Proposal: Location Guidelines


MusicBrainz already has a defined list of countries used for release events and labels. However, there are several other official guidelines where place information needs to be included in release titles or disambiguation comments:

  • Untitled live bootlegs use its date and location information, in the form “YYYY-MM-DD: Venue, City, State/Province, Country”.
  • Broadcast programs use “YYYY-MM-DD: Program Name[ #1234][, “Program Title”][: Location]” with Location as “[Venue, ]City, [State, ]Country”.
  • Disambiguation comments for live recordings use: “live, YYYY-MM-DD: Venue, City, State/Province, Country”
  • Disambiguation comments for broadcasts use: “broadcast, YYYY-MM-DD: Studio/location [, Additional Info]”

Style/Specific types of releases/Live bootlegs includes some notes on formatting:

  • Country names should match their names in the database, except for UK and USA, which should be abbreviated.
  • States in the USA and Canada should always be listed (in their abbreviated form). States and provinces elsewhere are optional, and should only be added when they’re necessary to further distinguish cities with identical names.

Although Recording Disambiguation and Broadcast programs do not mention this, I expect the same rules apply because the linked examples follow this.

Related Work

RYM provides a complete list of administrative divisions which are an amalgamation of countries and territories. Each of these have a dedicated page for subdivisions, for example the United States.

Proposed Guidelines

When describing a Location, the Country should be one of the names in the database, such as Germany. There are some notable exceptions:

  1. When a country is made up of multiple entries, such as “Netherlands, Kingdom of the Netherlands” or “Puerto Rico, United States” only the first part should be used. So “Netherlands” and “Puerto Rico” respectively.
  2. Some countries have specific start and/or end dates. These countries should only be used when the dates surrounding the release or recording are appropriate.
  3. United States should be written as “USA”. Each of the states should be written in abbreviated form defined in ISO 3166-2:US, such as CA for California.
  4. United Kingdom should be written as “UK”.
  5. States in Canada should use their abbreviated form defined in ISO 3166-2:CA, such as QC for Québec.
  6. Kingdom of the Netherlands and Somaliland should never be used.

Release Examples

  1. 2002-05-02: Ahoy, Rotterdam, Netherlands
  2. 2008-12-07: Rose Garden, Portland, OR, USA
  3. 2008-12-17, early show: Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
  4. 2012-06-30: Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!: State Theatre, Cleveland, OH, USA
  5. 2012-06-30: A Prairie Home Companion #1348: Koussevitzky Music Shed, Lenox, MA, USA

Puerto Rico isn’t a country though, it’s a territory of the U.S. Whereas, technically Scotland is a country inside the UK. Also, Puerto Rico & Faroe Islands are release countries that are in the database, whereas England & Scotland are not. But more complicated is that PR & FO have country codes issued by ISO (ISO 3166-1 - Wikipedia), whereas England & Scotland do not. So, it recognizes territories that are part of countries & doesn’t recognize countries within the UK (England, Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland), but does their territories, i.e Isle of Man, Jersey & Guernsey, etc.). Digital distributors according to Jaxsta also seem to mostly only use ISO countries (regions) as well.


I’m not sure about that. For a counterexample, the CIA World Factbook lists the country without the article: as does Wikipedia: Netherlands - Wikipedia

Some commenters say that it is analogous to “the” United States. The official short name of the country is “United States”, but ask an American where they are from and they will say they are from “the United States” (lowercase the).

And this doesn’t even begin to get into the complexities of the “Kingdom of the Netherlands” and its constituent countries and territories.


If we are doing Silly Formal Names :joy: “United Kingdom” isn’t “United Kingdom”. It is " United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" (Or maybe that is The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland :laughing:)

So can we just stick to UK? We don’t need all the formal titles… it’s a database for music.


Right. But none of this is really clarified and put into one place.

I think it would be helpful to list every country or territory that should have a specific name and leave all the rest to the list of countries.

Here is my first rough attempt to get the ball rolling:

It should be noted that while I did lookup some Wikipedia pages on each, they are all just crude guesses. Feel free to comment directly on the doc, or reply here.

I would also like to add MusicBrainz release examples for as many as possible. So, if you know, please share.

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Do you mean Country guidelines for disambiguation comments?

Do you mean that what we should use is the text from the English Written Name column?

MusicBrainz Country English Written Name
Christmas Island, Australia Christmas Island
Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Australia Cocos (Keeling) Islands
Heard Island and McDonald Islands, Australia Heard Island and McDonald Islands
Norfolk Island, Australia Norfolk Island
Greenland, Denmark Greenland
Faroe Islands, Denmark Faroe Islands
Åland Islands, Finland Åland
French Guiana, France French Guiana
French Polynesia, France French Polynesia
Guadeloupe, France Guadeloupe
Martinique, France Martinique

Why removing the country name in these cases?
Maybe you are right, I just don’t know.

Actually, for both. I didn’t do a good job at expressing what is confusing here, so let’s look at a specific example. The guidelines state:

Country names should match their names in the database , except for UK and USA, which should be abbreviated.

