from record label

Some record labels use parts of the barcode for the catalog number. These catalog numbers do not include the check digit. The leading number - mostly 0 or 7 - is sometimes left out too.
The below example is from the music club CD D108221. There is no barcode on the back. The catalog number 08022 34002-2 is the UPC code 080223400221 without the check digit.

Label D108221
Spine from D108221 with catalog number 08022 34002-2


Figuring out the exact release for a music CD can take some detective work. This short rundown gives you the information to identify almost all music CD releases.

Check out our barcode verifier and check digit calculator.


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