History:Artist Intent Vs Facts Proposal

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Status: This page is part of the set of MusicBrainzPhilosophy pages, which discuss the rationale behind metaphysical decisions/suggestions in regards to MusicBrainz data.

Artistic Intent vs. The Facts

Should MusicBrainz be concerned with recording the facts, or the artistic expression (ArtistIntent)? Current practice with the StyleGuideline etc. seems to be heavily into recording facts only and losing the actual artistic expression such as formatting and capitalization of the titles. This is a fairly reasonable decision, as the facts are much less likely to change between reprints and with time. But to which degree should this be used as a guide?

Some issues:

Misprints and errors in the original materials
As an example, there's an album where a song apparently about a "Nightquest" was printed as "Nightguest" (a more common concept for sure) on the album cover. As it's possible that this album would be re-released with the corrected printing later on, it's very tempting to enter "Nightquest" as the title. But how can moderators be sure this wasn't a wordplay intended by the band?
Obvious misprints and errors
Kind of like the last class, but specifically when it's clear there's an error. For example one album cover had two track titles swapped between each other. It was easy to tell from lyrics and from comparing to demos of the same track. While entering the intended title instead of the accidental title will avoid problems if the error is fixed in later misprint, this causes trouble for users as the track may be known by either title and people may believe they're fixing an error by changing things back to how the album cover reads.
Additional information on titles, that doesn't typically belong in there
There's a problem in that we don't presently have out-of-band information so any information added is indistinguishable from official parts of the title. For example some albums have been released with the designation "Limited Edition" in the title, and it isn't possible to tell this from a specification added by people entering the data.
When an artist seems to be using formatting to convey a specific idea
Bit limited on specific examples, but for example http://www.musicbrainz.org/showalbum.html?albumid=150735 seems to have two alternate titles for each track, neither which is less important or derived. Another one is the multipart tracks on many albums.
Cases where the artist or record-company specifically calls an album/track something unintuitive
For example, calling tracks "Bonustrack 1" on album cover despite the track having a real name. Recording facts seems to speak for entering the real name of the track, but again what if the artist really meant that track/version to be called "Bonustrack 1"?
What about albums that are intentionally re-released with new titles etc?
Again I don't have links to specific cases, but it sometimes happens that the exact same album has different titles between printings. Should they be the same or different database record?


Perhaps it would be best to let someone familiar with the band (i.e. A Big Fan) decide what the artist intends, judging by websites, interviews etc. Musicians are fallible, we're fallible, but the database should be as close to the (tentatively said) intention as possible. I don't think anyone wants their typo immortalised in thousands of music files. --MichelleW

Also the case where the track listing is printed with subtitles, but the tracks are "commonly known" by their main title only, in bootlegs; eg. http://www.musicbrainz.org/showalbum.html?albumid=117607; there is another version of pretty much the same album without subtitles http://www.musicbrainz.org/showalbum.html?albumid=205420. (Not to mention that on the album cover, there's full stops everywhere.) This is even more difficult if the official website/discography is inconsistent. Should the tracks be changed to fit in with the stylistic features (which the musicians don't use most of the time either) or should both versions be kept so MB-users can choose which way they'd like their files tagged? --MichelleW

Regarding the first issue, I think we should always go with the cover unless there's compelling evidence to the contrary (eg those raised in the second issue). I say this for 2 reasons:

  • ConsistentOriginalData means that even if something wasn't "intended" (that's no to say it was a "mistake", but no real thought went into it), it can reach proliferation across an artists catalogue to the extent where it would confuse users if this abnormality was not there. Eg, the Dinosaur Jr. Greatest Hits maintains the lack of apostrophes on titles as per the original albums.
  • We can never really be sure of an artists intent on any one instance of a trackname. What looks like a typo may be of some importance (eg "Nightquest/guest"), so it's best to leave it. After all, we can't be "wrong" if we're representing covers until a contrary ArtistIntent is proven, so I think we should wait for that instead of trying to pre-empt it. --Gecks