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 releases and tracks, although feature request 820 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 ArtistSortNames). 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 AddReleaseEdit, MoveReleaseEdit, or MergeArtistsEdit or similar EditType
s, the name you provide is used to retrieve 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 to one artist. Ticket 780 suggests allowing duplicate artist aliases, until then it can be worked around by adding (parenthetical) text to the alias.
When NOT to use aliases
You should not use aliases for PerformanceNames (where an individual or group have multiple "projects" under whose different names they release different musical works). Instead, these should be added as separate artists, and linked together using PerformanceNameRelationshipType.
Note this is unlike what Discogs does!
When to use aliases
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
- 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 release to release
- 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
- NSync = 'N Sync: many artists feel a need to spell their names with strange spacing, odd characters and punctuation, etc.
- The Sex Pistols = Sex Pistols | Tiësto = DJ Tiësto | Cheb Khaled = Khaled: artists add or drop titles, monikers and/or articles from their names
- 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 release covers
- J.S. Bach = Johann Sebastian Bach: overlaps somewhat with acronyms, but there are sometimes middle initials not generally used in the artist's name
- 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
- 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
- ©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
- Piotr Ilitch Tchaïkovski = Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: while English-speakers are used to "Tchaikovsky", he is known elsewhere in the world by different spellings
- Jay Chow = Jay Chou: there are often several ways to transliterate non-Roman characters according to different standards
- 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
- Yaz = Yazoo: artists are often forced to change their names for legal reasons, sometimes only in part of the world, see http://www.musicbrainz.org/showmod.html?modid=1439666 for the best (worst?) example. Please consult SameArtistWithDifferentNames for more information about how to handle such cases, both for individuals and for groups.