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The Library of Congress > U.S. ISMN Agency > Using the ISMN: Examples of Usage

Different Bindings

A separate ISMN should be assigned to each different binding in which a particular title is published, even if the contents are identical. For instance, a hardback edition and a paperback edition should each receive a separate ISMN.

Full score, paper bound
Full score and commentary, boxed
Vocal score, paper bound
Vocal score, cloth bond
= four ISMN

Playing score, paper bound
Playing score, without cover
= two ISMN

A change of cover design, where the contents of the item are unchanged, or a change in color or other marginal difference between the binding of one impression and a subsequent impression, does not constitute a change of binding and a new ISMN should not be given.

Different Formats

A separate ISMN must be assigned to each separately saleable or obtainable component of a publication. A complete list of ISMN assigned to all components of a publication should be displayed on one or more of these components.

For a publication consisting of scores and parts, the full score, a set of parts as a whole, and each individual part (if available separately) must be assigned its own ISMN.

Full score
Vocal score
Set of chorus parts
Individual chorus part
= four ISMN

Where a score is available only as an item in a set and not as an individual saleable item, it must be assigned the ISMN of the set. However, if it is later made available as a separate item it should be assigned its own ISMN.

Piano score and two parts available only as one set
= one ISMN

Where a score is available both as a separate item and as part of a set, the set should receive an ISMN and the score should be assigned its own ISMN.

Score and parts, complete set
= two ISMN

An ISMN should be assigned to each separately printed part that is available as a separate item.

Violin I part
Violin II part
Viola part
Cello part
= four ISMN

Where separately printed parts are available as a set as well as separate items, the set must be assigned its own ISMN as should each separately printed part.

Violin part
Viola part
Cello part
Set of parts
= four ISMN

Where individual instrumental or vocal parts are not available separately but only as a set, an ISMN must be assigned to the set and each separately printed part should receive the ISMN assigned to that set.  The score receives its own ISMN; each individual part receives the ISMN for the set only.  Note: individual parts that are available only in a set should be assigned their own individual ISMN if and when they are made available as separate items

Set of parts
= two ISMN

Where some of the separately printed parts in a set are available individually and some are only available in a set, each separately available part should be assigned its own ISMN as an individual item. All other parts should receive the ISMN assigned to the set in which they are available.

Full set of parts
Non-string set
Violin I part
Violin II part
Cello/bass part
= five ISMN

Where a separately available item is also available in a pack that only contains multiple copies of the item, the pack should be assigned its own unique ISMN.

Leaflet, single copy
Leaflet, pack of 100 copies
= two ISMN 

Different Versions

If a publisher issues a title in more than one arrangement or version, each arrangement or version should be assigned its own ISMN.

Piano solo
Piano duet version
Organ solo arrangement
= three ISMN

High voice
Medium voice
= two ISMN

Multivolume Publications

An ISMN should be assigned to the whole set of volumes of a multivolume publication as well as to each individual volume in the set.

Volume 1-2 (Set)
Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
= four ISMN

Score and critical commentary (set)
Score (available separately)
Critical commentary (available separately)
= three ISMN 

Note: If one of the volumes is printed text, it may also be given an ISBN.

Publications with Subsidiary Material

Where a printed music publication includes subsidiary material, such as a separately printed song text or lyrics, a commentary or the like, and the items are sold only as a package, the subsidiary item should receive the same ISMN as the volume it accompanies.

Score and critical commentary (set)
Critical commentary (not available separately)
= one ISMN

Voice and keyboard part
Lyric sheet (not available separately)
= one ISMN

Anthologies and Excerpts

Anthologies and excerpts should be assigned their own unique ISMN, whether or not the items in the anthology or the larger work have been previously published or are long out of print.

An ISMN given to an individual item in a previous context should be displayed on the new publication, for instance, at the bottom of the first page of music of each part. Such ISMN must be clearly distinguished from the ISMN of the new publication.

Facsimile Reprints and Microform Editions

A separate ISMN should always be assigned to a facsimile reprint produced by a different publisher and to a microform edition.

Electronic Publications

If different electronic formats are available (for example EPub, Mobi, PDF) each gets a separate ISMN.


Publishers are urged to number their backlists and to publish the ISMN in their catalogs. A publisher should also print the ISMN in the first reprint of an item from the backlist.

Rights Bought from Other Publishers

Where a publisher, including an agent with sole-selling rights, has bought the rights to a musical work from another publisher and publishes that work under their own imprint, the publication should be assigned a new ISMN by the new publisher. If several publishers have bought the rights, each for their own territory, each should assign their own ISMN.

Collaborative Publications

A publication issued as a co-edition or joint imprint by several publishers should be assigned ISMN by each participating publisher. The ISMN of all publishers named in the imprint should be printed in the publication and clearly identified.

Music Sold or Distributed by Agents

According to the principles of the ISMN system, a particular edition published by a particular publisher receives only one ISMN. This ISMN should be retained no matter where or by whom the music is distributed or sold. Only in the following exceptional circumstances may a number be assigned by an agency other than the publisher:

  • where music is imported by an exclusive distributor or sole agent from an area not yet in the ISMN system and to which, therefore, no ISMN has been assigned. In this case, an ISMN is assigned by the distributor
  • where music is imported by an exclusive distributor or sole agent and that music carries either a label bearing the imprint of the exclusive distributor or a new title page that replaces the title page of the original publisher. In this case, an ISMN is assigned by the distributor. The ISMN of the original publisher should also be given as a related ISMN
  • where music is imported by several distributors from an area not yet in the ISMN system and to which, therefore, no ISMN has been assigned. In this case, an ISMN is assigned by the national agency with which those distributors are affiliated

Publishers with More Than One Place of Publication

A publisher operating in a number of places that are listed in the imprint should assign only one ISMN to an item, even though there may be a publisher identifier for each separate office or branch. Each item should be assigned only one ISMN, and this assignment should be made by the office or branch responsible for publication.

Prohibition on Re-use of ISMN

ISMN once allocated must not be re-used. If a number that has already been used for a title is inadvertently attached to a second title, the number should be obliterated from the second title and a new number generated.  The U.S. ISMN Agency will quickly assist publishers to resolve issues around errors in application.

Publisher Practicalities

U.S. ISMN Agency
Library of Congress
Music Division
101 Independence Ave. SE
Washington, DC 20540-4710

Tel: (202) 707-1403
E-mail: [email protected]