History:Founding Member Dates Question

From MusicBrainz Wiki
Status: Implemented! This page describes a proposal which is now official and has been implemented.

Proposal number: RFC-Unassigned
Champion: None
Current status: Passed and Implemented
This proposal was not tracked in Trac.

Note: A "founder" attribute has since been added to the Member Of Band Relationship Type to allow this data to be stored.

Whether to Store Begin Dates of Founding Band Members or not

There is an OpenStyleIssue (see Ticket 1009) relating to how membership dates are specified in the MusicalAssociationRelationshipClass in AdvancedRelationships.

It's possible to specify the start and end dates of a person's membership of a band with the DateRelationshipAttribute.

But, it's also possible to specify the formation and break-up dates of a band. This is duplicated data, which is generally regarded as a Bad Thing.

The other option is to somehow indicate "from the formation of the band" and "until the band broke up". One way of doing this is to leave dates blank.

Reasons for adding the dates

  • If blank dates mean something "special", then it becomes impossible to record "I don't know the relevant dates" for an artist membership relationship. The most inconsequential members will frequently end up looking like founding/finishing members, which will be confusing for users.
    • While I'm still rooting for avoiding data duplication, I agree this would be a problem. --ZeroGravitas
  • If you want to answer the question "when did Artist X become a member of Band Y", you end up having to look in two places: the relationship between the Artist and the Band, and (if one of the Artist record's dates is blank) the Band record. This is additional complexity not only for the server, but also for third-party applications that want to tag music correctly. The harder we make life for third party applications, the fewer there will be.
    • I am not sure I understood this. Any person or application that wants to know the detailed memberships of a band at a given time will have to look at all relationships of the MemberOfBandRelationshipType. If leaving the dates blank means "I don't know" then applications will not query the Band record. They will simply find that they don't know. Humans may do this and guess a join date, but that is another issue (they will also follow the OfficialHomePageRelationshipType to find more information) --DonRedman
      • OK, I guess that's another way of looking at it: this information just wouldn't be available to applications. That then makes this still an argument (of debatable seriousness) against leaving the dates blank, this time because it's limiting the possible functionality of third-party applications. --MatthewExon
  • This can more elegantly capture the situation where a band breaks up and reforms. There's only one set of dates in the band's record, but the members can have any number of member of band relationships with different dates on.
  • Example: Band Y was founded 1968, split 1981, reformed 1995, and broke up 2005. In the Band record one can only say that they were founded 1968 and that they dissolved 2005. Via AdvancedRelationships one can state that Artist X was a member of Band Y 1968-1981 and (in a second relationship) 1995-2005. If the StyleGuideline would specify to leave forming and founding dates blank, you would have to say:[blank]-1981 in one relationship and 1995-[blank] in the other. This feels extremely weird.
  • Without the starting and ending dates, it is extremely difficult to read a persons biography from his/her band membership relationships. In many cases you have to open a new page for each band a person is/was a member of, just to be able to guess when he/her might habe been in that band. An extreme case, in which a person's "biography" is almost unreadable, is the current realationships of Tuomas Holopainen. --derGraph
    • A related discussion take place here: edit#3481627. I think that this kind of info is needed for Thalia Zedek's bio. But certainly not look so good in Uzi's bio. I think a good solution (or at least an idea) would be changing the way that MB shows this kind of relationship in Group's page, maybe checking if the dates of foundation-dissolution of the band are the same as the member joined, and so hidding them.


