Merging or uniting eponymous bands (quartets, quintets and mainly jazz entities)

Hi everyone,

I asked the question on the IRC (with @Zas and @reosarevok) after years of incomprehension on whether or not there is a guideline on this particular subject.

Eponymous bands (jazz quartets, quintets or particular cases such as this one) are being kept separated from the artist page.
While I can understand the reason why MB first separated them, it currently is a mess to find its way through some discographies.

Let’s take Miles Davis example.
He released albums under his name, under “Miles Davis Quintet”, “Miles Davis +19”, “Miles Davis Quartet”, “Miles Davis All Stars”, “Miles Davis All Star Sextet”, “The New Miles Davis Quintet”, “Miles Davis Sextet”, " The Miles Davis/Tadd Dameron Quintet" and countless others.

With MB current policy, we have the main page, the quintet, the sextet, a nonet, the quartet, the all stars, the septet and numerous others…

The data is not centralized and Miles Davis’ discography is completely unintelligible.
Of course you still can open 10+ tabs and compare them manually but let’s be honest, it’s a nightmare to browse.

Miles Davis was never alone on his albums. On “Bitches Brew”, an album under just “Miles Davis”, there is Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, etc.
The only difference between “Bitches Brew” and let’s say “Miles Smiles” is the name on the cover (Miles Davis Quintet on the latter). But it still is a Miles Davis record that should appear on the same page somehow.
The legendary “Kind of Blue” is the work of a quintet (Davis / Evans / Chambers / Coltrane / Cobb) but is on Miles Davis’ “solo page”. Etc, etc.

The quintets, quartets or in the case mentioned earlier with “Yngwie Malmstreen’s Rising Force”, are backing bands. Their line-ups are not stable and constantly changing over the releases (just look at this). So the argument of saying that a band page is beneficial by determining a line-up is not valable, as one-time musicians can be credited in release’s relationships.

Of course there is this ticket but consolidation is not a solution, merely a patch on an open wound imo.

MusicBrainz is a database whose objective is to be as exhaustive as intelligible.
Please imagine a new user, no matter how experienced they are in music. They stumble unto Miles Davis’ page or Yngwie Malmsteen’s and they don’t find some major works. They instead need to go on a whole different page to find the album. A complete discography as we conceive it for every bands is nowhere to be found (RYM has a way to display them all).
The actual complexity of jazz discographies verges on absurdity.

Another important thing is that this separation greatly impacts softwares and databases that rely on MB. Of course, as I work with them, I can speak of SensCritique but in this edit we can see that the problem is also on Plex, Kodi or MusicBee.
I can’t even tell you the number of feedbacks we had on SC on this subject. Even if I was not convinced at first too, when an issue is brought back so many times by different users, I think there’s a reason.

So what I propose is the following:
We could merge them, have “Miles Davis Quintet” in “Artist as credited” so that we could see the difference directly on the artist’s page. All of the relationships would be transferred to releases. This way, we are keeping all of the data (if I’m forgetting something please let me know) but we are centralizing it and we offer a clear and understandable database for jazz discographies (and other exceptions).
Because while “A person can’t have members” (quote from this interesting edit again), a release can. And I don’t see what data would we lose while the clarity of Miles Davis discography would be cleary improved.

This is already the case with bands that change their name really often, such as Thee Oh Sees/Osees.
Again, no data is lost and the readability is tremendously improved.

I am looking forward to read your feedbacks and I hope that we will find a solution for the clarity of MB and all of the websites that depend on it.

Have a nice day

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This is a familiar issue for me, but I solved it at the end-point. (my music player)

I add the name of an additional album artist where I find it appropriate and useful.
For example, there are albums by ‘Robert Cray’, and there are albums by ‘The Robert Cray band’.
I like to be able to find and see the albums of both these ‘album artists’ together.
So I will add ‘Robert Cray’ as an album artist to ‘The Robert Cray band’ albums.
If I then do a search for album artist Robert Cray I get them all.

Same for Chick Corea.
All releases by:
Chick Corea Akoustic Band
Chick Corea Elektric Band
Chick Corea and Return to Forever
Chick Corea Quartet
get ‘Chick Corea’ added as an album artist.

So when I filter on album artist ‘Chick Corea’ I get all the above.

I have no opinion on how this could or should be handled in MusicBrainz’ database, but I suspect doing something as merging such releases might be too subjective in many less-clear cases?

Is there perhaps some similar ‘album artistS’ feature as I described in the database that could be used like this?
Then Miles Davis fans/connoisseurs could just add Miles Davis as an additional album artist to all of his trio’s quartet’s etc., and no complicated or disputable merges would need to be done?

edit:
I do the same for albums of e.g. album artist ‘Miles Davis & Bill Evans’
I will add both ‘Miles Davis’ and ‘Bill Evans’ as album artists.

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I agree that MB’s handling of these groups is a problem. I find it particularly problematic for entities like the Thelonious Monk Septet - a “group” that only existed for one studio session, never toured, and as far as I’m aware never even performed live.

Historically, only the bandleader was usually under contract to a record company, so how a particular release was credited was often arbitrary. Consider Monk’s first Columbia release, Monk’s Dream, credited to the Thelonious Monk Quartet (even though it contains two tracks of solo piano) and his next release Criss-Cross, recorded with the exact same personnel but credited only to Thelonious Monk.

I’d be generally in favor of treating these “groups” as ACs of the bandleader. I do wonder, though, if it’s the best approach for long-lived groups with a distinct identity, such as Duke Ellington and his Orchestra, or Louis Armstrong and his All-Stars which featured a specific New Orleans-style instrumentation.

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But when the said group recorded more than one recording, it makes life easier and clearer linking the musicians.

I feel bad now. I’ve undone some of those Robert Cray Band - Robert Cray, etc. because of MBs policy of having these separate, but with the “credited as” feature now, I see why you were doing this. I’ll go back and revert any (I think it was just the last LP). It just never occurred to me why this was the way it was. I just thought it was a mistake. Yeah. Definitely with eponymous band like this, it might be good to just finally unite all of them. I’d be on board.

Here we go. Let’s hope we get some decent discussion going, because this could have major implications.
Edit #79423388 - MusicBrainz

I think we should have some sort of consensus first, ideally something we could put into style guidelines, before we start making major changes. Otherwise another editor is just going to come along and revert these as against guidelines.

NVM, after reading Edit #77850144 - MusicBrainz. I don’t think merging groups into individuals is the way to go.

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Maybe a way to show more than one artist on a page? Like a switch where you can say, add the following associated groups in discography with a list you can check? That way it’s be easy to see all . And have some way to associate the individual groups to that artist for that reason.

I don’t think merging groups into individuals is the way to go.

In many cases, probably not. I think there’s a line that could be drawn somewhere between a long-lived group like the Robert Cray Band and a one-off name like Baron Mingus and his Octet .

That’s the essence of the ticket that MDR mentioned in the original post.

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Thanks to you all for your interest, it means a lot!

@highstrung: I still think it would be a good solution for long-lived groups too.
Of course Duke Ellington and his Orchestra has a distinct identity and sound, but with 64 members, albums scattered between “Duke Ellington” albums and sound evolutions (from a big band with vocal jazz emphasis to dominant swing influences, gospel or even latin-jazz on Afro-Bossa), it would still be so much more readable on the Duke Ellington page.

@jesus2099: “it makes life easier and clearer linking the musicians” > not that much in fact because as backing bands, the line-ups are constantly changing and it’s rarely the same over two releases (which lead to interminable list of relationships on the “bands” pages).

@tigerman325: thanks a lot for your implication, cool to see some people agree with that!

@highstrung: and even for Robert Cray Band, it would be interesting to find a way to centralize the data. I am still rooting for a merge as you can guess haha but I imagine that we could have a halfway solution for these controversial cases.
Something like having “Robert Cray” (credited as Robert Cray) and “Robert Cray Band” (credited as “Band”) with a single space in the join phrase. This way it appears on both pages.
Or “Duke Ellington” and “Duke Ellington & His Orchestra” (credited as “His Orchestra”) with an ampersand in the join phrase.

–> But this solution should be considered as a patch and not a definitive solution though.

And once again the ticket is interesting but would not really solve the problem and is taking the issue backwards imo.

Just to be sure I understand what any of this ‘merging’ would pertain to:

It is only for the convenience of editors?
It will have no effect on how these album artists show up on the regular website?
It will not affect data that Picard will retrieve in any way?

I personally think merging artists and groups like this is a bad idea. You picked up on Miles Davis - what about Miles Davis All Stars? ( https://musicbrainz.org/artist/607d7275-2b92-49e5-a7ee-32f9cc29b076/relationships ) Are you saying that should only be filed under Miles Davis? That makes no sense as people like Charlie Parker and many other famous names are equally big in that group. The way the database currently works it has individual artists who can be members of a group.

I know there are some big Jazz editors who spend a lot of time over making sure the separate groups are correctly credited. I have talked to a few when editing Charlie Parker. They would certainly say no to this kind of merge.

MB should not remove this distinction. It works well as some groups can be pretty complex as to the overlapping members. This can be shown well with MB treating Artists and Groups as separate IDs.

I believe it is the job of your SensCritique database to find your own way to link these entities. I know I have my own methods in my copy of KODI that still allows me to find the separate entities or list a combination of Band and Artist.

I actually really like the way I can look at Groups and Artists and click between them. What more needs to be done is to fill in more of the members of a group - but this takes work by us editors which would then better help the other database users up the line like SensCritique and KODI.

The data should be left true to the reality of the data, and the database user then chooses how to display that data on their own applications.

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I understand it doesn’t solve the problem for downstream data users, but can you elaborate how you see it taking things backwards?

Regarding the Ellington case, I’m thinking about how we would handle artists like Johnny Hodges and Harry Carney who were integral parts of the band for decades. Yes, relationships on individual releases/recordings convey some of that information, but not in a clear way.

re. the issues it causes for Sens Critique, isn’t there some way for SC to leverage the ‘eponymous member of’ relationships to merge artists in the display?

Otherwise https://tickets.metabrainz.org/browse/MBS-10868 really seems like the best way, as the issue seems to be a mismatch between the best way to store granular data and the best way to display data to users. That seems like it would best be solved by addressing the display, rather than changing the data model to suit inadequate display options.

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@hiccup: for the convenience of editors, users and all of the websites that beneficiate from MB (and which MB beneficiates from, let’s not forget this) primarily of course.
To me, it will improve the way these artists appear on MB (and for now, no one mentioned a concrete bad side-effect or an eventual data loss).
As for Picard, I have no idea as I don’t know how it works, sorry.

@IvanDobsky: Miles Davis All Stars is actually a good example.
First it is considered as a Miles Davis album on Wikipedia. Then you can see on the same link that “All Stars” is more a marketing technique because “Walkin’” is actually the compilation of material recorded under “Miles David Sextet” on side one and “Miles Davis Quintet” on side two.
Another proof that having another page for this “band” is just confusing and misleading.

And Charlie Parker did not participate in any of the three biggest albums that were released under the name “Miles Davis All Stars”. So not equally big.
Before speaking in the big jazz editor’s place, I would gladly hear them on that matter.

Of course SensCritique could find its own solution and I would not be bothering you with that issue. But I’m doing this thread precisely because I am a MB editor too and that I strongly believe that issues that appear on databases linked to MB are symptomatic of improvements that could or should be made here.
Again, MB is and should remain independent, its strength is here. But please don’t ignore the purpose of a database and the fact that softwares, community websites and other DBs depends on MB and are legitimate to raise particular issues like this one.

Let’s also make the distinction between what we are used to and what would be best in terms of UX and DB management.

@highstrung: because the standard view should include all of Miles Davis’ albums, even under different names. And the split between the different entities should be optional (once again, by putting myself in unexperienced user and based on the numerous feedbacks we received). But I guess that could be the case with the feature?

For Johnny Hodges, that’s true but what would concretely change? Recordings and albums on which he played would still appear on his page. And another relationship like “supporting instrument for” Duke Ellington could easily be created.
Also Hodges, as major he was for the orchestra was not always part of it, notably between 1951 and 1955.

Hi @aerozol: thanks for your intervention! Like I wrote, we could manage it within SC, but I think that we could both win with an improvement.

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I’m having serious doubts on this.
Maybe because it’s not clear to me how it will affect the release pages on MusicBrainz, and how it will affect data retrieved from it.

Also it feels weird that somebody else than the original artist would decide in retrospective on who the (album) artist really was. Against what the artists themselves decided on.

Again, if the proposal has no effect on the releases website and on what Picard will retrieve, and it’s an added useful feature for editors, great.
It could also be useful as an added optional feature for the release pages and Picard.

Else, it seems like opening a can of worms to me.

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I think merging MB Artists is an incorrect workaround to creating a “complete view” of an artist. Why stop with eponymously named groups? If I wanted a “complete” view of an artist, I’d want it to include all groups (member-of), collaborations, different projects (performs-as), instrument relationships, vocal relationships, remix relationships, etc.

I think having dedicated Artist pages/IDs for established groups is preferable. I just fixed two of these:


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Very true! I’ve now updated his relationships to reflect this. That’s an example where recording relationships don’t clearly show the details. You could browse though all his performer rels (2000+ of them!) and see that during that period, he didn’t record with Ellington but did record multiple sessions under his own name. From that, you could infer that he wasn’t a member of Ellington’s band during that period But it’s much more clearly stated by the member relationship(s).