How to get Picard writing the original release date / year of a recording?

Just to keep this short and precise, I’m gonna skip describing what I have already tried and read about this matter.

How can you get Picard to write a tag for the original release date of an album or a single?

Let’s take this Michael Jackson compilation album for an example:

It contains the song ‘Ben’, which was released as a single in 1972.
It seems obvious and logical to me that you want to be able to have this reflected in your tagging scheme.

Ditto for box-sets.

This is a box-set that contains original The Beatles albums:

It contains the album ‘Revolver’, which is from 1966.

But for both examples I wasn’t able to get these release dates written.
How can you achieve that Picard will write these?


Short answer is you can’t since there is no easy way to query that information from MusicBrainz.

In theory it would be possible to write a plugin to query MusicBrainz for all releases containing a specific recording (or maybe work, depending on what you want) and that way find out the earliest release known to MB. But his would be really slow, since it would take multiple requests per track to get that data.


Thanks for the reply outsidecontext.
What a pity that something that seems so natural and desirable is currently impossible to achieve.
Hopefully some bright mind(s) will find a solution for it.


It seems that’s it possible via more can be found here I still hope this to see integrated in MusicBrainz Picard as a base feature.

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Thanks Forssound, that looks nice.
But I am on Windows, so that’s not an option for me.

I’m on Windows to, and experimenting with it


I’m very much looking forward to trying it. GOOD LUCK!!

I signed up just to say that I agree with this 100%. I’m old enough to remember the original albums, and their cover art. I am currently go through my collection, and choosing the original release for any songs that appear on “Greatest Hits” or “Various Artists” type albums. Having the visual cue from seeing the original album cover brings back great memories for me. I will subscribe to this topic in hopes that there is a solution soon.

I just went back to tagging, and I wanted to share the process of what it takes to get the original album information one song at a time.

I am working on the song “What It Takes” by Aerosmith. Using the scan function picard returns the album as “Big Ones” which is a greatest hits type album. Next, I use the “Lookup in browser” which takes me to this page:

The first album listed is “Big Ones” from 1994. All other albums listed are “Greatest Hits” type albums as well. I then turn to Google, and find out that the song “What it Takes” was first released on the album “Pump”. I go back to the Musicbrainz website and do a search for “Pump” using “release” from the drop down menu which takes me to this page:

This last page confirms that “What it takes” was indeed released on the album “Pump” in 1989. Obviously at that point I click on the “Tagger” button to add the release to my collection, manually move “What it takes” from “Big Ones” to “Pump”, and finally click save.

That is quite a process to go through by hand.

At the very least, is there a way for me to add the album Pump to the list of albums that appear when the song is first “Look(ed) up using browser”?

I certainly hope that this is taken as a constructive post. I think that Musicbrainz does a great job identifying individual songs, but could use some improvement on the album side of things.

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Agreed. I cannot imagine what good it does to ever have a song tagged with anything other than it’s original release year. If I want to create an auto playlist of music from a certain decade or, more specifically a specific year, then why would I EVER want ANY song tagged incorrectly as to its release year. A song was released at a certain point in time…period. What year a compilation album was released is pretty much of zero interest to me.

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Yes I’m VERY interested.

It looks like the original release date info is already available for most releases in MusicBrainz, under the internal fields originaldate and originalyear.

What we need is the ability to customize Picard’s tag mappings to force it to output these internal fields like originaldate into whatever tag is used by our music players to display the date.

For example: generate the TYER (ID3v2) tag using the value of
%originalyear% instead of %date%.

Does anyone know if it’s possible to do something like this in Picard (perhaps using a tagger script or a plugin)?

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Wow, thanks for the quick reply!

Yeah, I actually already ended up writing a simpler version of this myself:


but your version is safer, so still appreciated!

By the way, this forum supports syntax highlighting (see this post).


I know, I implemented it :wink: I was just lazy and answering quickly from my mobile, hence also the short post. I updated it.


Yes, but note that these fields are not showing the actual original dates for (tracks on) compilation albums, and from box sets containing multiple albums.



will get an original date of 2013 for all albums since that is the release date for the box set.
Yet the albums it contains are originally from 1978, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1985 and 1991.

And the Michael Jackson song ‘Ben’ from my example in the start post will still get an original year of 2005 instead of 1972.

I am still curious if this also doesn’t slightly bother the boys and girls working on MusicBrainz and/or Picard, and if they agree it would be very useful and sensible to have these original dates available somehow.


Your example points at tracks in compilations \ boxsets. There is a similar error caused by lack of data on standard Releases.

Currently the algorithm just looks for the oldest item MusicBrainz has in a Release Group. Which can be very misleading for some artists like Charlie Bird if only CDs have been added for his releases.

Maybe there needs to be something attached to a Release Group where an “original release date” can be set manually.

Often when I am adding a re-issue of a Release I’ll go to Discogs and import an original edition too so as to get that “original Release” date filled more accurately. Maybe even use the Wikidata links to pull an accurate date?

Dates are complicated and hard to pin down in a dumb algorithm. :slight_smile:


Yes, true. Ehh, well, no actually :wink:

Dates by themselves are rather easy and specific. And they are plain numbers, so what more could a maintainer of a database wish for?

The issue here is more about deciding which dates are relevant to store and how to give them a place and availabilty so that humans can make use of them.

To this human, it is relevant to see in what year (when/if) a song was released as a single.
And I also want to easily see that if the song happens to be on some compilation album, and not only if it is on the original single/album release.

The same for original albums in a box-set.
Sure, MusicBrainz is doing nothing wrong technically when it fills the ‘original year’ with the first year that that box-set was released.
But this human is also (read: more) interested to see the original release years of the albums that that box-set contains.

Of course, any of this information can be looked-up, and in some cases it may be a somewhat subjective matter.
But in principle I feel it would be very logical (in a human way) to have such dates available.

Pretty much any music lover will have songs or albums matched to ‘original’ dates in their heads in some way of another.
It would be nice to have MusicBrainz/Picard understand—and accommodate for—that.

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Totally agree with you. :smiley:

I’ll also throw in other awkward dates like:

  • first live performance of the track
  • when the track first appeared on an album (not everything comes out as single)
  • remixed dates
  • re-recording dates
  • sung by someone else (cover versions)

Huge potential in this database for looking up that kind of data. And there are fields for all of the above available now. These relationships are available now.

Where I find the algorithm fails is when data is incomplete. Examples like the Dizzy Bird tracks. CDs get uploaded to MB first. And it means someone has to fill the original vinyl releases in by hand. This means the current algorithm fails as it just assumes the oldest version in the database is correct. There is no way to say “this data is incomplete”.

Many concerts don’t even have the locations and dates added. Data is still stuck in the titles or the uploaded artwork. Filling all that in takes years. MB is far from complete. It is ever growing.

This is why I was suggesting we need a manual box to put this stuff into. An “override” to correct confused data. That is also why I pointed at WikiData as many releases and even many singles have those links in place. And Wikipedia is pretty good at having correct dates in place that we can mine.

A few entities would benefit directly from this, and the data could be pre-filled by doing wikidata lookups when available.

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