Honorific titles for classical artists? (Dame? Janet Baker)

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We currently have Dame Janet Baker in the database with her title (Dame). @spitzwegerich has entered edit #47877200 to remove the title. (We also have Sir Adrian Boult, but Edward Elgar without Sir. And no doubt plenty more.)

The style guidelines seem less useful than you’d hope here. They tell you things like “in most cases, it is the name as found on releases” which aren’t really useful for classical considering how different release will write people’s names completely differently, for stylistic and/or space reasons. The guidelines also say “honorary titles (like ‘Sir’ or ‘MBE’) if they’re actually used by the artist as part of its name.” Ignoring for a moment referring to her as an “it”, there are a bunch of release that do, and a bunch that don’t. That’s fully what you’d expect even if she does consistently consider it part of her name—just because the cover art designers shorten names all the time. We don’t question if artists consider their first name part of their name just because covers often only print the last name.

Seems like this guideline is more aimed at pop artists who consider their names & band names a brand, and care quite a bit about how it’s written.

Last thing, I’m not actually sure what renaming an artist does to existing credits. The ones crediting her as “Dame Janet Baker” don’t currently have a “credited as” (because they can’t; AFAIK the site won’t even let you put that in if you try). If we change the artist name, will those release now have incorrect credits? If so, that’d suggest if we have no strong feelings one way or the other to keep the status quo…

[edit: correction: The site will let you enter an AR credited as the same as the name; checked in https://musicbrainz.org/edit/47913541 … of course, I doubt anyone does that.]

Changing 'credited as' on multiple recordings

It won’t change the artist credits for the release, but if I remember correctly it will change relationship credits unless “Dame” has been specified in the credited as field for them, which is unlikely. Unless @Bitmap or @yvanzo have changed that recently (I know I requested it, but not sure ATM whether it was done).


I always interpret the guideline as: “Follow the names the artists themselves use for the main artist name, and use artist credits to credit them the way they are credited on the release. If you can’t find any material from the artists themselves with their names in it, omit the title.”


I don’t use Facebook, so I’m not sure what to make of this… but it pops up on Google. https://www.facebook.com/Dame-Janet-Baker-158672060996879/ … if that’s actually hers (and not some random fan page or something) then it’d seem she uses it as her name.


It might be better not to include honorary titles in names because it seems to be language (or culture) specific thing. Field is reserved for artist name, not for honorary titles or prefixes of academic degrees. For lazy editors it’s also too easy to use wrong credits. For example Janet Baker has been “Dame” since 1970 but we still got many older recordings and releases crediting her as Dame.


I don’t think titles like sir, dame, KBE etc are meant to be translated. After all, culture-specific equivalents are never true equivalents anyway (you can’t translate an MBE with Chevalier).

Older releases with wrong artist credits should be fixed, whether it is Snoop Dogg vs. Snoop Doggy Dogg or Dame Janet Baker vs. Janet Baker. :wink:


I’m not on facebook, either. But I’m pretty sure it’s not her personally. First, she is 84 years old. Second, would she personally write “Dame Janet’s voice is glorious in this recording”?


@Bitmap made this change and pushed it to beta already, see MBS-9458.


If the artist considers their honorary title part of their artist name, then surely it should be included in their artist name?

The artist name is not a legal name field, in which I would agree not to put the honorary title. All variants (artist name w/ and w/o honorary title and legal name w/ and w/o honorary title etc.) can be added as Aliases too, so no reason not to use whatever the artist themselves use in the “canonical” artist name field, IMHO.


If no artist credit was set, I would have guessed that the artist credit is set to “Dame Janet Baker” then, from this experience: I’ve renamed “Johann Strauss II” to “Johann Strauss” some time ago, but there are still many “Johann Strauss II” around.


Sure if there’s a clear proof about it. After following what happens in classical world about 20 years I’m still not able to name even one artist who considers honorary title as part of their artist name (even though hundreds of releases I own randomly use these). Does anyone know any examples? Any artists who consider honorary title as part of their name?


Artist aliases allow translation/localization. Presumably the “name” field would use the conventions of the UK, for the same reason we have Tchaikovsky’s name in Russian.

Indeed, but it’s name in the sense of “what she goes by” (as a musician, I suppose) not “legal name”. And either way we’ll get wrong credits from lazy editors (just we’ll get ones mistakenly missing “Dame” when it was on the release, instead of the other way around).

Indeed. Though if its her publicist, that would presumably still counts—it’d be evidence that’s the “brand” she’s established for herself.

I guess no one in the English-speaking world really does. But if you asked instead how they prefer to be credited for their music, I suspect you’d get a lot more titles included. Seems like using the later answers here makes more sense.


I don’t know any artists referring to themselves as sir or dame or whatever, but I almost never see Sir John Barbirolli’s name mentioned without sir for example. That could be convention out of his control (he’s been dead for almost half a century) but vanity is hardly exclusive to rappers.


Sure, but I would like us to keep storing factual data based on clear guidelines. It’s typically not that clear if artist considers honorary title as part of the artist name. Most likely no one outside MB would ever consider it. And we don’t typically know how they prefer to get credited. We could keep making educated guesses but the problem is that my guess will often differ from yours :innocent:

I have some Sibelius releases which credit him without “Sir” but these could be early recordings. Another conductor frequently with “Sir” is Simon Rattle. Don’t know if frequently enough for us to consider it being his artist name.


Please don’t forget to vote!


Let me add that after this discussion, I still think the title “Dame” should be removed:

Sometimes the title is used, sometimes it is not, without a clear tendency, and there is no clear indication that she uses it as her “official” name. When in doubt, better have the indisputable primary name in the artist field, and if necessary add the title via artist credit.


Wouldn’t that pretty much lead us to a style guideline (for classical) that, unless an artist is consistently credited as something else, use the artist’s legal name (as spelled in his/her “area”)? (And should middle names or initials be included?)

Honestly, that doesn’t strike me as a bad outcome…

Although, even if we decide to do this rename, shouldn’t we wait until the change @yvanzo mentioned is live, not just in beta? So it doesn’t incorrect-ify a bunch of existing releases?


I read that ticked and the attached change, and with the big disclaimer that I’m not at all familiar with the code base, are you sure that’s the right change?

https://github.com/metabrainz/musicbrainz-server/pull/545/files/2e69e56a4ef3648328fbabb94eda0c32a71d5f2d looks distinctly like it’s not going to help here…

The problem is that a lot of releases actually refer to her as “Dame Janet Baker”. Those currently have blank “credited as” fields, because that matches the (current) artist name. It looks like from that patch that if this rename goes through, those (currently correct) releases will have the credit changed (since the credit matches the current artist name) to the new name, and thus be rendered incorrect…


Are you really sure that all “Dame Janet Baker” would be changed into “Janet Baker”? As I wrote, I made a different experience when renaming “Johann Strauss II” into “Johann Strauss”.

If necessary, I can cancel the edit of course. But I would prefer not cancelling it, given the voting activity (which documents the opinions on this issue for the future).


Not on artist credits, but they would on relationships I think.