Change guideline on sort names for artists with artist name embedded in group name [STYLE-561]

STYLE-561 asks us to change the way a very specific kind of artist is sorted:

  • The Alan Parsons Project
  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience

The current guideline says they should be sorted as:

  • Parsons, Alan, The, Project
  • Hendrix, Jimi, The, Experience

As discussed in this edit some editors believe it should be:

  • Parsons, Alan, Project, The
  • Hendrix, Jimi, Experience, The

As articles, like The, An, A, are the least important aspects of the name when sorting.

I think the reasoning seems good, but I wanted to have a quick check to see if anyone thinks this is a very bad idea.


I agree with the change. The current guideline never made much sense to me. How does that ‘The’ get in the middle anyway?

I think the logic is extrapolating from its connection to “Project” and “Experience” i.e. it’s “The Experience [of Jimi Hendrix]” or “The Project [of Alan Parsons]”. Questionable at best and it ignores the purpose of sortnames such as it is.

(Probably obvious, but I agree with the proposed change.)

I still would expect that to end up with “The” at the end.

The * Project -> * Project, The -> Alan Parsons Project, The -> Parsons, Alan, Project, The

To me the only way “The” in the middle makes sense is if you assume the “The” is referring to the name of the person. (Not just any Alan Parsons, The Alan Parsons.) :smile:

Changed those two already, but not sure what to do with:

  • The Great Orchestra and John Doe has sort name “Doe, John, The Great Orchestra and”
  • “The Sensational Alex Harvey Band” has sort name “Harvey, Alex, The Sensational, Band”

Both of those look stupid to me, but should they just have “, The” at the end?

I think we should look at what the word “The” is associated with.

In the first case it’s “The Great Orchestra” and “John Doe”, so I would say:
Great Orchestra, The, and Doe, John

In the second case, the “The” applies to the whole name, so move it to the end first, then deal with the rest of the band name:
Harvey, Alex, Sensational Band, The

I tend to think of these complex band names as sort of recursive functions. I break them down into their component parts and apply the sort name rules to each component part.


I agree with this. “The Great Orchestra” and “John Doe” are grammatically separate. In naming it that way, the person doing the naming indicated that the first name is the most important. Otherwise they would have done it the other way around, “John Doe and The Great Orchestra”. Also, if you put the second name first for sorting just because it’s an individual’s name, the sorting is chaotic as soon as you start introducing “The Great Orchestra and Another Artist”, etc.

In the second case, the name is one grammatical unit. It’s not “Alex Harvey and The Sensational Band”, it’s “Alex Harvey’s Band which is Sensational”. Alex Harvey is the most important part, so it comes first in sorting. Although I might argue that Band would come next rather than Sensational. If there was “The Mediocre Alex Harvey Orchestra”, I would expect to sort Band vs Orchestra first, then go to the adjectives.

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Maybe you could just drop “The Great Orchestra and John Doe” entirely. I get it’s trying for an unconventional example of a band-name-containing-personal-name, but considering all the actual groups out there using unconventional names, it seems a bit of a stretch. Unless someone can think of an actual act using a similar syntactic construction.

If The Great Orchestra existed as an independent artist, then the sorting would be pretty obvious, because the release would be credited to both artists. If it was a complete one-off, I’d be inclined to just use “John Doe credited as The Great Orchestra and John Doe”.

I throw-in some examples which show what buggy minefield those sortnames are (especially as a non-native speaker) … I’ve always asked myself how the sort name of the following bands should be. Sometimes, when it’s not a separate band which acts also alone “the” is written lowercase, sometimes not. And of course, all kind of sortnames. And after all we have artist intent :wink: :

And a bit off topic. I’m always arguing about artists (person) with an stage name. Should or shouldn’t this be sorted too? At the moment we have all kind of variations. Some interpreted as middle names and nicknames, some not.

Of those groups, the only one that seems at all tricky from a sorting perspective is Stan Webb’s Chicken Shack. I would probably go for “Webb, Stan’s Chicken Shack”. For maximum consistency with other examples it should probably be “Webb, Stan, 's Chicken Shack” but that just looks weird.

