Classical Music Enthusiasts Team

During a weekend full of meetings, the focus kept returning to the world of classical music, and classical music metadata. Several ideas and thoughts were expressed, which left me curious about what MeB’s role to the classical music world is/could be and if we should put a team together of enthusiasts to specifically support the world of classical music. While we had a quick meeting about this after monday’s MeB status meeting,@Freso suggested it deserved a forum post as well.

Quesito’s initial thoughts/questions:

  1. Could we form a classical music enthusiasts group dedicated to the growth of our database and communication about classical music?
  2. Could we continue to grow our global community by extending communication forms (IRC channel/forum) specifically for classical music enthusiasts?
  3. Could we as we continue to add to our database, become the leader in classical music database structure and content?
  4. What current MeB member and classical music expert could lead this group, if one should be formed?
  5. Has MeB had a group focused on classical music in the past?

From the topic introduction discussion, we quickly went into the issues MB has with UI/UX, as a whole, with all types of music metadata. While this is no doubt a large issue for MeB and on the top of our priority list, it’d also be nice to note the differences classical music metadata UI/UX may need, that would differ from the rest of music metadata. We continued to form a list of other questions pertaining to this topic and coinciding document:

MeB Classical Music Metadata Discussion

  1. Does the data model capture everything we want to capture?
    a. Does the data model capture everything others want it to capture?
    b. Who should we be asking?
  2. Do the editing tools make it feasible?
  3. Do the style guidelines align with user expectations?
  4. Does the api let one get at the data efficiently?
  5. Do we even agree on what questions the api should answer?
  6. Have we asked data consumers what questions /they/ think the api should be able to answer?
    a. when this comes up, I feel like we sometimes get defensive and protest “but the data model is good!”
  7. What extent should ‘classical’ be a special case in MB? Currently it is, but partly because of legacy.
  8. How many of these issues can be re-framed so that they become @reosarevok’s problem?

Other notes from the meeting:

  • Possible classical blog posts from @reosarevok
  • Inviting industry folks from labels to be part of the discussion
  • Bringing together researchers/industry people to the (possible) classical IRC channel.
  • @loujin’s amazing data visualization work already giving life/education and beauty to the world of classical music.
  • Tutorials / Youtube Videos

So to conclude:
Is there enough interest to form a Classical music metadata team to discuss, further and grow the MeB Classical Music Metadata World?


Some (too many :frowning: ) parts of a document we worked on (with nikki and ianmcorvidae) from 2014 are still relevant. I’m checking that now and marking what’s still and issue etc (the title was half tongue-in-cheek, half not so much, but hope nobody minds it :stuck_out_tongue: ):

Feel free to add more issues to it.


I think this is a good idea. While some might argue that classical music is just another genre, it seems to me that the needs of classical music really test out the quality of database structures and tagging methods. However, IMHO the main issue is less a question of design and more one of implementation. While the database has been expanding to include more classical music works, releases and artists, there are still many gaps and plenty of examples of poor edits. I fix what I can when I come across it, but don’t always get it right. Making it easier to do the right thing in editing would help.
As to exactly how the “team” would operate: I am still a bit baffled by the multiple communication methods within MB, so not qualified to comment, but anything that enables classical music enthusiasts to help each other would be good.

Funnily enough, I was just going to post about this when I saw the current post! I am in correspondence with Hyperion about them adding release data to MB when they issue a release. They are a very savvy label and already have a fairly good (i.e. rich) approach to tagging downloads. It seems to me that all labels should be encouraged to add their releases (and at least their new ones) to MB. This would considerably enhance the currency and quality of the database. However, I would think that they need an incentive to do so. My suggestion is that there could be some kind of partnering/endorsement which is mutually beneficial. Labels would be able to use some endorsement from MB if they added releases and MB would acknowledge said labels as “partners” - details would need to be worked out.
I would further suggest that all such labels would add MBIDs to the download versions of their releases, so that tagging via Picard would be very easy (and could be done using the customer’s preferred plugins/scripts) thus avoiding the problems caused by existing inconsistent tagging approaches between labels.
Specifically engaging the classical music labels in this enterprise could, I suggest, be very rewarding for them, their customers, MB and its users.


