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

Oh, gotcha. Yeah, that might be a cool relationship add to a specific link.

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As far as I remember that was a request from supporters of aesthetics that was against extensive list of country.

It’s not a matter of aesthetics, any such list is just bad data.


If these data are so erroneous, how can they be used to replace them with a Worldwide?

One compromise for keeping the extensive country lists while not making them a nuisance for people who do not care for them could be to put this data into the submission edit note instead of the release annotation.


The issue as I see it is that there is some confusion over what these release events mean. I am very confused over the atisket tool and I would appreciate some feedback.

The country lists are against specific dates, which are directly sourced from the APIs of Spotify, Deezer etc, by the atisket tool. However, to my mind these dates directly imply that they were released in that country on that date. At least, going by Release / Date - MusicBrainz that is what these would imply. I concede it is possible that the dates can differ but I have never seen the dates in the long lists differ.

As far as I understand, what these lists indicate is where the release is currently available, and this will usually be when the edit was made. This changes over time. So, even if a given release date given was 2012, if the atisket tool is run in 2017, it is actually the availability of the release in a specific country in 2017, attached to the date. The date given by y those APIs is also frequently predating digital distribution of the album, particularly for older albums. I can imagine it being obvious something being released in 1951 is duff, but I personally would find a date of say, 2007, to be plausible, even if the release did not receive digital distribution until say, 2011, and not in every country provided by atisket.

Release / Date - MusicBrainz says nothing about current distribution so I don’t think we should be adding these big lists of countries without verifying they were available from that date. Otherwise it is just simply wrong data and adds nothing to the database except purported completeness that isn’t actually true.

One thing I do not understand: there seems to be no recourse if a given country is no longer available. What does the atisket tool do in that case?

Given the above it seems to me that the release relationship is perhaps not the correct relationship to use. Perhaps we need a new relationship for digital availability, because it’s a fairly nebulous concept compared to physical distribution.


a-tisket is a tool. Before this everyone and many still do, would just mark every digital release as worldwide and move on. The most important part of all this is the editor. Use your head please. If a-tisket says all 3 services together are reporting the release in every country they have service, than it’s safe to assume that the release is Worldwide no matter where you are. Mark it as Worldwide. Please don’t list every single country. This will change as we’ve seen with all 3 services becoming available in more countries since a-tisket was first developed. However, many, many, releases (maybe more than half, no idea really) are not worldwide. Please don’t mark a release worldwide if it’s not in every country. I don’t understand the people who hate the list. I just don’t. It’s not even ugly, it says 3 counties click to see more. Now, as far as the annotation, I don’t add them any longer, because most of them aren’t correct. It might have been correct on the date you added it, but even most of the time many editors aren’t running correctly. I can’t tell you how many I see that have iTunes, Spotify & Deezer links on a release, but the annotation only shows Spotify & Deezer countries and not the iTunes countries. Also, if it’s a worldwide release, why do we need the duplication? We can see the country list. Isn’t the annotation for information that is NOT elsewhere on the release? So, if it’s a Not Available in country list, that’s ok, because it adds information. But a list of every country is pointless. I’ve been copying that data and adding it to the notes. That way for those that want to see it was available in such and such country when it was added, that information in not lost. Also, why is the phonographic copyright information even in the annotation at all? Why aren’t editors adding this information to the relationships. The annotation is creating lazy editing for some. I guess better in the annotation than not at all. Sorry, rant over.


Oh, one more thing. Your asking about the date of distribution. This is the correct way to think about it. You are correct that the date is supposed to be when first distributed. This is why I look at Soundexchange to see what date they are given. That is the date the barcode was good. But I’ve found errors there too, (most popular bogus date of 2014-12-13), sometimes they even have the 1951 date, etc. But it’s the most reliable with dates on barcode lookups. Remember, just because a release might not be on iTunes, Spotify or Deezer doesn’t mean that it isn’t available in a country that’s not on the list. Another great source, if not the best source, for country availability or any release is Jaxsta. This is because the list of countries is given by the actual distributor of the release. Can’t be more right than that. But of course, I’ve even found mistakes there as well. We just have to use all the information given and common sense to determine. I still think on digital releases, we should give one date of when that release was first distributed anywhere on the first release date line, followed by the list of available counties, all without dates. This way it would say that the release was first available on this date and in the countries. Like you and many have pointed out, it’s not likely that a release was available in Antarctica in 2004. I do have a list of when iTunes/Deezer/Spotify was first available which is easily found on Wikipedia. But the tool just repeats the same date for every country. That is the biggest flaw. Not every country had these services at the same time.


So, an actual concrete example I run into a lot when adding psytrance (digital release) albums, is that Beatport will get “exclusive” first access to a hot new release about a week or two before any other online stores. So… a release will be available for purchase (with a listed release date of) Jan 1, 2017 and then iTunes et al. will have the same release available (and with the a-tisket release date of) Jan 24, 2017 or something.

