The Christian Music Trade Association is a non-profit organization made up of Christian and gospel music industry leaders, representing a majority of Christian/Gospel music sold. Music releases from member companies of the CMTA often feature a six-character genre code “printed in the upper right hand corner of the white area of the bar code”. The CMTA refers to these as “CMTA standardized music categorization codes”, “Christian SoundScan category codes”, and “CMTA codes”. These codes are created and tracked by the CMTA to help retail personnel arrange similar releases together, and assist the tracking of sales in the Christian SoundScan system. These codes first started appearing on new releases on Sep 1, 1998. The CMTA refers to these characters as “digits” despite the codes consisting entirely of alphabetical characters. The code placed on each release is determined by the releasing label. A list of these codes is available from the CMTA web site in Microsoft Word (.doc) format.
Since these codes are for grouping discs on store shelves, and not for discography purposes, some sub categories (digits 3–4) are actually format tags, not genres or styles:
CM (Compilation), and
XX exists in the sub category (digits 3–4) and theme (digits 5–6) as a form of padding if the full six characters are not needed.
XX appears as the last 2 characters frequently since few releases are geared toward holidays (other than Christmas). Example: the code on Various - WOW Hits 2012 (30 of Today's Top Christian Artists and Hits) is
CPCMXX, which means “Contemporary/Pop, Compilation, No Theme”.
Main category codes marked with an asterisk (“*”) require a sub-category code for chart flagging. This means that for these broad categories,
XX is not permitted as the second two digits of the code.
For video releases, the main category (digits 1–2) is always
VH, with the sub category (digits 3–4) as only
CH (Children’s), or
GN (General). Example: the code on Third Day - Christmas Offerings (Live in Concert) (DVD) is
VHMCCS, which means “Video, Music, Christmas”.
It is apparent that the CMTA codes on some releases are not formatted correctly (are not 6 characters long, have the codes out of order, or contain nonsensical codes), and CMTA codes may appear on releases from non-CMTA labels. (See a list of incorrectly-formatted codes.)
CMTA genre code on Braille - The IV Edition.
RPRPXX = Rap/Hip Hop, Rap/Hip Hop, No Theme
CMTA genre code on Massivivid - Brightblur.
AMAMXX = Alternative/Modern, Alternative/Modern, No Theme
When submitting a release containing such a genre code, please enter it in the “Barcodes and Other Identifiers” section of the form as an “Other”, and list the description as “CMTA Code”. These genres and styles shouldn’t be used exclusively for determining genre or style, since the codes don’t mesh well with the Discogs genres available, and usually didn’t accurately categorize the releases anyway. (For instance, Joy Electric - Hello, Mannequin and Anberlin - Blueprints for the Black Market, miles apart stylistically but on the same label, have the same code:
Same as Music Theme codes above.
List of CMTA codes in Microsoft Word (.doc) format (Archived)
CMTA: What are CMTA codes and what are they used for? (Archived)
CMTA: What is a CMTA Code and how is it used? (Archived)
CMTA: Benefits for Retail. (Archived)
Billboard: Code System Set for Christian Music (Jun 6, 1998)
Billboard: Christian Indies Urged to Adopt SoundScan (Feb 20, 1999)