Is MusicBrainz primarily a database or a tagging library?

Continuing the discussion from Guidelines on "feat." join phrase [STYLE-671]:

If this isn’t already a settled question, it really should be. My understanding is that the MB project grew out of a tagging library, but is primarily a database.

The first sentence of the About page has said as much since 2003.

Of course, the transition has been gradual. As the data model improves, as Picard improves, MB becomes farther removed from its tagging-library roots.

That said, I’m not an “as on cover” purist. I often care more about what the cover means than what it says.


Just my 2 cents:
If MB would be a pure database, only a few people would care about it and even less people would contribute. Why should someone contribute data, if there is no real world use case for it?
On the other hand: If everyone can contribute whatever he thinks is good enough without any peer review and technical restrictions, the data quality becomes unusable low very quickly.

IMHO MusicBrainz should be both: a structured database AND a tagging source.

The perfect situation would be that data can be entered into the database even by beginners with a quality high enough even for the purists talking about “ft.” and “feat.”


What’s the real world use case of Wikipedia?

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„This is a database of all released music!”

„But I just want to tag all my music files.”

„In this case this is not for you. What you need is a tagging library!”

„Uh, OK. What is a tagging library?”

„A database of all released music.”


I’m firmly in the “database over tagging library” crowd, but I honestly don’t see the big divide.

A good, well populated database can have its data be manipulated to make for exactly the tags someone using it for tagging wants, but if you want to make a linguistic paper on how often artists are credited with “ft.” vs. “feat.” vs. “featuring/featured”, you can’t use our current data as you can’t go the other way. And some people who tag want to use exactly what was written on the cover anyway.

One of the things I think is really important about MusicBrainz is that it stores the data and makes it available. Some people will then use it for tagging. Some people will use it for academic research. Some people will dump the SQL and print it on a paper and feed it to their cat. Some people will make a service matching MusicBrainz data with OpenStreetMap (or similar) to provide guided, interactive tours of music history of any given area. Some people will make an application that lets you determine the “degrees of separation” between two music people.

As long as you have enough quality and quantity of data, there are so, so many things you can do with it. Tagging your music/audio files is definitely one of them.


I don’t tag but I use MB for my collection of CD and to learn about all the links between artists by setting them here. That makes me want to listen to linked music, etc.


[quote=“jesus2099, post:6, topic:210477”]I don’t tag…[/quote]Interesting. WHY you don’t tag your collection of CDs with MB?

It’s just that I don’t really rip CD that much.
Saying never was exagerated. :slight_smile:
I rip some temporary v6 mono files for Acoustid submit and for walkman and then I tag full caps from MB with foo_musicbrainz but it is quite not often.
It is far from being main purpose of using MB for me but saying never was too much. :wink:


To elaborate on my yesterday’s simplified and more humoristic comment: I really think we don’t need to choose between a database and a tagging library.

While a database with the sole purpose of tagging your files can be more simple, having a more elaborate database that captures more details of the music world does not harm tagging and can even improve it.

The discussions we have seen that bring up this “tagging vs. database” argument are IMHO mostly about personal preferences in how data should be represented. Often it is about standardization vs. “as printed on the release”, and the standardization is seen for the pro database side of discussion, the “as printed on the release” for the pro tagging library. But there is no rule saying for tagging I want everything as written on release.

There are many choices to be made: artist as credited or standardized, artist in native script or transliterated into Latin script, something like “featuring” standardized or not, capitalization etc. etc. Even whether typos should be corrected or not can be a preference. Those choices are not unique to tagging but can be made for other uses of the database as well.

In the end dumbing down MB to be merely a tagging library solves none of the above and doesn’t improve the tagging situation either. But building a comprehensive database, that tries to capture the often messy reality of music as good as possible, will ideally allow the user of such a database to make the choices outlined above.

So for me MusicBrainz should clearly continue to become that comprehensive music database. And taggers should make use of the data by providing their users the choices to customize the tagging.


Actually, what I’ve mostly seen is the other way around :slight_smile: But I agree with the rest of the post anyway.


Yes, I realized that it is also the other way around when reading through the “featuring” thread again. Another point that strengthens my view that there is actually no such thing as a database vs. tagging library discussion :slight_smile:


Pretty sure that it is primarily an encyclopedia.

Which differs from a tagging library in that it seeks to present information separated from actual recordings.

And is different from a database in that it is accessible with a positive UX experience for all slightly computer-literate humans, as well as being machine readable.