Beginners Guide

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Beginners' Guide

Welcome to MusicBrainz! This beginners' guide is intended to give you a quick start on how to enhance your own digital media files, as well as the MusicBrainz data. It contains many references to detailed information which will allow you to learn more about MusicBrainz, once you understood the basic concepts. If this is your first visit to this page, please read the whole page first before diving into more advanced topics, you might get lost otherwise. ;-)

MusicBrainz has grown into a complex system which is balanced between software solutions and a set of guidelines which govern how the applications should be used... Once you begin to understand what is going on, you can start exploring the documentation. If you want to dive right in, the HowTos will be good, and procedure-oriented starting point.

MusicBrainz (sometimes abbreviated to MB) currently consists of three parts: the Database (which holds all the data entered by our users), the documentation (WikiDocs) and the applications (Products) which will help you to improve the meta-data in your digital media files, using the MusicBrainz data. Most interactions with MusicBrainz will have the effect that data is added to, or removed from the database. You will probably start to tag your digital media files with information that was already added to the database. If you find that a release is missing, you will probably want to add it, or if it exists, improve the data of the existing entries. Since modifications to the data need to pass our voting system, it is really important to understand HowEditingWorks and HowVotingWorks.

Actually, you might add a fourth component to the three above: the mailing lists. Don't hesitate to subscribe and post questions to the UsersMailingList.

Documentation

The documentation is WikiDocs. These are the "how to" of the database and will be referred to often within the notes left during the voting process. Usually in the term of Style, or OfficialStyleGuideline. By the way, you can add comments to this page (see the Discussion section at the bottom).

Database

You can query (retrieve data) or edit it (change, add or delete data). In order to ensure that the data quality of MusicBrainz is up to the standards we have set for it, all the non-trivial modifications must go through the voting phase.

The first and only step required to update the database is to register and log in. You will need to provide a valid email address and then verify it. The email address is needed so that other editors can contact you about your edits. Unless you chose to show it, other editors will not see your address, and MusicBrainz is committed to protect your privacy (see the MusicBrainz Privacy Policy)

There are a huge number of modifications made by users. So if you don't want to be overwhelmed by the volume, you can subscribe to the artists or groups in which you are particularly interested. MB will give you a list of the modifications associated with the artists to which you subscribed.

Definitions

In MusicBrainz when a user modifies data in any way (see HowEditingWorks), this change is called editing. Originally it was called "moderation" and you may still see reference to moderation, or mods, though, as we reshape our documentation.

Most edits must go through a voting process before being applied (see HowToVote). Some minor edits (such as changing the case of letters) are applied immediately, no vote being required. As long as an edit has not been voted on, it is "Open". If your edit receives a majority of Yes votes, it will be Applied. However if the edit gets more No votes, it will Fail. (see HowVotingWorks)

The term Release covers full-length albums, singles, vinyls, cassettes, etc (see ReleaseFormat). A release is made of one or more Tracks. If a CD with the same tracklisting is issued twice, once as a stand-alone release, once in a set, it may have to be entered into the database twice (see Release, BoxSet and BoxSetNameStyle).

A DiscID is a kind of signature for a CD. It contains the precise timing information of a CD. When you use Picard (see the Software section below), MB automatically retrieves the Disc ID of your CD to include it in the MB database.

One of the fundamental aims of MusicBrainz is to offer exact information. To enforce this, we have guidelines. These guidelines allow us to ensure the data input by all users is accurate. These guidelines vary depending on the kind of release, see: StyleGuideline, CapitalizationStandard, ClassicalStyleGuide, SoundtrackStyle, HowToMakeRelationships

Adding a Release

Please note that MusicBrainz strives for data which is as accurate as possible. An example of this policy is, that we do not like homeburnt DiscIDs to be added to the database. This does not mean that you are not allowed to add tracklistings from these mediums, but only Disc IDs of official releases (in this case meaning factory produced media, band release CD-Rs and mass produced bootlegs) are allowed.

Adding a release is probably one of the first things you will want to do. Either you have a CD, or you don't (vinyl, cassette, ...)

  • If you have a CD, first run Picard. Clicking the lookup CD button will make Picard analyze your CD and connect to MusicBrainz. If the CD exists in MusicBrainz, please check that the track listing matches. If they are the same, you can attach the information from your copy to the existing release. If they are not the same, it probably has not been entered before. This is a chance for you to enhance MB by adding your copy. It is generally better to add a new version of the same release if the previous step does not turn up a match, than trying to manipulate existing track lists which are, in many cases, perfectly valid.

If MusicBrainz doesn't know your CD, it automatically tries to recover it from FreeDB. If it finds it, it recovers the FreeDB data. If MusicBrainz really can't offer any useful suggestion for your CD, then you will have to input the tracks manually. A word of warning. You must carefully examine the FreeDB data since it needs to be corrected in most cases to confirm with the MusicBrainz style guidelines. Also, it is good practice to provide proof of your release in the edit notes, FreeDB is not considered as a proof, as their submissions process is not monitored.

  • If you don't have a CD handy, you will need to search by hand. Usually the best way is to search for the title of the release. If you can't find the release you have, or the only matches in MusicBrainz are reasonably different from yours, then you have a new release and you should enter it manually.

  • It helps immensely if you can provide a link to a page containing more information on the release. Official websites and comprehensive fan sites are good, as are online shops, such as Amazon. These links not only help other editors double check accuracy, but help us find any extra information which can be added. While welcoming bootlegs, we try and discourage a home made various mix. Our aim is toward widely reaching and readily usable accurate information. Thus your local factory made various artist disc may not be accepted for its very slim range of user need.

Order of operations when editing an object with a pending edit

Take care when altering the database in reference to previous edits. If there is a pending edit (usually highlighted in yellow), one edit will cancel another out. You will want to delete your edits if you notice your own mistake, rather than edit over a previous edit.

Guides

An annotated screenshot by screenshot guide for how to add a new artist, a new release, and some advanced relationships.

Software

Download and install Picard and match your CDs with the MusicBrainz Database and then, tag your digital audio files.

Next steps

Thank you for taking the time to read and learn more about what makes MusicBrainz thrive. Your next visit should be to the CodeOfConduct or the HowTo.

Discussion

Beginners, this is your page, of course. So if you feel something is wrong or missing here, just add your comment in BeginnersGuideDiscussion. That is, once you have registered in the wiki!


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