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UPC Barcodes – What Are They and Why Do You Need One?

UPC barcodes - easy once you know how!

In this day and age it can sometimes seem like a not altogether straight-forward thing to get your music or film on the market. One of the most overlooked issues is that of UPC barcodes. You need to have one to begin selling your product and in this article I hope to help explain what they are, why you need one and how to get one.

To begin, a UPC (universal product code) is a unique, 12-digit code (provided by the GS1, usually at the same time as you purchase the barcode) which is assigned to your product. Commonly known as barcodes, they are scanned in shops so that the retailers can access the price and information on the product. The way they work, once you have purchased them, is that you put the barcode onto your product and send it off to a retailer/distributor. They will then ask you questions about you and your product and enter it in their system under the UPC barcode you have provided. Thus, when your product is scanned at the register, it looks up that information and your sale is recorded. In order for them to work properly, you need one UPC barcode for each product: For example, you would need one barcode for a DVD recording of a concert, but another one for the CD album recorded at the same concert. In these instances, as with all discs, the barcodes would be placed on the CD or DVD cases.

It should be noted that UPC barcodes work well if you are planning on selling your product world-wide. However, if you are going to exclusively sell your product outside of the USA and Canada, you may want to use an EAN barcode. It is pretty much the same as a UPC barcode except that they have a 13-digit code, not a 12-digit one. UPC barcode readers can only read UPC barcodes, however EAN barcode readers can read both UPC and EAN barcodes. It is your choice, but given that UPC barcodes can be read pretty much universally, I would be inclined to go with them as there is little difference in price between the two.

The reason barcodes are important for selling your product is because it makes it very easy for retailers to sell them on. Most retailers, such as Amazon, will not accept a product unless it has a barcode because their retail systems work based on the barcodes themselves.

You should also be aware that if you are selling a CD or DVD, it is important to get a barcode – whether UPC or EAN – which is registered with SoundScan, or register your product with SoundScan separately. SoundScan is the company which records music and film sales and compiles the music and film charts so it important to get your CD registered with them otherwise it will not be included in the charts or the music and film sales records.

Barcodes can be quite pricey, but there are ways to make them cheaper and they are not difficult to buy. The best way to purchase one is though an agency. Companies such as Simply Barcodes are reliable agencies which will give you a unique barcode for a not unreasonable price. It is not necessary that the company from which you are purchasing your barcode is based in the country where you will sell your product, however this may have some effect on how fast they can complete your order. Most companies will give discounts to registered charities and bulk orders, so if you need more than one barcode it will be to your benefit to purchase them all at once. Many of the companies will process your order within a matter of hours, emailing you the barcode as soon as possible. Some of them also print labels of the barcodes and send them to you so that you don’t have to do it for yourself.

I would caution, however, against companies offering you free barcodes and ridiculous discounts: It is very easy to fake a barcode on the spot and if you end up with a fake barcode it is very likely that it may already be being used by another product. This is a waste of your time, a waste of your retailers time, and ultimately can lead to much confusion and you losing a lot of money. Try an find some customer references which legitimise the company, or a certificate from a certified crediting body. It is also important to make sure that your barcode does not have a ‘sell by’ date, that it is a permanent number designated to your product. Also, try to get a deal on your barcode whereby you do not have to renew it or pay annual fees: A one off fee is the most cost effective way to get your barcode!

I hope this article has been informative and helped you on your way to getting your barcode and selling your product!

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