Questions related to Free Music Archive and potentially merging with other release

This is in regards to these releases:

This is both a first for me to see a Free Music Archive release(first link) and a Jamendo release(second link), so I was not sure how I should proceed. Also, I am ignoring the fact that the Jamendo release got to its final state through the wrong methods.

Anyway, looking at the metadata of the file from FMA, they seem to have come from Jamendo but I am not sure if FMA releases are special(since they are an archive) and should remain as they are, regardless of the source, or if these 2 releases should be merged. I was unsuccessful in finding an answer to this.

Hmm. Let’s try an analogy.

Suppose Famous Example Music Label got their hands on the studio masters from Diablo Swing Orchestra, manufactured a million CDs, and released the album. They sell many copies. Then after a while, sales died down. Famous Example Music Label sold the remaining 900,000 CDs to Music of the Month Club for very cheap. Music of the Month Club put Club stickers on the CDs, and sent them to 200,000 Club subscribers.

Would the Famous Label CD belong as a Release in MusicBrainz? Yes. Would the Music of the Month Club CD also belong as a Release in MusicBrainz. Also yes. Should they be merged into one Release? To me, it seems like the answer is No.

Should the two Releases be merged into a single Release Group? Again, to me, it seems like the answer is No, but I am not sure what existing MusicBrainz practice is.

Is this analogy a fair comparison to the real case you have?

I think that my analogy’s kind of re-release does happen, but not often. Maybe it is more common that Famous Label holds on to (or throws away) its physical CDs, and Music of the Month Club buys rights to the masters and manufactures its own CDs. That is slightly more different from the real case you have.

In your real case, were both the Jamendo nor the Free Music Archive releases digital? Neither made physical media for their releases? Then it was fairly cheap for FMA to make this re-release. My analogy is less common in part because it costs money to manufacture physical media.

I believe that some MusicBrainz guidelines are based in part on assumptions about economic constraints from the mass-production of physical media for a limited number of releases. Digital media give us different economic constraints, and the possibility of short-run production of digital media for an unlimited number of releases. That sometimes strains our guidelines.


Physical releases are a fair bit different as they all have hard-defined licensing that can be transferred to someone else for however much money, so it’s a lot more straightforward and I would say that yes they would be in one group as that is the purpose of a group.

Normal digital release platforms are also much more straightforward since licensing or at least the band is involved in some way but I have never even heard of these 2 until today. Are you saying they are both equivalent to garbage and/or bootlegs or that digital should be a free-for-all and anything can be added? (i.e. pure chaos)

Depending on how these sites work would change how I would feel about it. If the band provided Jamendo with the release for example, which could be the case as there is a paid tier, I would treat that as an official release. In contrast, the free music archive is just an archive which feels more like linking to someone’s Google Drive or something of some other release.

I do not know what MusicBrainz’s stance on it is, which is what I would like to know.

Alternatively, we could just go with the general rule of one release per barcode and so in this case just throw all barcode-less links under one release.

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A rule of “one release per barcode” really seems to disregard the validity of digital releases, which of course have no barcode. We now live in a world where releases are digital, and are not limited by the economics of mass-production of physical artifacts. I think it would be a shame for a music metadata database like MusicBrainz to ignore this reality.

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I think it’s a grey area - barcode is not the only differentiating (or interesting) piece of information that we store between releases, so I wouldn’t focus on barcodes too much.

But in terms of storing ‘interesting information’ I don’t see much value in having these releases separate, at a glance. You can store the slightly different release date info in the URL relationship. And platform as label is wrong anyway afaik.

I would probably merge as well, unless there’s different artwork in the download, something like that.

No different artwork. Sounds like we are on the same page with this one.

Either you are out of the loop or have been misinformed. Most licenced/official digital releases do have barcodes(also called UPC, EAN or GTIN) and they are usually different from their physical counterparts, especially in newer releases. Just not literal barcodes.

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Fair enough. Two points, though.

  1. MusicBrainz will need to clarify its wording about the data field called “barcode”. It is important that it be clear that identifier codes like UPC, EAN, and GTIN codes also belong in this field. It should not give the impression that it is only for printed “barcodes”.

  2. But surely only commercial releases, with money at stake, have reason to use commerce tracking codes like UPC? This question arose from a Free Music Archive release and a Creative Commons release. Do those releases have UPC codes? Should our policies respect only releases which are sold for money?

Having “Free Music Archive” as a label seems weird to be, for what it’s worth.

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10 years ago:

We already have Jamendo :person_shrugging:

No, which is why two releases not having a barcode is not a good enough reason to merge, on its own.

Yeah, but Jamendo seems to have been a community decision at the time with a specific agreed way how to enter it and whatnot, including consistent catalog numbers (that said, I wouldn’t be against changing that if the community wanted to). Free Music Archive doesn’t seem to have those grandfathered-in benefits.

My statement was just me being hyperbolic as nobody was replying. Other factors come into play as well, UPCs are just the easiest starting point identifier.

In the physical release world though this is basically how it works, so why shouldn’t digital be similar? “Official” releases are pretty much all commercial sold and have barcodes. Freely given-away releases that don’t have barcodes, like these Creative Commons releases, would have fallen under “Promo” if they were physical. Some guy somewhere who wants to “archive” some CD collection he has by completely duplicating an existing release would generally be considered “Bootleg” in the physical world.

An archive can only be two things 1) The original entity in question which was moved from its original location or 2) A duplication of an entity as a backup source of information.

Seeing as the original exists, I’d say this is a number 2 situation, which is why I would say they should be merged.

As I said in an earlier statement though, what matters most, in my opinion, is if the release had the band, label, or copyright holder involved or approved in some way. Even Creative Commons is commercial as it has a governing body involved with the licensing system and so they qualify as legal releases.

I agree which is why common sense then comes into play and you have to compare them in other ways like I did here. The FMA “release” seems to be an archived version of the Jamendo one judging by the metadata being all Jamendo info.

I am not saying all barcode-less releases should actually be merged into one. I know places like Bandcamp are distinct yet often don’t have barcodes. In this example, we could possibly merge all Creative Commons ones together as they are likely from the same source. I don’t think there are any other Creative Commons releases for this album aside from these anyway.

Great, I’m glad that this community is able to respond so quickly to issues like this. (/sarcasm)

Well, personally for example I’d disagree with that change, because I feel a lot more people know what a barcode is than an EAN or UPC. But maybe I’m wrong :slight_smile:


I could see it going either way. You could have it say “Barcode / UPC / EAN / GTIN” instead but that might be too visually cluttered and the aside note tells you if what you entered was a UPC, EAN or GTIN for extra clarification making the label change feel unnecessary.

It might eventually happen that people no longer know what a literal barcode is, like how many of the current generation of people don’t know what a fax machine or a flat-bed scanner is. Barcode could also just become one of those words that means something everyone knows even if the original form it was used to describe no longer exists.