But the list of countries are not all geographical countries. They contain territories that are tagged as countries. So this guideline should be interpreted as: “Use any of the countries or territories listed as the Country part”. Here’s a fake live release demonstrate:

2021-03-17: Coca-Cola Music Hall, San Juan, Puerto Rico

“Puerto Rico, United States” is listed as a country in MusicBrainz. However, many people may see this and reasonably think: Puerto Rico is not a country, I will change this to:

2021-03-17: Coca-Cola Music Hall, San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA

Then a third person comes along and thinks: This is wrong, the guidelines say that when using USA the state/province (which would have to be the territory in this case) must be listed in it’s abbreviated form, so:

2021-03-17: Coca-Cola Music Hall, San Juan, PR, USA

So which one is correct? Whatever the answer, I think it should be documented to avoid this confusion.

RYM handles this by listing every possible administrative division. We can dive through:

So they consider Puerto Rico to be a “country”.


I took the guidelines to mean the release countries, not the area ones for “manufactured in”, etc. Puerto Rico is a release country on the pull down menu. So, it wouldn’t be “PR, USA”, just Puerto Rico.

Thanks for all the feedback. I’ve replaced my initial post with (what I think) is more succinct in it’s definition and goal. Thoughts?

I think proposed guidelines are rather good, and just clarify things.

BTW, I think we should also clarify things about dates in such disambiguation (what about “recorded in November, 2020”, or between 2020-11-02 and 2020-11-04).


I like the idea of codifying this. I’ve always used ‘United States’ but am happy to change to USA.


I’ve worked on far too many live bootlegs :smile: I’ve seen dashes, squiggles and slashes. Slashes seem to appear when separating different days that may not be one after each other.

That whole album is a bit complex as many tracks are made up from sections from different dates:

It gets quite messy when the track is spliced from different locations:

Something “recorded in November 2020” is just (live, 2020-11: Wembley Arena, London, UK).

A summer tour gets messy and not sure how to handle that - (live, 2020-summer: Europe) and have seen (live, 1990-1992: Europe)

I’ve seen (live, 2020-10-12 to 2020-10-14: Location) used to handle a gig that covers a weekend. Also have seen a few people use (live, 2020-10-12 ~ 2020-10-14: Location) which could work.

The key is a bit of clarity. Also the date is easy to pick out as it is between the comma and colon which helps anyone processing these with scripts.

This style is not just live gigs, also handles demos and other variations

(demo, 1988-01-09: John’s Basement, Bognor, UK)

There is a guideline for bootleg dates somewhere. OR just wade around in some old rock bands and you’ll spot many examples. See bands like Pink Floyd, Pixies, Peter Gabriel for many examples…

Peter Gabriel is a good example of why ISO standard dates are a good idea as he has albums called 07.05.03 and 08/07/07 sitting side by side which confusingly swap from US to Europe methods of dating. :laughing:


I have also run into some issues with dates. Most recently I was cleaning up a 72-hour broadcast, and since it spans 3 days I did ask how this date should be represented.

However, I think we should separate these into a Date Guideline and Location Guideline. Even though they are often used together, they are not dependent on each other. The we could express “Date: Location” etc in guidelines with links to each.

On the topic of dates though, I don’t really have any strong opinions about how we should handle non-specific dates (like whole months), multiple/ranges of dates, etc. I’m happy to open a separate thread for that soon with some ideas.


Should we ever use ‘US’ instead of ‘USA’?

The main time I will be using this guideline is for disambiguations, and ‘USA metal’ seems clumsy.

In artist comment you are supposed to use inhabitant name (American singer), not country name (America singer). :wink:

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I always write e.g. “US singer” since it’s shorter and since using “American” as shorthand for “related to the United States of America” rankles me. I agree that “USA singer”, “France singer”, etc. are weird and an adjectival form of the country/region’s name should be used instead.

(But I’d advise against using vague disambiguations like “[demonym] singer”. There are a lot of musicians out there and names get recycled – I’ve lost track of how many “US rapper” artist entities I’ve had to clean up. Safer to also include some combination of genre, real name, approximate active decades, frequent collaborators, etc. if you know it.)


I don’t have any strong opinion either way. I think USA might be a little more commonly written, but that’s just anecdotal from what I’ve seen.

However, what does everyone think about removing the abbreviated form for states? I don’t really see any special reason why US and Canada need to have an abbreviation… music exists in the rest of the world and titles have to allow for some pretty long place names. I certainly didn’t know that SK, Canada was Saskatchewan without looking it up and that feels kind of unnecessarily arbitrary when trying to enter data with extra lookups. That would propose we have:

  1. 2002-05-02: Ahoy, Rotterdam, Netherlands
  2. 2008-12-07: Rose Garden, Portland, Oregon, USA
  3. 2008-12-17, early show: Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
  4. 2012-06-30: Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!: State Theatre, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
  5. 2012-06-30: A Prairie Home Companion #1348: Koussevitzky Music Shed, Lenox, Massachusetts, USA

Keeping states in USA as initials is a good idea as it is just plain tidier and easier to read. Even as a dumb Brit I know I can look it up and find out TX is Texas. The current guideline is good and consistently used in the database already.

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I would also prefer to keep US states (and Canadian provinces) as their two letter abbreviations, but as an American I’m not sure I get a vote in that debate.

But follow-up question: aside from the USA and Canada, do any other countries have strong second level political divisions such as this? Most countries have states or provinces or territories or regions or something; but it seems rare that it needs indicating. Perhaps it is because the US has so many duplicated placenames? You couldn’t write Springfield, USA without some disamb; but it doesn’t seem necessary to write Rotterdam, South Holland, Netherlands.