Hi. I am part of the musical industry, with a focus on classical music and classical metadata. I use to think that classical music deserves a special care with metadata, because it contains tricky specificities (character roles, multi roles on artists like composers + performers, instruments…) ; that being said, most of these specificities are not only specific to classical music.

Classical music has a strong relationship with the works (with many parts) being played, which MB already supports. The document “Why MB sucks for classical” is very informative and quite exhaustive IMHO. Many labels (such as Hyperion in fact) are not very keen on uploading their music catalog to the streaming services. One reason is the revenues (a way lower than the physical market) but one other, I guess, is the way metadata is stored and displayed. Classical listeners and fans are very keen on full and accurate metadata that most services don’t serve. MB could definitely have a strong role in spreading good practices. Not all labels (like Hyperion?) have the understanding of properly tagging their digital content however…

That being said, I’d really enjoy being part of such a group / discussion. I don’t know the MB model very well yet, but I built and worked on other classical music databases. I wrote on classical metadata too, in this blog.


Sorry, I missed that. Where can I see it?

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@henadel: I haven’t made too much noise about it for the moment, but I want to open a discussion topic soon once it’s stable

I’m trying both to set an environment to help people access the musicbrainz database “easily” with python (using Jupyter notebooks) and use this environment to show examples of visualizations based on the data.

You can follow developments on two git repositories:


Not part of the team discussion, but one reason I avoid working on classical releases is that I’m used to “as-written” for the rest of the site and don’t quite get the structure for the classical style guidelines. With the interface as it is, I’m definitely not pushing for more pseudo-releases, but once the alternate tracklists are implemented, I would like to be able to use those for adding the raw cover wording.

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For titles specifically, a fair amount of that should be the same - the main changes are capitalisation, putting the main work name (as printed) before all tracks that are part of the work, and using only one language if many are printed (hopefully with alternate tracklists we can just use them all, separately). But in general we’ve tried to move to generally more as-on-cover for classical too.

Artists are a bit trickier but they’re also supposed to be mostly as on the cover, except the tracks use just the appropriate composers, no performers.


If I understand correctly, the reason for imposing the structure on the titles is to make the separation of work and movement clearer and to permit them to be extracted in tagging. I will (shortly) be releasing a completely revised version of my intial attempt to deal with the “work structure” tagging issue (“Classical Work Parts” plugin). The new plugin will be called “Classical Extras” as it also deals with enhancements for artists (a development version is already available but this will be updated soon). There is an argument (which I think I buy) that, once you can extract the work structure from the database, the structure in the title is of less relevance. However, to get to this point a number of enhancements would be needed:

  1. To enable extraction of work structure without multiple XML lookups
  2. To encourage and facilitate the better use of aliases to enable work data to be extracted in the appropriate locale
  3. To build this into native Picard rather than rely on plugins (although I think plugins could be used to prototype the required functionality and to extend it if desired).

In the short term, some improvements to the API would be helpful - see discussion here.

I’m not quite sure what is proposed here and whether it is an alternative to work aliases. Personally, I’m keen to minimise the quantity of input and maximise the quality of output, so structured reusable data is better than more unstructured single-use data. I would also like to see better tools for importing data from existing tagged files.
So, just a short wish-list :slight_smile:

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I think the MB structure for classical music is not its limiting factor, and it would be unwise to focus too much on that until it is. In fact, the more people understand the structure, the more I am convinced they will like it and appreciate its intelligence. I think the biggest practical problem is the sheer amount of work required for somebody to enter a new classical album into MB (having entered maybe 40-50 albums myself over the last 6 months). It is a strong disincentive.

Part of the problem is the amount of persnickety detail that the style guidelines require. I’m not saying that they are wrong per se, but it is a major headache to attempt to keep on-side of them all, particularly when your gut reaction to something is that it doesn’t look right. I should be clear that I understand where the style guidelines come from, and why they’re needed, and even why most of them ended up the way they did.

As a newbie here, and an outsider, the whole MB thing has the feel of a hacker community with its IRC and user-unfriendly web interface. I am pretty sure it must put people off. I’ve been doing this since January and I still can’t get the hang of scripts. I think a major initiative needs to focus on making the whole thing easier and more intuitive to use, particularly since the whole point here is that we don’t just want more albums entered, we want richer metadata entered.