Presumably, everything on Beatport and Bandcamp is available for purchase globally… I mean, I doubt that they’re blocking source IPs, and as long as the payment in whatever currency goes through, I really don’t think that online music stores care about the physical patch of dirt you happen to be standing upon when you make the purchase.

Really, how would they actually know? Ok, I actually know the answer to that question… In the case of Apple iTunes, they go by what you’re Apple ID user account is set to. So, if you’re an American like me, and you want to buy a UK exclusive release, what you do is go into your account settings and change your address to now say that you live in the UK, and then you can buy the thing. (I think Apple has noticed people doing this, and you might not be able to do it more than three times a year…) But… this is literally the only thing that this “Available Countries” thing is! It’s tied to the customer’s billing address, and has nothing to do with physical reality.

If I’m physically standing in Australia, or Antarctica, or China, or North Korea, or Cuba, or India, or Brazil, or wherever, it doesn’t matter! I can still purchase and stream US-only releases not available in any of those countries… because my user account says I’m American. (At least for the case of Apple, it’s possible other services actually use some kind of GeoIP database lookup.)

Oh, so as I was saying… I’ve accidentally purchased the same song twice from Beatport and somewhere else… and since I buy everything in WAV or AIFF, I can compare the raw PCM data… and… it’s exactly the same. Not really surprising, record companies are just uploading the same WAV file to every online service they’re selling it on!

All of the online stores, are selling the exact same audio data… the bitwise exact same PCM data… which Apple converts to AAC-256, and other service converts to MP3-320 (usually with LAME, you can see the version used in the metadata of your purchased mp3 files).

The “Release date” listed on Apple iTunes and stuff, is literally whatever the record company employee typed into the web form when they were uploading their WAV files to Apple. They can put in any arbitrary date they want. Same thing on Bandcamp, but if you look through the JSON data, you’ll see different dates for when something was “Released” and when something was “Published” and “Modified” (and there’s another date filed named “new”…) I think Apple has similar distinctions available through its API?

Also, something else I’ve run into (with some of CBL’s albums) is when a different label takes over some band’s catalog, and re-uploads all of their albums to Apple all over again. You’ll basically have an album, with a different ID number (and correspondingly different URL) but with the same “Release Date” listed… but it’s not the same release… or is it? (And also the old release is no longer available)… So is this still the same release, or is it a completely new one? What if the new one is the 2015 Remaster, and the old one was… not.

No, they are not the same release and I’ve seen that happen too. However, most of the time they will change the barcode and you can typically go by that, but not always. A few things to look for are updated copyright holder dates or ISRC dates, etc. But yes, sometimes you have to just know when a new label took over an artists releases, but even that can be very difficult to find. And no, unfortunately Apple only shows original release date. If they gave us a modified or published date that would be awesome as it would indicate a new release date. But Apple requires that they use the first date of release. So, a release from 1965, released in 2021, will show 1965 as the release date. They are supposed to do this even on deluxe editions, etc on Apple, but fortunately, many labels and artist are ignoring that requirement.


Yes, stores block IP address ranges (at the request of the labels). Here’s an example:

We’re sorry, this album is not available in your region.


Are there any tickets or guidelines that have emerged from this discussion or are we still in the discussion phase? MJmusicguy talked about acting with enthusiasm, but I don’t see any further actions.

I appreciate the investigation into the fundamental MB (perceived) differences between digital and physical releases. Do we need to do more to distinguish a physical release and a digital release? Are there any releases that aren’t digital or physical? Are there any releases that are both? Perhaps a shift towards focusing on the distinction would benefit a solution.

The second goal of MB is to provide ‘unambiguous form of music identification.’ I worry about falling short of this goal in terms of this ongoing discussion. There are many good ideas and many good points in this thread, but the reality is that editors are adding many countries or setting XW to their preference, which is ambiguous by nature.

Data accuracy is important and I agree that each country listed specifically could be useful for this, but I come back to the expression “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” My understanding is that folks generally don’t think so (for all kinds of reasons in this thread, I could summarize a list).

If we differentiate more clearly between physical and digital releases, we could update the function of digital release events. We could replace countries on digital releases with stores or URLs. We could use a special country that is [digital release] and does not have or allow countries. We could remove the field altogether when a release is digital.

I really think it’s impossible for us to manage the constantly changing lists of country availabilities for every streaming platform. This will never be complete and unambiguous. Even the employees at the streaming platforms and record companies don’t care about ambiguity or completeness, they are simply people doing their jobs in the interest of the company.

If we remove or modify the country fields for digital releases, we could use URL relationships (as has been suggested) for countries. This feels closer to a solution to me at this time, but presents its own challenges and concerns.

My thinking sometimes concludes to the internet being available worldwide (the World Wide Web). Just because Spotify blocks IP ranges, doesn’t mean that folks in that IP range can’t access the songs by other means (VPN, other localized services, illegally, by changing their address on the account, etc.). Why attempt to confine the web to physical borders of nation-states?

