I've been entering a few Releases recently, following the Style / Classical / Release / Artist guidelines. The result has been some entries with very, very long Release Artist strings.
* Mozart Requiem / Schubert "Unfinished" Symphony, Release by "Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Schubert; Vancouver Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra, Leslie Dala, Caitlin Wood, Laurelle Jade Froese, Rocco Rupolo, Zachary Read, Vancouver Bach Choir" (185 characters)
* Matthäus-Passion, Release by "Johann Sebastian Bach; Christoph Prégardien, Matthias Goerne, Christine Schäfer, Dorothea Röschmann, Bernarda Fink, Elisabeth von Magnus, Michael Schade, Markus Schäfer, Dietrich Henschel, Oliver Widmer, Arnold Schönberg Chor, Wiener Sängerknaben, Concentus Musicus Wien, Nikolaus Harnoncourt" (292 characters)
Release Artist strings this long seemed to have triggered problems. I had PIcard hang on Mac OS X until I truncated the Release Artist string. Ripping software XLD refused to store files when the Release Artist string was too long. I've linked to bug reports for both. I got feedback that these strings are too long. When Picard tries to use a long Release Artist string as part of an audio file path, with Windows compatibility, the result is severely truncated file names.
The Classical Release Artist guidelines say:
Composer(s) and Performers: "The Release Artist of a classical Release should include the composer(s) and performers featured on the front cover…."
Only those featured on the front cover: "Use only composers and performers who are featured on the front cover (or the spine); don't add artists from the back cover or the inside of the booklet or other places."
Not too(?) many: "If there is a long list of names on the cover, only the most prominently featured names need to be included. " But it doesn't say how long is "long".
The guidelines don't say how many artists is too many.
The guidelines don't say anything about how long is too long for the Release Artists string.
What is MusicBrainz trying to accomplish with the Release Artists entry? I see these purposes:
- Link Releases back to Artists, so the Discography section of an Artist page is useful.
- Provide a useful Release Artists string for taggers. "Useful" includes "concise enough not to truncate file names".
- Provide a way to capture featured artist credits, and collaborator credits, with useful Release Artist strings for the collaboration, without causing a mountain of "collaboration artists" separate from the Artist records of the collaborators.
- Capture the credits as expressed on the front cover of the Release
But I think present MusicBrainz structures cannot accomplish all of these at once. So, we have to trade them off against each other, according to a priority list. I suggest that the Style/Classical/Release/Artist guidelines be clarified to set priorities, and assist in the tradeoffs.
I suggest that #4 be a non-goal. We should be clear that Release Artist is not the place to note everyone who was credited on the front cover of a release. Nor is it the place to record the exact wording used to credit the Artist; abbreviations and standardisations are OK, especially if space is tight. If we want to record how credits were communicated on a release, that's the job for a Relationship.
I suggest that the guidelines say that the top priority for Classical Release Artist is to capture the most significant one or two composers whose works are on the Release. If more than two composers, the editor is to use their judgement in picking the most important one or two for Release Arists.
I suggest that the guidelines give a rough upper bound for the number of Artists to include in the Release Artist: say, four or five. If more Artists than that are prominently featured on the front cover, the editor should exercise judgement in picking the most important ones.
I suggest that the guidelines give a rough upper bound on the length of the Release Artist string. I'd suggest 90 characters. As the length exceeds this, editors should use their judgement about dropping less important Artists. Maybe in some cases going past 90 is necessary, but going past 120 should be unusual. I won't hold fast to those specific numbers, but I suggest we should have length bounds of some amount.
I suggest that editors be given discretion to use the Credited As option to abbreviate the name of less important Artists who still should be included in the Release Artists. For instance, drop first names, or use initials instead of the full first name. (This might not interact well with the sorted-name variant of Release Artist string, which Picard supplies and which I use.)
I think #3, collaboration Artists, was never an issue for Classical entries on MB anyhow, and the present Release Artist guidelines do a good job of achieving #3.
I suggest that #1, making it easy to create nice Discography sections of Artist pages on MusicBrainz, is high priority only for the one or two most important composers and performers on a classical Release. It is either lower priority, or a non-goal, to get Releases into the Discography sections of less-important Artists credited on the front cover, at least via the Release Artist connection. (If we can get MusicBrainz to populate the Discography section via Relationships, I think that's great.)
I'm interested in comments. If there's consensus, I'd like to make a proposal to modify Style / Classical / Release / Artist.