Music Watermarking - What it is & Why You Should Watermark Your Music

by Intrasonics Team

While electronic watermarking has been around as early as the 1950’s, it’s only over the past 20 years where the interest in digital and audio watermarking has grown.

This increased interest has partly been due to the ever-increasing illegal piracy and sharing of copyrighted content.

Music is an area that is particularly prone to piracy which makes music watermarking an attractive proposition for producers and distributors of music.

What is Music Watermarking?


Music watermarking or audio watermarking is the process of embedding unique digital identifiers into audio, in this case, music files.

These are typically used to identify copyright owners and in the ongoing battle against piracy in the music industry.

Why Should You Watermark Your Music?

Although efforts have been put in place to combat music piracy, the people responsible for the technology and the sites that offer illegal downloads and streams keep evolving and improving their methods.

It remains an ongoing problem, and when you consider stats such as those according to a report published in 2021 by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America®), piracy costs the US economy around $12.5 billion every year.

Another property of music watermarking is its duality in audience measurement and content popularity, so you can track how well your music pieces perform.

Ready to protect your music without diminishing its quality? Find out how Intrasonics can help you to protect your music and get in contact with us today

What Are My Options for Music Watermarking?

There are three popular audio watermarking techniques used to watermark music:

Spread Spectrum Watermarking

Spread Spectrum Watermarking was actually first used to watermark images.

The great thing about this watermarking is that it is difficult to remove the watermark.

For that to be possible, it needs to be placed at the same frequency as the content itself, which is hugely beneficial as it means it cannot be removed even by compression algorithms.

The downside is that it means you need to be careful where you place this type of watermark in the file.

To combat the amount of downgrading the watermark could cause to the music or audio, it is inserted as a low amplitude noise.

In theory, if the content being watermarked covers a wide enough range of frequencies and everyone listening is insensitive to that low-level noise, the human ear might not notice the added noise.

When it doesn’t, as in the case of Universal Music Group, when they used this form of watermarking on content and users of Spotify could hear a sound, it can be very counter-productive.

Another downside is that this type of watermark is susceptible to shifts in pitch. If frequencies of the sender are different from what the receiver expects, watermark extraction can fail.

The most common instance of this problem is through the doppler effect.

This is the perception that there is a shift in frequency with the audio when the receiver and sender are not moving simultaneously.

Ultrasonic Watermarking

The second form of music watermarking we want to discuss is ultrasonic watermarking.

This is perhaps the most immediately obvious way to hide an audio marker from human hearing outside the human auditory spectrum.

Our brains and ears work in collaboration to hear sounds that fall between 20-hertz and 20-kilohertz (but in practice, the average adult doesn’t perceive sounds above 16kHz).

Our human auditory system will only perceive sounds that have adequate loudness.

As you may imagine, the loudness required for accurate perception of sound varies according to the age group of listeners and the frequency used.

This is where the ultrasound comes into play since most adult humans can’t perceive anything louder than 16-kilohertz. Anything beyond this is known as the “ultrasound” range.

The upside of ultrasound watermarking is that it’s simple to add data at that frequency range, as there are no concerns about the quality of the actual audio content being impacted.


However, the major downside of ultrasound watermarking is that the marker can be very easily removed.

Remember, the watermark exists in different frequencies to the main content, meaning removal is possible without ruining the content.

Which in turn makes it a pretty ineffective method for anti-piracy.

Further to the above, accidental or incidental removal of watermarks can occur when ultrasound is used as the watermarking method because compression algorithms can remove them.

Echo Modulation Watermarking

In principle and theory, sound echoes bounce off any item, object, human or animal within earshot. Why don’t we hear the bounces?

Our human auditory system is designed to filter out what it considers an echo, particularly short ones.

If we heard every echo from everything, it would be overwhelming.

The fact is that we only hear long echoes, which accounts for why we notice echoes in places like churches.

Where does music watermarking fit in? Echo modulation is a technique used to take advantage of the de-sensitivity of short echo’s by artificially generating and inserting short echoes to store and hide data in shorter echoes.

This watermarking involves calculating the natural echoes of the original content and then inserting the data into these echoes.

Both natural and artificial echoes have the same structure. Still, artificial echoes are placed in a particular way so that devices, whether phones, computers, or something else, can extract the watermark/data.

The excellent news is that unlike other methods of watermarking, echo modulation markers are not as sensitive to shifts in timing or frequency and are robust to the doppler effect too.

What are the Benefits of Music Watermarking With Intrasonics Solution?

The method of music watermarking is used with Intrasonics pioneered echo modulation audio watermarking and remains the market leader today.

Intrasonics use this method because of the distinct benefits that come from this form of marking.

For one thing, no artificial noise is added and as such it has a less detrmintal effect on the quality of the music.

It is more robust and resistant to compression algorithms and has a quick detection time as fast as 5-10 seconds in some cases..

Intrasonics also use it as an on-premises watermarking solution to integrate it into their client’s systems.

This offers the following advantages:

  • The audio never actually needs to leave the system, so there is no need to move through insecure internet connections.
  • It is an unlimited model with a fixed licence fee that can be fully predicted.
  • The turnaround speed is much faster as the watermarking of files happens on-premises.

Why Work With Us?

If you are looking for a robust and reliable watermarking technique for your music files or signals, then you should look to Intrasonics and echo modulation. Why?

  • Our watermarking is platform-independent, which means it is compatible with all digital streaming and broadcast platforms.
  • It is compression-friendly, which means it will survive all forms of audio compression.
  • High reliability and noise-tolerant – watermarks created and embedded in music files by Intrasonics can be detected even through background noise.
  • It can work offline – meaning there is no Wi-Fi or phone connection required.

For more information on how Intrasonics can help you to protect your music without diminishing its quality, get in contact with us today.

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