I’d like to specifically address how this affects recordings. Current guidelines say:
The artist should usually be the same as in the track listing of the first release of the recording (see Style/Release#Track_artist).
This means that a recording like Thelonious Monk’s 1947 recording of 'Round Midnight should be credited to the Thelonious Monk Quintet (one of those short-lived non-groups). However, the vast majority of releases on which it appears credit it only to Thelonious Monk. This is a pain when trying to find and merge duplicate recordings, as well as for finding existing recordings when adding a new release (which leads to creation of more duplicates).
So, I would simply propose that we change the guideline to handle recording artist similarly to how we handle title: use the most commonly credited artist, not necessarily the earliest. Something like:
The recording artist should match the name most commonly used on track listings of official releases. If the recording does not appear on any official releases, use the most commonly credited artist name.
I would be against that change personally. I think it should reflect the earliest official release. I don’t think compilations count as much as they are more trying to market the recordings than be factually accurate. I typically only look at ISRCs & accoustIDs for merging, so I haven’t really had the same issue you are having for finding the duplicates. But yeah, I agree there needs to be something about maybe merging the trio, quartet, quintet, etc. into one entity. But maybe not the eponymous member. Like maybe have a Thelonious Monk (Group) artist and just make sure to use credited as on every instance. Not sure.
In the case of Monk (and many jazz artists), it’s not just budget compilations; the Quintet / Sextet / etc. names appears on the original 78 releases of some of his Blue Note recordings, but when Blue Note themselves started releasing albums just a few years later, they came out under Monk’s name alone. Very few people have heard 'Round Midnight from its original 78 compared to these various album releases.
Also, doesn’t it seem a bit inconsistent to use the most common version of a title but only the earliest version of the artist credit? In both cases, using the most common version means you’re more likely to find it in the place you’d think to look for it.
I often face this problem. Occasionally I’ve stretched the rules and worked with “credited as”. But it would be a much better solution if eponymous groups were displayed directly on the main page of the eponymous artist.
That would be too much of a good thing for my wishes - it should be restricted to eponymous members of bands. It should not show every album of a band that the artist only worked on. Otherwise it would become too confusing.
Showing all recordings with the artist’s contribution would be a separate option. Also interesting, but not helpful for jazz trios, quartets, …
My style proposal here would only partly address the issue, but it doesn’t require dev work, and would have minimal impact on most genres other than jazz.
I’m not proposing to delete the groups. The groups would still exist, and the original releases be credited as such. Only the recordings would change. Take for example the 1952 Let’s Cool One - released on one single under the Thelonious Monk Sextet name, and literally every release since as Thelonious Monk. It is less confusing to use the overwhelmingly more common artist name.
Another artist often brought up in this discussion is Miles Davis – there are artist credits for “his” Quartet, Quintet, Sextet, Septet, Octet, and Nonet.
My question is – are these proper “groups”; or are they just however many session musicians showed up to record the album? If they are session musicians, then I would have no problem merging them down to the artist credit alone (properly aliased). But if they are proper groups, then of course they should keep their own artist credit entry.
I don’t claim to be an expert on Davis, but definitely the Quintet was a “real” group - or rather, as most jazz scholars see it, two real groups, the 1950s quintet with John Coltrane and the 1960s lineup with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock et al. However most if not all the albums recorded by the second “great quintet” were released under Davis’ name only.
Looking at his sessionography at jazzdisco.org , it’s clear that Davis did have a working sextet at various times. The septet/octet/nonet/tentet entries listed there are often just the working sextet with various added musicians for a single session or concert. And the working sextet he had in the 1950s has nothing other in common, other than Davis himself, with sextets of the 70s and 80s.
In short, the line between what is a proper group and what isn’t can be very blurry indeed.
Using the “earliest release” principle, two recordings of the same tune, by the same band, on the same day, have to be credited differently - one as Thelonious Monk Trio and one as simply Thelonious Monk. With my proposed change, both would be attributed to Thelonious Monk.
(I know I keep using Monk as an example, but that’s because I’m working a lot on his catalog at the moment. The problems are not specific to Monk, although they are more prevalent on recordings from before the LP era.)
I don’t think you have to follow the guidelines blindly. The guidelines offer general rules, but cannot take into account every specific case. You should choose the most appropriate artist and note all the details in an annotation.
Big thanks for your work on Thelonious Monk! Definitely not an easy task.
(And I gladly voted for the proposed change!)
That’s a fair point, and the guideline does say “usually”; alternate takes could be treated as an exception, and presumably follow the attribution of the master take. But since all the releases on which the alternate appears, and the vast majority of the releases on which the master take appears, are credited to Monk as solo artist, it’s more sensible to attribute both recordings that way.
The alternate takes were just an additional example. The main intent of the ticket was for recordings that were initially released under a “Some Person Quintet” but which is subsequently released most often just under “Some Person”. I will clarify the ticket.