Digital releases: Merging? / Long country list? / Just [Worldwide]?

Just because we can enter 200 countries doesn’t mean we should. I still think it’s a Style issue barring schema changes.

Personally, I care about the country of origin / primary market of the release, as that is a way I classify my music into different groups. I’m constantly having to fix and ignore the junk Digital Media data in MusicBrainz.


I’d love to see an optional Picard script that spots a list of “more than five” countries and then swaps the country to the Artist’s country.


Can you draft the exact style guide that you would like to see?

As an aside, can you explain how having all the digital releases here set to XW or NZ makes things clearer or better? I just don’t get it tbh :thinking:

In my use case, I would like to be able to tag my files on my hard disc using Picard. And then get my Media Centre to play New Zealand music. I really don’t care where Spotify or other shops were selling this music. My case it more an “use of music outside of the database” case.

In the MB GUI, it would be nice to have a “detailed” or “minimal” setting. Looking at that page is meaningless to me.


How does it become more meaningful when they’re all set to XW or NZ?

Regarding how you want to play your music, you can use a ‘artist origin’ tag to do that? We would have to reset all CD release countries as well to be consistent for your needs otherwise

I think this shows a key problem we have with the concept of release countries, namely that their purpose is pretty unclear. One the one hand we have people who want to view it as a field to group releases by their origin, on the other hand we have the availability data that almost works more like a release disambiguation comment (i.e. it distinguishes a US release from a UK release).

I think the latter concept is the more useful one, as the first concept is really much better achieved by looking at the data of the artist. I imagine when @IvanDobsky wants to play New Zealand music, they want to play music made in NZ or by artists from NZ, but not a release by a US artist released by a NZ label subsidiary for legal reasons.

Historically I think I was intuitively more in the first camp, but I am more and more convinced by the host of problems we currently have that this is the correct approach.

My solution to the problem of digital release countries would have these points:

  • Clean up the UI for the release country data.
    • For the data displayed while browsing, I already suggested the idea of displaying a colored world map instead of a named list of countries or flags.
    • The editor UI is more complicated, but I could imagine something like a two-stepped editor where you first select a date and are then presented with a multi-select list of countries (with options for starting with an empty list or with all items selected, and potentially quick-select options for specific regions like North America).
      The editor could remain collapsed while not actively selected, which avoids clutter as well as the performance issue the current page has (opening the editor for an imported Spotify release with 200 release countries makes my laptop fans spin up).
  • Add an ability to Picard to tag based on artist origin. Possibly even make this the default (as I would imagine it falls closer to what people intuitively expect, and certainly is more useful for organizing music).
  • Come up with a clear style guide on how to deal with the different kinds of “problematic” countries.
    • Countries like North Korea or Afghanistan, where it’s not reasonably possible to release most music at all
    • Countries like Russia, Belarus, or Iran, which fall under very widespread but not universal sanctions
    • Countries like the Falkland Islands or Curaçao, which are not or only semi-independent from another country we have as a release country
  • Possibly rename the current “Release Country” field to something more clear about its purpose, maybe something like “Availability Region”

This approach has the nice property that we don’t end up special-casing digital releases compared to physical ones, where the release country is also the country of availability.


You miss my point. You asked how some of us want to use the data. I am not asking for everything to be reset. Just for data to be more usable when it gets out of hand. Digital Media is using Release Countries in a very different way to Physical Media.

For Digital Media, this is a list of where a shop sells the media. It really is not of interest to everyone, so we just want to swap something more meaningful to us when we hit a certain threshold. Beyond five or ten countries this starts to become an unreadable mess. And to me all it tells me is Spotify sells to most countries.

A Release Country to a CD is where that CD was initially available on Release Day. CDs are manufactured and physical differences occur in different countries. And a few years later a different colour of disk may be sold in different markets. The list of countries is always limited.

In the Digital Media language it is where the shop sells it on the day the API was queried. (See dates for India, Russia, etc, previous conversations) It is a very different meaning. That New Zealand artist released their music to the world, and it is identical planet wide.

I am not saying delete the data. I know some people find it interesting. It should still be available for them. Just let some of us also have access to a GUI that means something to the rest of us. My FLAC tags cannot handle that long list.

This is part of the trouble I see. Digital Media has taken “Release Country” for physical media and made an “Availability Country List”.

Most websites would send a CD to that same list of countries. I bet Amazon will sell a CD to all of those markets. This is what I mean about the difference as there is no shipping involved with Digital Media.


That’s actually a really good point. For physical releases Amazon will often have the product on different of their country specific shops. But if it is marked as an import we are not supposed to set the release country to that shop country, instead use the original country.

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This is where things start to disconnect… Physical Media is created in one country, and then dropped off at a few countries near by to sell it on Release day. It is then posted further afield and imported into countries as physical items. Only those Release countries are noted in the Physical Media side of the database as Release Country.

Digital Media is an instant delivery item so skips all of the export\import stages making this a different item to handle. The day it is released it is instantly available world wide.

