Artist Alias

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Artist Aliases

While the name "aliases" may be an example of BadTerminology, and these could perhaps better be called "variant names" or "search hints", artist aliases are very useful. They are primarily used to guide selection of artists for albums and tracks, although feature request 1059830 suggests an enhancement for using aliases to support InterNationalization of artist names.

MusicBrainz supports both explicit and implicit ArtistSearches, which consider both ArtistNames and ArtistAliases (but not SortNames). Explicit searches can be made through both the QuickSearch and AdvancedSearch forms, but implicit ones are much more common. Any time that you specify an artist name, e.g. in an AddAlbum, MoveAlbum, or MergeArtists or similar edit, the name you provide is used to generate a list of candidate (matching) artists; you can select one of these, retry the search with another name, or create a new artist.

Currently, aliases are required to be unique, i.e. a given alias can only be associated with one artist. Feature request 760051 suggests allowing duplicate artist aliases, until then it can be worked around by adding (parenthetical) text to the alias.

The use of aliases for PerformanceNames (where a individual or group have multiple "projects" under whose different names they release different musical works) is frowned upon by the StyleGuidelines (although it is not yet explicitly specified). Instead, these should be added as a separate artist, and linked together using PerformanceNameRelationshipType.

There are many other cases where use of aliases is appropriate:

  • 1. Misspellings:
  • Led Zepplin = Led Zeppelin: these are the most common, and function as a simplistic automatic spelling corrector
  • 2. Variants:
  • Hootie and the Blowfish = Hootie & the Blowfish | Monty Python's Flying Circus = Monty Python: an artist may use several similar names interchangeably without making a distinction, from album to album
  • 3. Numbers:
  • The 3 Tenors = The Three Tenors: even if the artist prefers spelled out or numerical form - or cares, not always the case - they may or may not be spelled out by users
  • 4. Stylized Names:
  • NSync = 'N Sync: many artists feel a need to spell their names with strange spacing, odd characters and punctuation, etc.
  • 5. Missing Titles:
  • The Sex Pistols = Sex Pistols | Tiësto = DJ Tiësto | Cheb Khaled = Khaled: artists add or drop titles, monikers and/or articles from their names
  • 6. Acronyms:
  • B.D.P. = BDP = Boogie Down Productions: artists with long and unwieldy names are often better known by their acronyms, and may use them on their album covers
  • 7. Initials:
  • J.S. Bach = Johann Sebastian Bach: overlaps somewhat with acronyms, but there are sometimes middle initials not generally used in the artist's name
  • 8. Incomplete Names:
  • Strauss = Johan Strauss II: when credited as "Strauss", it's usually Johan Strauss II and not Richard or one of the others that is intended
  • 9. Lead Performers:
  • Sting & The Police = The Police: Sting is a member of The Police - it is not a collaboration, and the band does not officially include his name in theirs, however compilations often list featured members explicitly by name in this way
  • 10. Misencodings:
  • ©PªN­Û­ = Jay Chou [note hidden soft-hyphen after N in misencoding]: artist names entered in FreeDB using non-UTF-8 encodings; these are somewhat like typos, but in non-Unicode locales, these may in fact be more accurate than an automatic conversion from UTF-8; e.g. "Aliene Ma'riage" vs. the name with some funky greek character
  • 11. Localization:
  • Piotr Ilitch Tchaïkovski = Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: while English-speakers are used to "Tchaikovsky", he is known elsewhere in the world by different spellings
  • 12. Transliterations:
  • Jay Chow = Jay Chou: there are often several ways to transliterate non-Roman characters according to different standards
  • 13. "Translated" Names:
  • Chou Jie Lun = Jay Chou: many Asian artists have "English" names in addition to their given "Chinese" or "Japanese" etc. names - in some cases, the artists prefer the English name even in non-English text
  • 14. Legal Changes:
  • Yaz = Yazoo: artists are often forced to change their names for legal reasons, sometimes only in part of the world, see for the best (worst?) example; also applies to individuals who change their name legally (e.g. Wendy Carlos)


I can't really see the distinction between the "Localization" case and that of "Transliteration"; in both cases the name is being converted across alphabets while trying to preserve pronunciation, I think. - djce

The distinction is minimal. With "Localization" there is an official transliteration but it differs from country to country. With "Transliteration" there is no official transliteration; e.g. there are different modes of writing arab names in latin alphabets all over the world. --DonRedman

Don has it pretty much right, although I would add that localizations don't necessarily reflect official transliterations, just that different transliterations may be more appropriate for different languages due to their pronounciation of letters. Furthermore, localization isn't (necessarily) a conversion between alphabets, e.g. Tchaïkovski is entirely representable within the English alphabet (we use i-dieresis for naïve) but is not the standard spelling in that language. It is true that in many cases aliases exhibit both localization and transliteration. @alex

Something like the following: 
  • [19:07 11/19] <dupuy> I guess once we have better AR stuff, we could add a new type of alias that maps a single name onto multiple artists

is needed for handling cases like the various m-flo related releases which are put out as "m-flo loves Crystal Kay", "m-flo loves Yoshiki", etc on the singles but are more properly just m-flo releases that need to be credited to m-flo with "(feat. Crystal Kay)" appended to the track name. Same applies for the Crystal Kay loves m-flo single. - DJKC

There is some stuff in SortnameDiscussion that is relevant to aliases (notably the idea of "authority names").  There should probably be a page AliasesAndSortnames that explains why you should have an alias for the sortname (since the sortname is not searched), as well as a SelfAlias page explaining why you want an alias for the primary artist name.  @alex 

Author: @alex