SPCN codes were proprietary 10-digit product identification codes, or stock control numbers, printed on a wide range of items sold in Christian book and music stores. Word, a major label and distributor in the industry, used SPCNs from 1983 to 1997 as catalog numbers for all releases that they distributed. SPCNs were also included on Christian Music Trade Association releases until the assignment of those codes was discontinued on November 1, 2000. At that time, all product identification transitioned to the more universal UPC barcode standard. (More information on the SPCN–UPC transition is available at the CMTA web site). During the transition, SPCN codes appeared in addition to standard barcodes (printed near the barcodes). “SPCN” likely was an abbreviation for “Standard (or Special) Product Code (or Control) Number”.
SPCN DDD RRRR XYZ, with or without spaces and/or hyphens.
DDDis a 3-digit number indicating the distributor.
RRRRis a 4-digit “record number”, defined by the label, and appears to be something like a “base catalog number” across all the formats of a particular release.
XYis a 2-digit number indicating the format, and each label appears to have its own pattern.
Z, the last digit, can be any numerical digit (0 to 9) or “X”, which stands for “10”. The
Zdigit may appear to be random, but there is a mathematical pattern between the LP, cassette, and CD of the same release.
SPCN found on Mortal (2) - Mortal
SPCN found on Joy Electric - Robot Rock
Some elements of SPCNs have been decoded:
DDD (distribution) code of “701” means the release was distributed by Word.
RRRR (record number) code supposedly applies only to one title (album/single/etc.) as it appears on various formats (LP/CS/CD/etc.). In reality, labels reused record numbers across several different releases, by different artists, and across several sub-labels. For example, as of this writing, there are 15 different releases (non-duplicated) that have SPCN codes of “751 2612 ###” in the database, representing 12 different titles.
On Word releases, an
XY (format) code of “10” is for the LP, “50” is for the cassette, and “60” is for the CD.
On some Reunion Records releases, an
XY (format) code of “12” is for the LP, “52” is for the cassette, and “72” is for the CD. Reunion stopped using SPCNs on their releases when they were sold to Zomba Entertainment in 1996.
Z digit, the cassette code plus 1 equals the LP code. The LP code plus 4 equals the CD code. In reality, however, this is not always the case.
If an SPCN code is being used as a catalog number, please enter it in the catalog number field, complete with the “SPCN” prefix. When submitting a release containing both a conventional catalog number plus an SPCN code, please enter the catalog number in the usual catalog number field, and the SPCN in the “Barcodes and Other Identifiers” section of the form as an “Other”, with the description as “SPCN”. Enter all hyphens and spaces verbatim, and remember that “X” is frequently the final digit.
It could be argued that a distribution code of “701” could be used as the sole basis for a “Distributed By” company credit, but an explicit reference on the release would still be more concrete.