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But when we have examples like Pink Floyd who have 2 major distributors, which countries get priority for the one that isn’t in their home country, i.e. Sony releases. Europe (& a couple African & Asian countries also) has Parlophone, the rest of the world Sony. This is why if we aren’t going to list every country than we need options like Worldwide - (minus) Europe, etc. for the Sony. So, it’s never perfect. I think we need to have every countries in the data somehow, but I totally get why some would want a better visual representation.


I am not saying remove the data. It needs to be here in some form. But this is Distribution information.

Pink Floyd is more interesting because it is split into two blocks like that, but those lists are too hard to read and get boring after seeing them the 50th time. Sony and Parlophone don’t have lists like that, they have territories. Sony - Europe, N.Africa, Some Asia. Parlophone - rest of world. It needs to be in a human readable format.

Currently you can’t even really see this info in the long Floyd lists. Lists are so long it becomes noise and looses this detail. All I see are lists started by either Afghanistan or Albania. I don’t get the detail of why and where not.

These lists show there is no simple answer, but also the computer generated lists are impossible read in their current form.

And when I try and process it in Picard I still can’t jam it into my FLACs. So I use a script to convert it to something for my local use.

(BTW - that’s a lot of patience you have to keep churning that data… I bet you can recite these countries in your sleep :grin:)

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Note that the definition of “Europe” used by one label may very well be entirely different to one used by another.

This is the key problem. I think my suggestion of a graphical display instead of a textual list solves this quite well (because you can substitute your own definition of what constitutes “Europe”, among other things).


BTW, on Picard, it uses your preferred countries as release country instead of jamming all countries into a tag. For example, I just loaded both a Sony & Parlophone release into Picard. I have US as my preferred country, since that is where I live & GB as my second preferred country. When I load Sony release it shows US as release country. When I load Parlophone release it lists GB as country. So, Picard has already really taken care of long lists it appears. So that really shouldn’t factor into this. I view release countries on a digital release as where it’s distributed as does Jaxsta, etc.

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Relevant post:

Update: This is actually in the official Picard documentation, see Handling of multiple release countries — MusicBrainz Picard v2.10 documentation


Yes, I am aware of this. :grinning: As per @outsidecontext nice fix he did, which I use. I am just using it as an example of use outside of the database. It is also why I made that comment above about how it would be nice to tweak it to swap in the Artist home country (i.e. New Zealand) instead of my territory.

But we are a bit OT now… (and I think I am already talking too much)

@elomatreb - yep. Europe includes Russia. EU is a small club inside Europe. Africa is already split in that PF list in some odd way. So is Asia. It is a mess. One long list is even more of an unreadable mess too. I don’t know an answer.

Yes, it would be nice to have a variable _artist_homecountry for use in tagger scripts, but it is hardly a solution for digital release countries. I would rather take the home country of the release platform. It would be easy to determine and would also reflect where most of the profits go.

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In this digital future I worry that MB will get drown in the noise of where shops sell. In the “old days” we can look at a Release Group and see the markets someone sold in to. Get an idea where they were popular. Did they only release in UK? Europe? Any US release? Japan?

Now all we are going to see is noise. The visual side of data will be lost. Yes, it will be “accurate”. But then that artist was always happy to post their CD to someone in the Falkland Islands if they requested a copy… (okay - I gotta go away now… enough of me in this thread :crazy_face: :rofl: )


As an Austrian, I have to say that I hardly bought any Austrian releases. Most have rights society GEMA (without BIEM) and are correctly entered as German releases. Because it is not so much there to describe the actual marketing territory as to differentiate the releases. I think, for digital it’s the same.

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I think it is very different for us as editors, but I don’t think it is very different to physical in practice.

In reality I think when a label/publisher has rights to 20 countries, for a physical release, then they make sure it gets to all of those for the release day.

The reason I am against adding all the countries for those is because we more often than not simply don’t have good access to this information, and no good way of entering it. Just entering the label country is the most consistent way to do it.

We just kind of assume NZ = Oceania, DE = Europe, etc.

The issue now arises because with digital we have access to complete information and the tools to enter them.

But I absolutely agree with you that the end effect is that the field changes from basically a disambiguation to a complex list. My mock-up kind of tackles that by separating the countries out (distribution areas could be a good name for it?).

Hats off to @elomatreb for a constructive post! If I catch time I’ll do another mockup. We could start drafting some style suggestions?

You had literally quoted the question I re-asked fyi :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: which I still want to know tbh
Your other points were well taken!

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Round two of mockups from this guy.
Please ignore the clunky layout, this is a draft of the functionality.

(click to enlarge images)

Release editor:




It’s a bit ugly atm, sorry!
The country/region list is matched to what’s used when uploading to digital services 1:1, so we can basically understand what a label/artist clicked in their menu which is nice
I am still unsure if [WEB] wouldn’t just replace [worldwide]? Are there any worldwide non-digital releases?
This would require a new ‘distribution’ table/schema change. If we figure out a good UI/display the distribution/rights list could be used for physical too!

Release display:

minimal option:

button option:

own column option:

The ‘minimal’ option shouldn’t really break anything/should fit in everywhere?
But I like the number for disambiguating stuff - maybe we can do minimal + number combo