    • But only if empty dates are displayed as "(date unknown)". Otherwise this would lead to additional confusion. --derGraph

Reasons for leaving the dates blank

  • If the band's dates change (for example, if more accurate information becomes available), it's possible to change the date once and have that reflected for all members instantly.
    • That problem can easily be solved with the right software. All it needs to do is checking the dates of each AR and update every matching date. Just a few lines of code... --derGraph
  • Major duplication of data is avoided. Many bands retain the same membership for their lifetime, and for each of these bands, the joined/left dates would have to duplicated for every member.
  • By avoiding recording the same information many times, we avoid the possibility that contradictory information can end up in the database. For example, it would be weird to see a band member's joining date set to something earlier than the band's formation date.
    • see above --derGraph
  • I have a feeling that if someone is going to the effort to enter the membership dates for a single band member, they'll tend to do it for all the band members. This is how I've been editing, anyway. I hope this will tend to reduce the problem of the ambiguous meaning the blank date. --ZeroGravitas
    • This may be how you've been editing, but I've also updated the band memberships of some persons without editing the data of the other band members. In some cases I found an article or biography saying something like "person A of band B, who is already known as the drummer of band C" and checked MB whether it already had that information. That's no reason for me to check every band member. --derGraph

A Nicer Solution

A better solution would be if the person-band "Is a Member of" link had another attribute "founder member" (in addition to the existing "additional" tickbox).

This would remove the ambiguity between unknown joining dates & founder members.

There would still be a possible ambiguity with the relationship end date, but I think this is far less important, because leaving date is fluid anyway. Until someone dies, they can always rejoin a band, but they were either in at the start or they weren't.

So, my proposal is as follows:

  • An "is founder member" flag is added to the "is a member" relationship.
  • An interim guideline is introduced that starting dates on "founder member" relationships should be blank.
  • At some point in the future, the "founder member" flag is made "smart", and the band foundation date is shown for the start date of founder member <-> band relationships.


But this ambiguity is a central flaw in my eyes. You lose the difference between "I don't know when or whether he left" and "he is still a member". The only solution I see, is to have two attributes:

  • "founding", meaning that the artist joined the band when it was founded, and
  • "active", meaning that the artist has not yet left the band.

But then you can also specify the dates instead of having these attributes. --DonRedman

  • In this case, why not have multiple links, one for each range of dates in the band (and mark the earliest as founder)? --ZeroGravitas

This doesn't really solve the problem of the "persons' biographies": you still could not read the timeline of a person's band memberships without checking start and end dates of every band. --derGraph

Another Possible Problem: Member Dates Before Band Dates

Does it make sense to have a member's joining date set to something before the band's formation date?

On the face of it, it sounds silly, but I'm thinking along the lines of this hypothetical, but pretty common, scenario:

  1. Singer/guitarist A starts writing songs in a particular new style he's invented
  2. Bassist friend of his B hears the songs, contributes some riffs, and they start jamming together
  3. The pair decides to form a band. They give it a name and start looking for a drummer and some gigs
  4. They find a drummer C, and start playing gigs
  5. They sign up for a record deal and enter the studio
  6. During recording, they decide to add a keyboardist D
  7. Debut album is released

At which point has the band formed? My gut feeling is that this should be left up to whatever history says, whatever the band members say ("artist intent"), and the consensus of fans: and so it will vary from band to band. But I also think it's pretty clear cut that A joined at point 1, B joined at point 2, C joined at point 4, and D joined at point 6. I'd tend to place the formation of the band at point 3, meaning that two of the members joined before the band was created! On the other hand, I'd probably say that all four were "founding members". I don't think that this information is contradictory: rather it contributes to the richness of the data in MusicBrainz.

I don't know to what extent this kind of thing matters, or if it can help us reach a decision on the other questions...


  • OK, I see this as an argument for not locking founder member dates. But still, the founder member flag would be useful, and the guideline would be, leave the date blank unless the above case is true. (By the way, can you think of a reason for allowing founder members to join after the band is founded?). --ZeroGravitas
    • To the by the way: yes, in the example above I would certainly say C, and probably D, are both founding members because they're "the first drummer they ever had" and "the first keyboardist they ever had", and both will have contributed to all the music the band releases from the debut onwards. I'd still say the band was "founded" at point 3 though, meaning that C and D are founding members who joined after the band was founded. --MatthewExon