Group performance relationship vs. individual performers

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A short question about how to properly link performers which perform as part of a group: Until now, I thought that linking an ensemble as a performer to a recording or release was kind of a placeholder for the individual performers. So, e.g. for release I added the individual performers and removed the quartet, setting it as the recording artist in the process. In edit I was stopped from removing the quartet relationship. I explain my rationale there (seems duplication to me and the quartet is credited as the recording artist), but as I can’t find anything explicit about cases like this one in the style guidelines I am not that sure anymore. So how is meant to be?

As as side note, I think the guidlines on relationships could be a bit more elaborate on how and when to use the different relationship types (regarding discussion Questions about producer and engineer relationship types, I had completely missed the page about the balance engineer relationship type).


Hello, Melithas:

Thank you for your many years of work on MusicBrainz.

I don’t interpret things this way. I see that an ensemble is more than a collection of performers, it is an approach to artistic decision-making, it is a brand, it is an organisation with the purpose of making music, it is a business. Thus, saying an ensemble was involved in a recording is different than saying four individuals were involved in the recording.

For example, there are a set of five musicians in my town who perform as both a new-music ensemble Standing Wave and as members of the mainstream Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. When they show up to play, which ensemble they are part of for that performance affects their repertoire, their approach, and probably more.

You can imagine an extended MusicBrainz where relationships are transitive: if a relationship says that a string quartet performed on a certain date, and another relationship says that a certain violinist was a member of the group on a certain date, then MusicBrainz could deduce that the violinist was part of that performance. Except that this transitivity fails if an ensemble has a rotating stable of performers, and only some appear for each performance.

So, all this points to facts about music being complex, and MusicBrainz being a simplified representation of those facts. As a consequence, some facts have to be expressed in multiple ways, and some facts are hard to express. And our Style guidelines, even though they provide a lot of guidance and are the product of a lot of hard work, still need improving.

I probably would have voted against removing the ensemble AR from Edit #37627973, but I probably would not have made the effort to add the ensemble AR after having added the individual performer ARs. So I think there is room for reasonable people to disagree on the question.


And the context that the four instrumentalists was playing in would be given by the Recording’s artist credit specifying the quartet. Esp. because only a number of members might be present on a given Recording, I feel only those who actually were present should be credited and not the entirety of the group.

I would have probably voted Yes on that edit.


I’ve always done exactly the same as you did in that edit, and I think it’s definitely a perfectly correct thing to do. We don’t add a performer relationship to The Beatles and every Beatles member on a Beatles song. The Beatles are the recording artist (“who was this credited to”), and we link the specific people who performed in this track as relationships. I think that’s the best course of action for classical ensembles as well, when we have the performer info.

Agreed that it definitely influences what’s played, but it’s no different if the same people perform as a punk band vs. a prog rock band, and we’d still generally not link the bands as relationships to the recordings, just the members.


Thanks for the clarification! I think the main point here is that the group is (or should be) credited as the recording artist. So, I see your example covered, @Jim_DeLaHunt.


Hi everyone,

I was the one to vote no on the edit mentioned above. I’ll just explain here my rationale for the particular case of a string quartet.

First, I completely agree using the ensemble for the recording artist field.
For the recordings AR, I prefer to keep the quartet (and add the individual performers if known of course). I agree with @Jim_DeLaHunt that

For me, the main artist is the quartet itself, and “string quartet” is as close to being “one 16-strings instrument played by one 8-handed person” as it can be. I would like to be able to access all recordings from the quartet relationships page (the only page telling me which and when and how many times a particular work was recorded, and not how many times the label republished the same recording under a different cover).
Most listeners (= me, at least) wouldn’t be able to name the individual artists playing in the quartets they like (usually string quartet artists do not have a large activity outside their group), so going through the relationship page of one individual artist is not as convenient.

Also string quartet formations play together for years and play only string quartet works, so there’s no “guest” on one track or change of musicians within one set. The situation is quite different from e.g. the Beatles where the instruments/musicians can change on every track.

So for this very specific case removing the string quartet AR constitutes - IMHO - an information loss (that impacts directly my “workflow”).

Same for piano duet and some piano trio. Of course that’s not the situation on recordings where performers who have an individual career play together (more or less all other chamber music groups), and I agree that in that case removing the group AR makes sense


Then, perhaps, the problem here is one of information display.

The recording page also shows all recordings. Only the date is missing as far as I can tell. But that could be changed. A remaining inconvenience would be that, to see all recordings for an artist, you’d need to access the recordings page for a group like a quartet, but the relationship page for single performers.


