History:Release Country Style Proposal

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Status: This page describes an active style guideline proposal and is not official.

Proposal number: RFC-43
Champion: Jacobbrett
Current status: RFC


Trac ticket # 2145

Status: Scheduled to be replaced when Release Event Style is finalized and passed.

Style Guideline for Release Countries

The ReleaseCountry is the country in which an Release was sold from a certain ReleaseDate on. This date can differ for each country, so that you have several pairs of ReleaseCountry and ReleaseDate.

Note that the ReleaseCountry of an album is not necessarily the country in which it was produced. The label itself will typically be more relevant. eg, a release on "Foo Records UK" that has "Made in Austria" printed on it, will likely be a UK release.

When adding a release date to an album, you have to choose the country. The list of countries you can choose from is taken from ISO 3166, which is a widely-used standard list of countries. For each country in which the album was released, add a new release date, alongside the name of the country.

Simultaneous Releases in More Than One Country

Albums are often released in more than one country at the same time. For example, I (MatthewExon) own some albums which state that they are distributed in "Australasia" (presumably Australia and New Zealand). This is two countries, but only one release. You should therefore only add one release date, and simply choose one of the countries to represent the entire release area.

Here are some suggestions for choosing which country:

  • Choose the band's home country. Shihad is a New Zealand band; if they release an album in Australasia, add it as a New Zealand release.
  • Where this information is unknown or ambiguous, record the country with the largest sales.

Another common phenomenon is that, even when an album is released more-or-less simultaneously in many countries, in fact the releases are slightly staggered. For example, an album might be released on a Sunday in the US, but on Monday in Europe. I have no suggestion for what approach would be best in this situation.


There are two alternatives to this system. The first is to add a number of common distribution regions to the list of countries. This would be a nice way to more accurately represent the reality of how the album was distributed. However, it has the following drawbacks:

  • There has to be some limit to which sets of countries get represented. Distributors are able to choose any random combination of countries for their release, and this means there will be lots of edge cases. While there may never be a release that covers only Germany, Peru, and New Zealand, there will still be too many to practically put them all in a drop-down list. Someone will need to make continual policy decisions as to which get included, and since this is SubjectiveData, it will just cause arguments and antagonism. ISO 3166 is in some ways an arbitrary selection, but it's someone else's selection, and one from a respected authority.
  • Maintaining the list of sets of countries will be an unnecessary maintenance burden.
  • Our list of countries won't match those of other people's. For example, the ID3 people might add a "country of origin" tag to their specification. If they did so, chances are they would use ISO 3166 for the reasons above. But if they did, while we use our own selection, then it would be more work to translate MusicBrainz data into ID3 tags.

The second option is to add a separate release for every country that the release covers. This will cause systematic replication of data. Replication of data is bad because the data can become inconsistent, it's harder to modify the data when better information comes along, and it's a greater burden for people entering the data in the first place. It also makes it harder to design a web page to convey the "essential facts" about an album.

The European Union

The European Union is currently not represented as a separate country, but this could change in future. The European Union should be used where an album is distributed in a large proportion of the EU countries simultaneously. Where only a small number of EU countries are covered, for example UK and Ireland, or just the Scandinavian countries, use the previous strategy of simply choosing one representative country.

Note that an album might, for example, have one release in the UK, followed by a second wider release that covers the whole of the EU, including the UK.


The European Union, as with most things, is a special case. Commercial distribution tends to be much more fluid within its borders than between any other sets of countries, and so it's harder to nail down a single country of release. What's more, "EU" is in ISO 3166, so it really should be added anyway.

Historical Countries

There is currently no ability to enter the names of historical countries, such as the USSR, as a release country. It has been proposed that we should add the countries from ISO 3166-3 to allow this.


It's confusing for people to try to add releases where the release country is written on the album itself, but MusicBrainz doesn't have the country in its list. This also leads to confusing information on an album's page, where an album released in 1972 is apparently released in a country that didn't exist in 1972.

There are some proposed changes to the list of countries on ReleaseCountryUpdate