Compilations - What is the reasoning for the definition?

I was looking at a Greatest Hits CD listing in Musicbrainz and surprised to notice that it has Compilation as a release type. I have always believed a compilation to be a combination of recordings from different artists. This CD is from one. So, I looked at the definition in the style guide Compilations

Right at the front is

A compilation, for the purposes of the MusicBrainz database, covers the following types of releases:

  • a collection of recordings from various old sources (not necessarily released) combined together. For example a “best of”, retrospective or rarities type release.
  • a various artists song collection, usually based on a general theme (“Songs for Lovers”), a particular time period (“Hits of 1998”), or some other kind of grouping (“Songs From the Movies”, the “Café del Mar” series, etc).


So, the style guide considers a ‘Best of’ or ‘Greatest Hits’ to be a compilation! and the listing of the CD above is consistent with the style guides. But personally, I think this is incorrect. A best of is not a compilation. What is the reasoning for this?

Opposite question: how is a release, that compiles the best of previously released songs, not a compilation? I mean these type of releases are often even described that way by the labels. If it is not a compilation, what else is it?


Hmm this might be a similar situation to when I was using my card the other week. I was tapping in the deets on the eftpos machine and my partner said “whaaat you use savings??” … “haha yeah of course I do, everyone uses savings, do you not you weirdo!”

Long story short, turns out nobody else in the world uses savings, everyone uses cheque. I am the weirdo. And what you are describing is a compilation :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Sorry to be off topic but I didn’t understand anything. :thinking::face_with_hand_over_mouth:


ok, I see. I had never noticed that record companies described ‘Greatest Hits’ etc as compilations. I googled a few ‘greatest hits’ and the word compilation does appear. I had only ever seen ‘various artists’ type releases as Compilations, For example I had a hard look at the Bob Seger CD and can’t see the word compilation anywhere. I see it in the wikipedia article. English is my native language that I’ve spoken for over 50 years and honestly never thought of a ‘greatest hits’ album as a compilation. It’s always been a ‘greatest hits’ album to me and my friends!

So anyway, how can I distinguish between ‘various artists’ compilations and ‘greatest hit’ compilations. I need to be able to do this so I can tag tracks so that I can load them onto my apple phone.

Sorry I thought that might happen but I posted it anyway :innocent:

Turns out I am very weird (among people I know) for using savings when this turns up:


And I was sure everyone else did the same…

This seems like a similar situation where a lot of people do call these albums compilations but if you don’t then it would be easy to think otherwise.


@aerozol, sorry, I don’t know this screen. :thinking:

@dpr, your example link is now broken.
Funny you don’t use compilation term, maybe it’s either a regional or generational reason.

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Hmm this might be a similar situation to when I was using my card the other week. I was tapping in the deets on the eftpos machine and my partner said “whaaat you use savings??” … “haha yeah of course I do, everyone uses savings, do you not you weirdo!”

Long story short, turns out nobody else in the world uses savings, everyone uses cheque. I am the weirdo. And what you are describing is a compilation :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


In some countries such as the USA, there are two kinds of bank accounts.

  1. Checking (not Cheque - that is the UK spelling). In the UK, it’s a current account
  2. Savings. Usually, providing a higher rate of interest on the balance in return for limits on withdrawl amounts etc.

Each is identified by a sperate account number. Banks would accept checks for your checking account and checks for your savings account.


I’m learning something new, I thought everywhere used EFTPOS. When you buy something with a card at a shop? At least until contactless payment takes over (what we call Paywave in NZ).

As @dpr says ‘checking’ and ‘savings’ are sometimes for specific things, but for my modern day-to-day bank account it makes no difference which you pick for the account.

But anyway, hopefully you get the point I was making, it is easy to think you are using the same terms as everyone else - until you find out otherwise!

Sorry for going so off topic, here is dpr’s question if anyone can help:

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I mainly wave my phone at the EFTPOS reader these days. It’s connected to a card as described in the article. We have a limit of 100 GBP on the contactless at the moment due to the pandemic.

