In order for any store or website to sell your music either in physical or digital form, and track those sales, a barcode is required. Since 1987, only music products which have official, legal barcodes have been able to enter the charts. So, in order to make it to number one, you need to attain another number first.
Barcodes are unique twelve or thirteen digit numbers which are assigned to any product which is retailed worldwide. The twelve digit codes are known as UPC barcodes which are from North America and the thirteen digit codes are called EAN13 barcodes, from the UK. They need to be applied to each individual release you put up for sale, be it a single, EP, or album via download or in the form of CD or Vinyl.
In the UK, the way to get barcodes for your music is through GS1 UK. GS1 are the global organisation which manages and distributes UPC and EAN codes; otherwise known as Global Trade Item Numbers, or GTINs for short. You can apply yourself for an annual allowance of one, two, or three numbers at prices of £25, £50 and £75 respectively. If you require four or more numbers you can apply to join GS1 UK, but this will cost larger sums of money depending on your turnover for membership and licensing fees.
However, if you have a record label or music distributor, they will be able to apply for membership and therefore be assigned barcodes on your behalf. They will need to already be a member of one of three other organisations in order to do so, though. These are the British Phonographic Industry, Music Manager’s Forum or the Association of Independent Music.