There are only a few legitimate organisations which can provide you with legal barcode numbers for your CD. They are listed below, and it’s also important to keep in mind that you will require one retail barcode number for every album title that you release. Once you have had a barcode number assigned to an album, you can of course print that barcode as many times as needed. The barcode number that was assigned to Michael Jackson’s album, Thriller, would have been printed over 65 million times. Jackson holds the title for the world’s best-selling album.
But how do you know if you are actually required to register a barcode number for your music album?
The answer is fairly simple. If your CD is going to be sold in retail stores where items are scanned at the check-out, your CD will be scanned, too. However, it’s always advised that you check with your retailers – more often than not though, a barcode will be required. Online stores such as iTunes or Amazon also require barcodes for your digital copies. I would also recommend that you get a barcode number and barcode labels for your physical album, and another one for your digital album – it will save you from possible complications with retailers down the line.
Finding a supplier
As we mentioned earlier, there are only two means by which you can source a barcode for your CD – either through GS1 (the official, international provider of barcode numbers), or through a reputable barcode reseller who has obtained GS1-registered numbers.
GS1 South Africa will be able to provide you with a unique barcode number for your CD – GS1 has separate divisions for each country. For each album title, a unique barcode number is required.
When obtaining a barcode through GS1, you will be linked to a global database with all of your company and product details registered for you. To set this up, you will need to apply through them to become a member, and then pay a registration fee up front. From there, annual renewal fees will need to be paid in order to keep your barcodes active and in your name.
Going through GS1 ensures that your barcode is compliant with every retail store in the world – which of course has its advantages. But, as most as of my clients are up and coming musicians with not much capital, I usually refer them to a cheaper, but still legitimate, alternative.
The idea of barcode resellers emerged after 2002 – this was the year when GS1 implemented renewal fees into its standards. Members of GS1, who previous weren’t paying any annual fees, then became distraught, filing a case against the organisation for breeching terms of agreement.
GS1 lost the case, and all members prior to 2002 were not required to pay the annual fees. This left them with thousands of GS1 numbers that they would never need, and thus the venture of barcode resellers was born.
Barcode resellers offer unique barcode numbers to their clients at a once-off rate – in other words, you never have to pay annual renewal fees. Because of the nature of the business and the means by which the numbers were obtained, purchasing through them also turns out to be significantly low-priced. Barcode resellers are a great alternative for smaller businesses and musicians who aren’t looking to break their banks, but simply make a name for themselves on the retail market.
Now, there are plenty of companies who claim to sell legitimate barcode numbers on the internet, and I would be careful of them. Any reseller can claim to sell authentic, unique numbers from GS1, but actually just make the number up.
What I would suggest here is to go with a company I have used multiple times, Barcodes 123. I have had a total of zero compatibility issues with retailers, and their service is pretty great. They also have a page full of customer testimonials – proving that they have a vast number of satisfied clients who are using their barcodes in stores. You can efficiently buy barcodes online and the process takes less than a day. Barcodes 123 goes highly recommended to any musician.