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The first one has Various Artists as the release artist, and the other has a single artist.
And they won’t display in the same part of the discography.


Otherwise, I understand now a little about the card payment stuff.
It’s just that where I live, Visa and MasterCards are just payment cards, not credit cards. We don’t need to bother about interest rates, credits, multiple accounts or anything like that.
I didn’t know some people had menus like this.
And I didn’t know what etpos word was, either.
Now I can imagine. :wink:

On iPhone tags, just make sure there is a 1 in the compilation field in Picard for the release. There also is a compilations box on iTunes under song info that you can just check. It will then sort the release under Various Artist, so that all the V/A comps & soundtracks (yes, many of them are also considered compilations).


In my worldview it’s quite simple -

One artist = collection
Several artists = compilation

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Nope. Multiple artists can collaborate on an album without making it a compilation.
You can have an album with one artist per track consisting only of original never published tracks.

Collection / compilation distinction looks like even more fuzzy to me (perhaps that’s clear in English, but I doubt it translates well to other languages anyway).
This is why things are defined in guidelines, because not all people have same feelings, culture, languages, experience, definitions, etc.

In the case of one can easily see recordings come from previously released albums of the same artist.

For example, Track 1 of this release was previously released on Release group “The Distance” by Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band - MusicBrainz

That said, all definitions on MusicBrainz are here as guidelines as there are a lot of corner cases in MB world, hence the vote system.
If you feel something was set as a compilation, but isn’t, explain why in an edit, and submit it to votes.
If you feel the current definition of a compilation as per guidelines can be improved you can suggest changes to those guidelines, MB is an open project.

To me, the example given by original poster is a compilation, as per MB guidelines.


are there any examples of record companies/ labels or actual media with the word ‘compilation’ included?

Actual media?
Not sure what you mean, but there are thousands of releases with “compilation” in the title: Search Results - MusicBrainz

Labels often use the term “compilation”, and there are some labels actually only releasing compilations.

But I fail to see how it relates to this discussion, what’s your point?

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Hello Zas,

I read your response in the forum before I saw the email.

My post was intended to show my point of view which I have held since I was a kid. I think it’s a useful distinction. In MB the distinction rests in the ‘Release by’ info. Multiple-artist releases are by ‘Various Artists’ and single artist releases are by ‘The Artist’.

I was hopeful that it might prompt some support though deep down I felt there was a slim chance.

No-one seems to recognise ‘collection’ as a viable category. Discogs doesn’t and Apple use the term compilation for both types. Interestingly the first poster used the term ‘Collection’ in his post.

I thank you for your email but I doubt I’ll post in this forum thread again. I will follow it though.



Hello Zas,

I was asking because I don’t have any CDs with the word “Compilation” in the title and like @ardain was not used to it being used in this way. I was surprised at the claim that there were, so I wanted some examples.

Itunes has a different concept of Compilations to MB. The actual wording in itunes is
‘Album is a compilation of songs by various artists’. So,

Bob Seger’s Greatest hits is not a compilation per itunes.
The soundtrack to the film ‘Stand By Me’ is a compilation per itunes.
I ripped both into itunes. See attached.

I’d like to be able to set the metadata in Picard from MB automatically without having to manually adjust each track…

What does that have to do with what I said? If you want the Greatest Hits to not show up as a compilation than just uncheck the box. Not everything is going to be 100% compatible with iTunes. I’ve had to do that on Greatest Hits since using MB/Picard. It annoys me too that I had to write a script that all writers and lyricist are composers, because iTunes only uses composers, but I didn’t try to make MB change. When in Picard, change the 1 to a zero if it has it or just uncheck the box in iTunes itself if Picard adds it because MB calls it a compilation.

Is there a way to write a script that if the same artist is on all tracks to not mark it a compilation? I’m not sure. That would be cool, but I don’t see MB changing anything for a one-click check box on iTunes.

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