I also appreciate the concern for the accuracy of MB in the future. We are setting a trap for ourselves if we aren’t prepared to keep this information up to date. The longetivity of the accuracy of MB depends on these things. What if North Korea joins the globalized society? What if a currently globalized country becomes a hermit kingdom? What about when two countries join to become one? When one country becomes two?

I’m really trying to add to the conversation and not re-hash the same discussions (feels a bit futile). Hopefully we have bright ideas stirring and can flesh them out together.


But we do this for physical releases. If you have to import a CD from another country, you don’t get to attach your personal country of residence to the release event of the CD.

Sometimes the retailer also clearly marks the product as an import (e.g., Amazon, Square Enix), and I would not attach the country of the retailer in that case either, as they have acknowledged it is actually a CD from another country.


My (schema change) idea would be:

1a: Add support for defining countries that are excluded from “[Worldwide]” releases.

1b: Automatically include “[Worldwide]” releases in the release list of a country that haven’t been excluded as defined above.

2: Retain support for manually adding many countries. For example:

  • Vertigo Berlin has releases that are only available in 3 countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland)
  • Wrasse Records has releases that are only available in 2 countries (UK, Ireland)

3: Write Style guidelines on when it is more appropriate to use #1 or #2.


But I’m sorry. If a release isn’t in the United States or China or United Kingdom or any other major country, it’s not a Worldwide release. We’ve discussed this to death over the past several years.


The only reason the country list may change is because they weren’t added with all the countries in the first place. They don’t really change on the labels distribution list. It’s just that we didn’t know all countries in the first place. This is why I’ve been double checking with Jaxsta. Because the list of countries on a release is provided directly by the distributor of the release. Anyways, now that all 3 major services combined serve over 95% of the world they really won’t change much. I really just don’t understand the issues with this anymore. The country list only shows 3 countries than you have to click for more. What’s the issue? Is it doing the editing? I know you have to page scroll down during that. They are accurate. Every country on this list has it officially released in that country. Adding Worldwide to a release that’s not even available in the US or China is not valid information.


So… with a physical release, released in different countries… the releases are physically different.

The Canadian release will have something like “Record Corp Canada, inc.” printed on the back, above the line “Made in Canada”

The UK release will have something like “Record Corp, LLC.” printed on the back, above the line “Made in UK”

The German release will have something like “Record Corp, GmbH.” printed on the back, above the line “Made in Germany”

As per MusicBrainz policy, these are all distinct releases, each potentially with it’s own release date.

With Spotify… it’s the exact same data every time, and you can either listen to it or not depending on who Spotify thinks you are!

And who Spotify thinks you are, right now, today… not at any time in the past.

(ISRC submit)

This is the current Pink Floyd Spotify releases. Each listing is a different release. As you see, they have geo restrictions. I check with this site when adding all releases of a release group, because you can see all the different releases around the world. It has nothing to do with who Spotify thinks you are, but where a distributor has made contracts for the release. Label info on Spotify, Deezer & iTunes are almost always consistent based on geographical location. But many releases in Australia/New Zealand or Europe countries, are different than the US releases. Even Canada has a lot of exclusive releases.

Oddly, on Spotify, in instances where ISRCs are are different in the US than they are say in GB, when I try to listen to GB release, it will forward me to US release. But on iTunes, it just won’t work.


A primary concern is managing accurate data for digital releases into the future. To re-iterate, what if a country splits to become two? You mention “they don’t really change on the labels distribution list” and I agree, but what about when they do? yindesu has a good idea (#195) for schema changes that would result in managing one master ‘worldwide’ list rather than trying to manage it on each release individually.

Do you think digital release events could be improved or are you content with the way they are currently functioning?

There is also a depth of complexity related to these digital releases and it’s clear you (tigerman325) have a good understanding of it. Is there generally a lack of understanding about how digital releases are distributed that is causing a perceived gap? I think you point out that there is clear and specific guidance for every digital release country/territory if you put the work in and untangle it all. Firstly, is that work worth it, and secondly, will we realistically do it for all digital releases? How much work is it?

Another concern is that many editors seem to be staying away from long country lists. I know I do myself. If the community doesn’t agree that this is the best way to do it… that is an issue with many consequences. Am I wrong about editors “staying away?” I have a more narrow sight of MB due to my new-ness and am trying carefully to take that into consideration.

Searching releases for ‘country:XW AND format:CD’ returns 20,937 results. What circumstances allow these physical releases to be XW? This returns to my point about the fundamentals. What does XW mean on a release? Do we need to further distinguish digital and physical releases?


I’m staying away from such releases because:

  1. Editing interface isn’t fit for it. Scrolling kilometers to reach the next section, removing or changing release events en masse is a pain without scripts
  2. Atrocious performance. Noticeable delay on load, mass change with scripts and anytime you switch to the “release information” tab

Now try putting yourself in the position of a novice with no clue of scripts or not using them for whatever reason.