As for the artist examples, I don’t think any of them qualify as “given name + surname”, although “Melanie C” is a borderline case since it’s her given name + last initial or her actual surname. “Der W” is properly sorted as “W, Der” under the definite-article rule.

For the various Cab Calloway orchestras, I would split them off as separate artists and use artist credits to reconnect them to Calloway on the releases and recordings.


Cab Calloway & His Orchestra
Cab Calloway and His Cab-Jivers
Cab Calloway and His Cotton Club Orchestra
Cab Calloway & The Hi Di Ho Orchestra

Following the guideline for when a person’s name appears within a group artist name the sort name’s should be:

Calloway, Cab and His Cab-Jivers
Calloway, Cab and His Cotton Club Orchestra
Calloway, Cab & His Orchestra
Calloway, Cab & The Hi Di Ho Orchestra

But if it was up to me I’d do this:

Calloway, Cab; Cab-Jivers, His
Calloway, Cab; Cotton Club Orchestra, His
Calloway, Cab; Hi Di Ho Orchestra, The
Calloway, Cab; Orchestra, His

There was further discussion of this kind of sort name in this thread:


Bumping this thread because I’ve noticed some inconsistencies in how these kinds of sort names are handled.

Elvis Costello and the Attractions -> Costello, Elvis and the Attractions
Iggy and the Stooges -> Iggy and the Stooges
Echo and the Bunnymen -> Echo and the Bunnymen


Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings -> Jones, Sharon and Dap Kings, The
Toots and the Maytals -> Toots and Maytals, The
Big Brother and the Holding Company -> Big Brother and Holding Company, The

I’ve picked these examples because in each category one is an artist who goes by two names and their supporting band, one is an artist who goes by one name and their band, and one is a band name that matches that style, but with no actual artist associated. I personally think non-initial "The"s should stay where they are, not move to the end, but there should at least be an amendment to the style guide to clarify. The final example of “Big Brother and Holding Company, The” i find particularly egregious, but I am loathe to edit it without broader consensus or an update to the style guidelines.

Inconsistencies in the data perhaps, but the style guide seems consistent: “name and the other name” is styled to sort as “name and the other name” rather than “name and other name, the”.

Why is “Big Brother and Holding Company, The” especially egregious? Would you expect to find “The Holding Company” far from “A Holding Company” if those groups existed?

Personally I’d prefer:

  • Elvis Costello and the Attractions → Costello, Elvis and Attractions, the
  • Iggy and the Stooges → Iggy and Stooges, the
  • Echo and the Bunnymen → Echo and Bunnymen, the

I’d also prefer to sort his and other determiners after the artist name, but that’s not what the guidelines say.

Edit: According to the style guide, the examples you’ve given should all be corrected to put the first.


I find that example so egregious because there is no such group as “The Holding Company”, whereas “The Attractions” and “The Maytals” are names for actual groups of people.

This type of name is already covered in the guidelines:

  1. Group artist names beginning with an article (a, an, the, etc.) have the article moved to the end of their sort name.
    a. Where a real person’s name appears in a group artist’s name, the artist’s sort name should be the sort name for that person, followed by the remainder of the group artist’s name.

I don’t see any value in moving embedded (as opposed to initial) definite articles (or possessives) to the end (so I agree with the style guide but disagree with @Hawke’s preference ).

There’s obvious benefit to sorting The Beatles under B and The Shins under S, as well as of sorting John Coltrane next to Ravi Coltrane. However, “Costello, Elvis and Attractions, the” is still going to sort very near to “Costello, Elvis and the Attractions”; it offers little benefit and it’s harder to read (IMO).

@enjoymoreradio, I’ve changed the example artists you cited to follow the style guide, and encourage you to fix any others as you come across them.

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I ran a little query on my mirror to find other examples of this in the database, and found 5222 examples. Got some work a head of me…

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Part of the reason there’s so many is because the guess sort name function will move “the” to the end of the sort name for cases like Big Brother and the Holding Company.