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Music Brainz Style Principle

Users of MusicBrainz and the members of the StyleCouncil put some great efforts in working out detailed StyleGuidelines, which state how data should be formatted. Since we stress these guidelines, people often get the impression that there is a rule that says: "Always follow the style guidelines".

But this is not true. Instead you should stick to this principle.

The Style Principles

If you ask yourself in what style something should be entered into MusicBrainz, the following rules apply in this order (strongest on top):

  1. Follow ArtistIntent.
  2. If 1 is not applicable, follow StrongGuidelines.
  3. If neither 1 nor 2 are applicable, use ConsistentOriginalData.
  4. If 1 nor 2 nor 3 are applicable, follow the StyleGuidelines.
  • This is yet a ProposedStyleGuideline, although IMO it reflects a long existent consensus (IMO: DonRedman, see discussion below for some dissenting opinions).

Alternative phrasing

This can also be explained from the bottom upwards:

  • (4) Usually you stick to the StyleGuidelines.
  • (3) If, however, something is consistently labelled in a different style on official sources, then this classifies as ConsistentOriginalData and overrules the StyleGuidelines. Note that you need to provide some evidence for ConsistentOriginalData (ideally in the EditNote), or your edits will most likely be voted down.
  • (2) There are, however, some StrongGuidelines, which overrule even such consistent official style. An example is the AbbreviationStyle, which states that most abbreviations are to be spelled out.
  • (1) Finally there is the notion of ArtistIntent. If you can show that the artist intended something to be stylized a special way, then you should enter it like that into the database. Since it is somewhat difficult to find out what the artist intended and there might be controversial views, it is a good practice to discuss this in EditNotes or on the UsersMailingList.

Exception: Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar

As a general rule, we do correct spelling and punctuation and, to a lesser extent, grammar errors in titles.

Alert.png This rule does not apply if it can be shown that the intent (see above) was for the spelling, punctuation or grammar to be incorrect.

Additional notes

"By intent" usually means one of the following:

  • The artist themselves stated their intent.
  • There is unambiguous consensus in the community that the artist wanted it this way.
  • A certain misspelling is consistently found in all (official) releases of the artist.

Note: Unfortunately, proving artist intent can be somewhat difficult and so it is often up to the discretion of the editor. If you are in doubt, discuss the issue via EditNotes.


There are enough cases of record companies mucking up track listings or even artist names (see some of the Front Line Assembly releases sometime), or creating new imaginary words for stylistic purposes that it makes much more sense to fix these things. I think that we generally value spelling and punctuation correctness over cover accuracy.


Some notable examples of titles that override the guidelines are:

Guns 'N' Roses
It's been established that the N should always be capitalised per artist preference, as well as having the two apostrophes (which isn't technically incorrect anyway).
k.d. lang
Her name should always be spelled with lower case.
聖なる鐘がひびく夜 by タンポポ. The titles of the three other versions of the song on the single are all solo versions by the group members named (Featuring <member last name>) on the release. They're not collaborations, just solo versions by the group members, so they're a nice example of when not to use the (feat. <artist>) format.
A Perfect Circle
eMOTIVe and aMOTION is ArtistIntent by A Perfect Circle for "incorrect capitalization".


... about Principles

Note to WikiZens:

These items ArtistIntent and ConsistentOriginalData still need to be explained. I don't have the time to do that now.

Also, please link to StylePrinciple from every guideline. This page NeedsIntertwingling massively. --DonRedman

... about Exceptions

Yary Hluchan posted the following to the MailingList in a discussion about the application of StyleGuidelines. It is a very good example of the reasoning that is intended by the StylePrinciple (Feel free to change this to make it a better example --DonRedman

  • "My problem with this is not that I disagree entirely, but as I see it, the fundamental difference between the "consistency" people like Kiara and myself on one hand, and the "artist intent" people like DJKC and losten on the other, is what is part of a title. The consistency people see remix and version information as additional meta-data that isn't part of the title itself, even if it is added by the artist, with intent, in a particular format." (follow the link above to read the complete mail)

... about Reasoning

The wording of the current version is a bit too slangy for my taste, and even a 1:st person "I" slips in there (are the guidelines themselves making a statement?). I suggest the below changes:

There are many cases of record companies making errors with track titles or even artist names (e.g. some of the Front Line Assembly releases), or creating new imaginary words for stylistic purposes. In such cases it often makes sense to fix the errors, valuing spelling and punctuation correctness over cover accuracy. {SIG}