Also, as a ‘big-picture’ kind of a guy, I can’t help but think the most productive single initiative would be one that brought some of the bigger hitters on the labels onside. There are two challenges - one would be to convince them that having their albums catalogued in MB would be in their best interests (as opposed to just not in their worst interests). The second would be to provide them with tools that would make it easy for them to move in the MB direction once the first criterion is met. I have some thoughts on how that could be done, but this isn’t the moment to expand on them.

Finally, a perspective from the user community, which is where I fit in. Of all the attributes of a rich metadata set, the one that people probably clamor for the most is genres, and MB doesn’t support them. I know why, and I fully understand the nature of that particularly ugly beast, but it is something MB needs to face up to, and, probably, find a way to bite the bullet. But geez, that’s going to be tough. Although it would be less tough (I think) in classical.


I agree entirely. In particular:

We need to develop a “proposition” for the labels to be involved. However, I think the focus should be on the classical labels as that is where the biggest payoff is for all. If it were to become a general proposition then I think it would not fly as most “pop” music fans are satisfied with the album-song-artist info so neither they or the labels would see much merit in providing a “richer” dataset. I am awaiting a response from Hyperion.

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You generally can’t change the behavior of an entrenched industry from the top down, because the dominant players naturally fear that any change may impact their alpha dog status. So you start with someone lower down the food chain who feels they need a differentiating advantage, and persuade them that you can provide one. That in turn provides a practical working demonstration of your value proposition that you can use to sway someone slightly bigger. I think MB can nibble away at the classical music chain in this way, both effectively and quickly. The Pop/Rock/Jazz/etc labels might then begin to think “I want some of that”. Of course, they may not end up being persuaded, especially not if their customers aren’t clamoring for it.

As you say, we need to develop a well-considered “proposition” that speaks to whatever is keeping the target audience up at night.

But this is only one talking point in the proposed “classical music” discussion, and I think that any such “proposition” can only begin to emerge after the broader review has taken place.


A healthy active community > valuable content > something to offer/other parties come on board > a healthy active community > …

I don’t think this is limited to classical music, but any way to make editing more responsive and rewarding (which working in a team intrinsically is) will have immediate benefits. Starting with classical devotees I think is an excellent idea.
I don’t know if it would even be that much work, beyond perhaps a leader to make a thread and keep discussion going, and eventually some custom badges/rewards from @quora
Having members of this team subscribe to and help new editors become familiar with classical guidelines (or just post ‘thanks’), and then come on board, would produce immediate results I think.

Maybe the next meeting can focus on action points…


I agree with aerozol. As musicbrainz has a crowd source position in the industry, havin the right tools to edit content specifically for classical music would be a huge benefit.

It is not incompatible with trying to get good metadata from the labels of course. But in the industry, we keep trying… for years. There are many reasons why labels don’t have and can’t provide good metadata (they don’t have the right information system, they buy other labels and companies which does not have these metadata…).

Having a work oriented form with a half-automated filling would be very helpful for classical music (most of the track share the same data, except the number or the movement title…)

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How is this team going to function? And where are its deliberations going to take place?

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I think most of the stuff that’s on there still forms a valid part of the present discussion.

That’s the key question now. This thread is useful, but a more structured context enabling actions/requests to be agreed would be more useful. I’m afraid I’m a bit of a MusicBrainz newbie myself, so I don’t really know what the right context is.

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Thanks for starting the discussion and creating this topic! I would love to see forum category dedicated for classical discussion. I believe it would activate current editors but also encourage new editors who struggle with our guidelines (CSG). We could form a special group which would meet on IRC.

Active discussion is a good way to activate community but I believe we could also activate editors doing some editing together. I believe it was @reosarevok who discussed with me long time ago about potential “artist/composer of the month”. Some of the hugely popular composers are almost impossible to be cleaned but the situation could be improved by having a group of volunteers focusing on the same composer. On the forums we could nominate composers to be selected and could also vote about it. At the moment most popular composers could have tens of thousands of recordings without any performer data.


I just created a new #classical subcategory and moved this topic there. Feel free to create new topics in this category to discuss classical “specific” subjects. :slight_smile:


I won’t be popular for saying this, but IRC is going to put a lot of people off. I know it puts me off. I detest it. But then I’m not, and never have been, a hacker … :slight_smile: