Proper usage of Artist entries for Paul Whiteman and related groups?

I am splitting off a topic about Paul Whiteman and related groups here. I invite @tillywilly to take the microphone and lead a discussion.

This subject has been popping up in an edit discussion, a related forum thread Classical or not classical: edge case, another forum thread Hiding artist into credits to force them into discographies, and maybe more.

@tillywilly, what end goal are you trying to achieve? Is it to have a single MusicBrainz web page with a complete discography of every Release Paul Whiteman performed for, regardless of whether the release artwork credited him individually or as part of a group? Is it to record the historical facts about the various group names, and whether they were distinct groups or just wording for the sake of branding? And in what way is what you currently get from MusicBrainz falling short?

I suspect the discussion will eventually focus on a few questions:

  1. What are the historical facts about Paul Whiteman and these groups?
  2. What do Release artworks say about these facts, and which facts do the artworks not mention?
  3. How should the above be turned into data in the MusicBrainz database?
  4. How should the MusicBrainz web app display the data in the database?

My first contribution: an important way to represent this kind of data in the MusicBrainz database (#3) is by means of Relationships. It is better to use those than to hide misplaced factual data in Track Artist fields and the like.

Relationships are underused for Paul Whiteman, it seems to me. For instance, Paul Whiteman artist/b8d920 is not related to the Paul Whiteman Concert Orchestra artist/4d4582 as a Founding Eponymous Member. He is so related to the Paul Whiteman & His Ambassador Orchestra artist/03ade0. Adding Relationships to capture the facts about Paul Whiteman seems to be a good next step.


I have spent too much time writing today. Here is something I wrote earlier

re Paul Whiteman Concert Orchestra
The advanced edits we are discussing should only be contemplated after extensive research and experience. Your comment “The Concert Orchestra definitely looks like a different project” is definitely not accurate, and sounds like an educated guess. Whiteman used the “Concert Orchestra” monicker to draw attention to a collaboration or extended projects, often classical. There are not that many instances where he used it, and many of his best recordings were released simply with “and his Orchestra”. My experienced opinion is that visitors to our site would be best served with a listing of all the works of Paul Whiteman indexed and listed in one place, with the alternate names he used as an integral part of the listing. I have labored extensively to make sure each listing has an acurate recording and release date, as well as the artist name it was released under.

btw PW called his band “Ambassador Orchestra” on his first four single releases in 1920. That separate band listing was deleted some time ago. In 1924, he used “Concert Orchestra” for the first “Rhapsody In Blue”, and used it a second time for the 1927 electric version. He used it a third time for “When Day Is Done”/“Soliloquy”, “Mississippi Suite”, “Washboard Blues” with Hoagy Carmichael (all 1927), then “Ol Man River” with Paul Robeson, “Metropolis” and a few more in 1928. He moved from Victor to Columbia that year, where he did not use it at all (my unverified assumption is that Victor had filed a trademark for it).

I evaluated this issue years ago, and nobody has opposed my decisions since, possibly because I am the primary Whiteman editor here, or also because his discography is in good shape. There are plenty of editors that have added their Bix and Bing collections, which contain more Whiteman recordings than we had before. I have done my best to arrange things so fans of all can find their stuff, with synchronized details and dates. If people had said “tilly is fucking everything up”, things might have been done differently, but nobody has. I stay in the background and do a lot of grunt work, like all of us, and when an issue like CSG comes up, I go along with the group decision, because this is our website, not mine. I am still getting trained by editors in areas I am weak in, and learning rules.

the Concert Orchestra should not be used as separate entity; it is used arbitrarily, and splits Whiteman’s releases into multiple listings with no benefit. Note Concerto in F, not using that designation

Note how we currently list Whiteman

Attempting to create another entity or file recordings under alternate name styles is non-productive

these name styles are the same Whiteman-led ensembles

I have edited many compilations, if these variations ever meant anything, now 100 years later, they definitely do not. Whiteman is lucky to be listed at all on Bix, Bing, Trumbauer and other compilations often primarilly composed of his music.

I will update those files by tomorrow

PW Alias tab

@tillywilly , you clearly know a lot about Whiteman and the music of the time. It is good to have that knowledge applied to improving MusicBrainz. Thank you.

You list five distinct Artist entries here. Are you advocating that they all be merged into one Artist entity?

Shouldn’t the Paul Whiteman artist/b8d920 entry remain separate, because it corresponds to a single human being instead of to a group?

Do you advocate merging The Rhythm Boys (vocal group including Bing Crosby, 1927-1931) artist/067f1c into one of the Paul Whitehead ensemble Artist entries?

Then, on a separate issue, why add some or other of these Artist entries into Track Artist and Release Artist entries? Why not connect them to the Release or the Recording via Relationships?

good questions
we keep Whiteman
Rhythm Boys

I listed related entities to give big picture

want to phase out Concert Orchestra, merge with Orchestra

I am already merging the empty Charleston group

well I guess you guys don’t need me anymore, all my non-autoeditor edits are gone and its all your way I got other things to do

do me a favor, I screwed up relationships, see if you can do it better. I explained his position already, (el heffe)

If they are ok, thanks for checking

You did a good job with the relationships. They say a lot more now!

You had the direction wrong for some relationships: Paul Whitehead (person) is director of PW & Orchestra (ensemble), but you had it as “the person is directed by the ensemble”, or “the ensemble is the director of the person”.

You added Credited As strings for Paul Whitehead (person) which don’t make sense for these Relationships. But good work!

We do need you. We need your expertise and we need your energy. But we need your patience and your cooperation also.

A suggestion: work with, not against, the pace of edits and voting. Make a few changes, wait a week for the edits to complete, then make a few more changes.

If you want to dump in a lot of information quickly, consider adding free text, links, and commentary to the Annotations of the respective Artist, or Release. They are like mini-wikis. Then turn those notes into edits over time.


Thanks @JimDeLaHunt for initiating this thread. And sorry for the delay, due to family obligations (Season obliges :wink: . So here’s my 10 cents, partially repeating what I said on some previous edits.

I. I agree with @JimDeLaHunt: the edits and expertise of @tillywilly are most welcome and their edits so far have massively improved our Paul Whiteman discography.

II. Depending on the the Releases, the Track Artists may be different for one and the same Recording, depending on the Credits shown on the different Releases (PW and His Orchestra, vocals „Lady Day“ for the first Shellac Release, Billie Holiday with PW and His Orchestra, or just Billie Holiday, for later re-releases and compilations Song “Trav’lin’ Light” - MusicBrainz). When merged they will get, following our guidelines, the Artist Credit of the very first (official) release.

III. You may have concentrated too much on the Artist Credits, which are not meant to cover everything, but only to show what Artist(s) are credited on a given Release. All other artists, credited on later releases or in the booklet or found on some other reliable source can (and should) be added with relationships. One should not try to include them – against what can be seen on Cover Art – to the Artist Credits of the Track or the Release. Particularly join phrases (like „with vocal refrain“ should not be Hijacked to add uncredited performers :wink: ). Note that it is still controversial whether artists credited (in smaller font size) on the side or below the main Artist in the center of a shellac disc should be credited as Track Artists or only with relationships

IV. We’re working here on Recordings from 100 years ago. Often the only really reliable source we have is the cover of the Releases. Sometimes additional info is available, based on research and on archives of labels. But in any case nearly all decisions we make are based on „educated guesses“.

V. Many of us wish to find all Releases/Recordings/appearances of a given artist at one single place. Several improvements of the use interface have been discussed or are waiting to be implemented, but merging all Appearances of an artist under one single Artist entity is obviously not possible. Nobody (I hope :wink: would advocate to merge e.g. all the Artists associated with Duke Ellington Search Results - MusicBrainz. The Trio, the Quartet, the Quintet are obviously specific projects, with different (known) associated Band members. Others may be candidates for a merge (with the use of Artist Credits), but in all case we will have to ponder carefully whether a merge makes sense or if we must/should assume a „different artistic project“.

VI. If one believes that two (or more) entities should be merged, they should do a merge edit. This will be open for vote and discussion. If the merge is accepted, all related entities will be renamed and the gone Artist will be kept as alias with the new merged one. This is a much better way – and much less time-consuming – than emptying an existing entity by renaming the attached Tracks/Recordings one by one, as @tillywilly is now trying to do with PW’s Concert Orchestra (where I have to vote No on every single edit, because I still am not convinced that a merge is correct). And asking for such a merge will be visible for peer review, while the individual (auto-)edits may go unnoticed.


Embrace Relationships. It is what this Relational Database is all about and why it can be so good to find actual performers. And Producers. Audio Editors. Trombone players. Don’t focus on forcing Artist Credits to show things in a recording title that should not be in there just to get them onto the front page of an Artist’s Release page. This database is about more than just the stars.

The GUI at MB will change over the years. Already a database person can poke and check questions like “Where did person X play trombone?”. With the current MB GUI a user can look on the Relationships page and see the recordings where that person played.

I have no idea who Paul Whitehead is, but if you embrace relationships you can fill in his actual performance dates and details on recordings. This lets the real details shine - and also lets me find who it was playing trombone in the background.

In fact, this is one of my favourite parts of this database. I often chase a Engineer between recordings and get fascinated at what I find they have worked on. That Engineer would never appear in an Artist Credit, but relationships let their work shine.


Here is a chart with Whiteman and his dbas (doing business as)[search][Operator][1]=And&MasterTalent[search][Desc][1]=Paul+Whiteman&MasterTalent[search][Title][1]=&MasterTalent[search][Operator][2]=And&MasterTalent[search][Desc][2]=&MasterTalent[search][Title][2]=&MasterTalent[search][Operator][3]=And&MasterTalent[search][Desc][3]=&MasterTalent[search][Title][3]=&yt0=Search

Note most of the 74 (37 records) under PW and his Concert Orchestra are from the late 1930s, well past his prime, and are not in our database.

I do not intend to write the Paul Whiteman story for a hostile audience who believe he is a clasical artist because he recorded barely an album’s worth of songs out of 1,000 in his career. I just try to do what I would want as a music research person. I am more than happy to move on, rather than go through another round of favoritism accusations, as with Bing Crosby. I prefer the Beatles, Stones, Who, Clapton, Beach Boys and Bruce Springsteen.

Thanks to tillywilly, most of Whiteman’s recordings have dates and relationships. I like you, and your comments are good, just not usually applicable to me, but I appreciate that you care, and hopefully people reading them will benefit from your generally excellent advice. Thanks for the compliments about my work on Whiteman’s recordings, you described it well despite having no idea! Have a great day!

My Whiteman source is the people at DAHR, fellow classmates at UCSB, Santa Barbara (I transfered back to UCLA to finish my schooling). Their information comes from Victor Records paperwork, stored at the Sony Archives in New York. They got permission to digitize Victor’s records, which they have done an excellent job with. Thanks to them, I was able to assemble a respectable top 20 for each year, 1920-1949, popular and country, for Wikipedia, despite no charts existing until 1940. 1931 was the best year, thanks to sales numbers they pulled off the Victor “blue card” (still working on explaining all details).

I am very familiar as a result of years of research, the impact of which is unknown to me, but obviously not always welcome. I will refrain from further interference on your re-organization efforts.

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@tillywilly - no one is doubting your knowledge. All we are asking is to fit it into the database in the correct place. Work with the other editors. Don’t try and force artist names into track and recording titles where they do not belong. The recording relationships are the best places for your depth of detailed knowledge.

And do please leave plenty of references. Someone else reading this database in 5/10 years time will want to cross reference your data.


This is sort of a side issue, but I think the phrase “classical artist” betrays a misunderstanding. In MusicBrainz, Releases can be described according to the regular style guide or the classical style guide. This includes the Release Artist and Track Artist part of the Release description. So I guess you can say there are “classical Releases” and “non-classical Releases”.

But I know of no such distinction for Artists. An Artist is treated identically regardless of the genre of music they participate in. If famous “classical” pianist Lang Lang releases a rock-and-roll album that is plastered with his name and barely mentions the songwriters, I would expect editors to apply the standard style guide to the Release entry. If famous “pop” singer Taylor Swift were to release an album of art song that is plastered with composer names like Wolf, Schumann, and Brahms in bigger letters than her own, I would expect editors to apply the classical style guide.

This thread originated from a discussion of edits to one Paul Whiteman-related Release that was described according to the Classical Style Guide. The discussion said, keep edits to this Release consistent with the Classical Style Guide. That does not amount to a claim that Paul Whiteman is a “classical artist”. The style guide that applies to his other Releases is a matter of how each release’s printed labels and cover markings describe that release.

Aside to the aside: I wish we could switch to the term “Western European art music” instead of “classical music”.


I don’t think we will ever argue about this, because I agree with you, and so does Whiteman. Just trying to keep things in perspective. Paul Whiteman was the PT Barnum of music, he knew how to recruit and organize the best musicians of his time, he employed Ferde Grofe for many years to orchestrate, many songwriters associated with him to get their music to the public. He worked with Gershwin, but also Hoagy Carmichael and Paul Robeson, for example. The height of his success passed with the advent of radio.

I still hope we can agree to list his occasional monickers as “Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra” as “Paul Whiteman’s Swinging Strings” or “Paul Whiteman’s Sax Octette”. Making sovereign entities for these breakaway republics is confusing, not necessary, and inconsistent with how we currently list his music. Before this, nobody really cared, and left it to me to do the grunt work for this artist of little interest. I don’t think I did a bad job or broke any rules, and hope I am given appropriate consideration in this decision. I made my decisions based on researching the best sources, and getting it right. I work with DAHR, secondhandsongs, discogs, allmusic, PYM, wikipedia, which all have their own methods. I respect musicbrainz for what makes it special, and work with you’all to be on the same page. These discussions have caused me to modify and augment my methods; I redo my edits from years ago all the time, because I have learned so much since then.


With respect, Edit #95430484 - MusicBrainz did in fact break rules: adding “with Paul Whiteman and His Concert Orchestra” to Track Artist “Ferde Grofé” broke the Classical Style Guide articles for Track Artist, which governed that Release entry at the time. That is why the edit attracted attention and “No” votes.

I think you are making the word “we” do a lot of work there. Much of the debates I see boil down to you saying, “I want to list this music this way”, and other people saying, “the Style Guides say to list this music another way”. The purpose of the Style Guides is to summarise the consensus for “how ‘we’ list music” in MusicBrainz.

As far as I can see, one of the hearts of the editorial debate is whether making [separate Artist-group entries] for these [short-lived group names] is in fact “confusing, not necessary, and inconsistent”. Other editors seem to have a difference of opinion with you. I don’t see you engaging that debate head-on. I see you deflect it with “Before this, nobody really cared, and left it to me to do the grunt work” or “I [am] researching the best sources” or “well I guess you guys don’t need me anymore”.

The purpose of this thread is to be a place where you and the other editors can come to a consensus about how best to represent the facts of Paul Whiteman’s work, using the database structure and the Style Guidelines of the MusicBrainz project. So: make your case. Tell us about the “breakaway republic” groups. Quote the passages in the Style Guide which validate your opinion that they should be merged into the “Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra” Artist entry. Or, make the case why the Style Guide is wrong, as proved by the facts of Paul Whiteman. Have at it.

All this is with greatest respect for Paul Whiteman’s importance as a musician, the value which describing his work brings to this project, and your value as a source of knowledge and will power to contribute.


Your response had a point, but citing in judgements based on isolated cases is not an indicator of my competence. My apologies for making my competence part of this argument, I have expressed my frustration, and won’t bring it up again.
Paul Whiteman the musician rarely played an instrument on his recordings

I am scratching my head right now. I have presented plenty of evidence, none of which has impressed you. DAHR, the official archivist of Victor records, has compiled this data[search][Operator][1]=And&MasterTalent[search][Desc][1]=Paul+Whiteman&MasterTalent[search][Title][1]=&MasterTalent[search][Operator][2]=And&MasterTalent[search][Desc][2]=&MasterTalent[search][Title][2]=&MasterTalent[search][Operator][3]=And&MasterTalent[search][Desc][3]=&MasterTalent[search][Title][3]=&yt0=Search

see column “Occurrences” that is the number of times it appears in the database. You can click on the entity links for a list of titles. I will be glad to answer any questions you have.

that’s the best piece of factual evidence available. All other websites are user-sourced and fragmentary in scope. DAHR is by far the most complete and accurate source. If you think that is just my opinion, that’s too bad for you and musicbrainz.

When I write for wikipedia, they won’t allow me to cite info from discogs, secondhandsongs, allmusic, etc. But DAHR is accepted. Why don’t you google some third-party sources and educate yourself. We are not on the same page on sources, and I cannot shove this information down your throat. My words obviously do not convince you, despite all your complements.

I have reached conclusions by compiling a spreadsheet that includes information from DAHR and the other websites. Discogs, 45worlds, RYM and secondhandsongs are valuable to me because they have many label scans, which I consider good evidence. There are certain things I don’t trust DAHR on, such as the exact track titles and phrasing of artist names. I have compiled information over many years. I have added many “works” to our database, and linked them to recordings (grunt work!). Editors I have worked with like tigerman know, we share and evaluate all our sources, and he has taught me what is important here (the rules). Thanks for getting me up to speed on classical, I have not had much practice on that, so I cancelled all my edits. I do know Ferde Grofe (I entered “Mississippi Suite”), and Gershwin’s piano rolls. Many of Gershwin’s compositions are still missing from our database, they are on my to-do list. I assume we all know his main area of music was Tin Pan Alley-Musicals (for Broadway and later for RKO Fred Astaire movies, and these are what I refer to).