I have a question regarding this release then:

Although Ginger Baker’s (and the other four musicians’) name is featured prominently on the cover and on the spine (only Baker), as the liner notes clarify, this is actually an album by the (admittedly) short-lived group “No Material” which only played three gigs.
A record exists of two of those concerts.

Does the spine have precedence over cover (where it can be mistaken as album name, which it is) and liner notes?

Sorry, but it has been boggling my mind all day. :neutral_face:


Another related question. I was working on fixing up this release:

I was about to start changing the recording artists to the performers, rather than the composer. In this case, a number of artists are listed on the front cover who formed an ensemble, but the ensemble doesn’t seem to have a name.

My question is: Should I check each track and see who would have actually been playing on that recording and add them as the recording artist, or should I treat them as a group, and add all five artists to every track as the recording artists?


If the release specifies who played in each track, you should add them with relationships to the specific recordings they performed (and then you can use a script to set the recording artists). If not, just using all five is probably okayish :slight_smile:


I appreciate this is an old thread, but I’m not quite clear what the best practice is now considered to be. There seem to be a number of different situations, for example: (1) quartets etc. who all play on all tracks on a release; (2) quartets etc who may become a quintet for some tracks (or a trio) by the addition (or subtraction) of a performer; (3) named small ensembles where the performers on each track may vary widely.
I have currently neither fish nor fowl with this one - - which is an example of (3). Mostly it has the Nash Ensemble just named as recording artist and only the individual players as relationships on each recording. However, tracks 1-07 and 2-03 have the Nash Ensemble named as performer. This is clearly inconsistent, so I was going to remove them (rather than add them to all the tracks). Is that right and, if so, would the answer be different in case (1) or (2)?


I’m not sure what the current consensus is either, but…

I think the ideal way would be if we had a way to specify ‘violinist A, violinist B, violist C, and cellist D as the E Quartet’ in the relationships—that is there would be five artists linked, but there would also be some structure there showing that A–D are members of E on the recording. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have 3-way relationships (recording, member artist, group artist) to express that.

Three-way relationships would also be great as you could link conductors/orchestras, concertmasters/orchestras, choirmasters/choirs, etc. I’m sure there is a ticket for them, but I couldn’t find it.

Personally, I think the closest we can do right now is add both the group and the members (all of them if the release doesn’t specify and you can’t otherwise find out which per-track or the specific ones if it does specify). That has a few advantages:

  • Makes it easy to find the recording from either the group or the individual members’ artist pages. (I dare say any approach that fails this is clearly wrong).
  • Compared to individual members in relationships but group in recording artist field, it’s better because:
    • it’s not a pain to enter; there isn’t an easy way to have a recording artist other than the track artist except for…
    • it survives the use of loujin’s set-recording-artist script, which let’s be honest is how all actually enter the recording artist for classical. Remember also how likely that script is to get used when the recording gets included in a compilation.
  • When we finally get 3-way relationships, it’s easy enough to pull up a group’s relationship page to find all the recordings that need fixing. The changes might even be scriptable (based on the artist-artist relationships).

It does have the disadvantage that the quartet is being credited twice (though we do that elsewhere—e.g., concertmaster), and we’re having to use a rather generic performer type (like “instruments”). The members in relationships but group in recording artist is definitely prettier.

I don’t think this should apply outside small groups (e.g., just because Seattle Symphony releases give you every musician in the orchestra…), and have no opinion outside classical (because I don’t know nearly enough about it).


None of the current solutions seem ideal to me. It could be argued that the problem stems from the MB classical style of using composer as track artist (which presumably dates from the days when players didn’t display composers - but I don’t mean to re-open that question here :zipper_mouth_face:). If MB displayed the recording artist more prominently and allowed batch updates (other than via loujin’s script), I think I would prefer the group name in the RA and the individuals as performers. As it is, the use of loujin’s script means that performer relationships and RAs will frequently be identical.
Naming the group as a performer for all the tracks can look a bit odd - e.g. naming a quartet as performing a trio. As an example, I notice that @stupidname and @loujin both edited extensively and studiously avoided setting the quartet as a performer for the piano trio, but included it when all the quartet’s members were playing. The RA does not name all the performers (just the quartet, or the quartet plus pianist for the quintet, or the individuals for the trio). To be consistent with this, for the Nash Ensemble release, I would only put “Nash Ensemble” as a performer relationship where they are all playing (given that the individuals are already added) - which I don’t think is the case for any of the tracks.