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(some notes: this page incorporates most of the ArtistName terminology page, which will no longer be needed if this becomes official. Same goes for ArtistSortName and ArtistComment. Also ignore the examples for now, they will need some cleaning up. --warp).


When adding a new Artist to the database you can provide various pieces of information, of which the name is the most important.


The Artist Name is the official name of an artist, be it a person or a band. In most cases, it's the name as found on releases' sleeves.

This is a simple concept, but there are complications to this caused by artists releasing material under different names, whether as side projects, collaborations with other artists, or due to changes in musical direction. The meaning of an artist name also changes subtly depending on the ArtistType. The same name can be used for more than one artist. If you add a new artist that has the same name as an existing one, you will be required to enter a comment (see below).

There are also the concepts of PerformanceName and LegalName, either of which might be the official ArtistName. These two can be linked using the PerformanceNameRelationshipType.

Note that you can change how an artist is credited on a release or track when you enter that release. There is usually no need to add a new artist to the database if the artist is already present in our database under a (slightly) different name.

Sort name

The "artist sort name" is a variant of the artist name that will be used when the artist is listed with other artists.

The idea is to ensure that all the artists that start with "The" will not end up under "T". This also applies to artists who have regular names like Eric Clapton, but not to bands that have fictitious names like Cypress Hill. Sort names should contain all the accented characters that are present in the name of the artist.

Think of the sort name as being the name that would place the artist where you would expect to find it alphabetically (e.g. in a record shop).

The guidelines for SortNameStyle are complex, please take a look at them if you're editing or voting on a SortName.


The comment is a field in the database used to help users distinguish between identically named artists.

It will appear in the search results next to each name (so, the comment should be kept fairly short). A few words is normally enough, just enough that someone reading it will recognize the artist they're looking for. The comment field is not a place to store general background information about the artist, that kind of information should go in the ArtistAnnotation.


Use the country where the artist was born and raised in the country field. When you're not dealing with a single artist, use the country where the band was formed. If the artist is predominantly active in a different country, use that country instead.

Other fields

The remaining fields are fairly straightforward:

  1. Type
    With Type you can choose if this artist entry is for a single person or a band.
  2. Gender
    If the artist is a person you can choose his or her gender.
  3. Begin date, End date
    If you're entering a band, the begin and end date describe when the band was formed and disbanded.
    If you're entering a person, the begin and end date refer to the date of their birth and death.

An artist can also have multiple aliases. An ArtistAlias is used as a search hint to catch alternative or incorrect spelling of an ArtistName. These are usually entered later, you will not be asked to enter any artist aliases when adding a new artist to the database.


Individual performs and releases material under various names

Paul David Hewson sings in the band U2 under the name "Bono".:

Richard David James is a musician who releases solo material under a variety of names, including Aphex Twin and Caustic Window:

Shortening names

It's very common for some LegalNames to be shortened for normal use, such as "William" shortened to "Bill" or "Elisabeth" shortened to "Liz".

Bill Berry's LegalName is William Thomas Berry.

Dropping the last name

The classic case is Madonna. In that case, a separate artist is created for her LegalName, Madonna Louise Ciccone, while "Madonna" is a PerformanceName. This allows albums to be credited correctly to just "Madonna", while still allowing important information to be recorded against her LegalName.

Another example is Kylie Minogue, who frequently is credited as simply "Kylie". In this case, "Kylie" is simply made an ArtistAlias, since anyone looking up "Kylie" in the system would not be at all surprised to see the name "Kylie Minogue" instead.

Fictional characters

The band Spın̈al Tap is composed of several fictional characters, and was originally simply the fictional subject of the mockumentary "This is Spinal Tap". However, the band proved popular, and the actors who play those characters have gone on to record several albums. Each character is considered a PerformanceName, and gets an independent artist record. These PerformanceNames are used as the members of the band (see Member Of Band Relationship Type). The actors who play the characters also get artist records, and they are related to their characters with PerformanceNameRelationshipType.

Many more examples of this are at FictitiousArtist.

Artists with identical names

Randy Jackson, brother of Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson, and Randy Jackson, former bassist with Journey.

Artist's name has changed

The perennial example of this is Wendy Carlos (Wikipedia page). She was born "Walter Carlos", but had a sex-change operation in 1972. Even after her name was officially changed, albums were released under "Walter Carlos", on the basis that this would make them more saleable.

Cat Stevens changed his name to Yusuf Islam when he converted to Islam in 1978.

Chinese names

When Chinese people emigrate to western countries, they frequently choose a "western name", to avoid the confusion of westerners trying to pronounce their Chinese names, and of the different name order in Chinese names. Jet Li would be one famous example. His full Chinese name is 李連杰 (Li Lian Jie). "Li" is his surname, while "Lian Jie" is his given name. Changing the name order would look something like this: Lianjie Li.

Icelandic names

Björk is an Icelandic musician whose full name is Björk Guðmundsdóttir. Icelandic second names are really more descriptions than names proper, and in this case the last name simply means "daughter of Guðmund". She is, in fact, the daughter of a man called "Guðmund", unlike English names where someone called "Mark Richardson" isn't necessarily the son of someone called "Richard". So Björk calling herself just "Björk" isn't a performance name like "Madonna" or "Kylie"; it's just what any normal Icelandic person would call her.


In order to distinguish between Randy Jackson, brother of Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson, and Randy Jackson, former bassist with Journey, we use artist disambiguation comments. The former has comment "Brother of Michael and Janet." while the latter has "Former bassist with Journey".