Should we follow the guidelines if we don't agree with them?

In edit #56314627 the editor argues that they don’t need to follow the guidelines because to them they are not common sense.
I on the other hand think that guidelines exist to be followed. Especially guidelines like the one on series numbering which is one of the seemingly rare cases where the text is unambiguous (almost).


I’ve seen this argument about “what is displayed on the cover art” vs “what guidelines tell us to do” many times before. Well, the guidelines even tell us to fix grammatical errors if needed, how to capitalize certain words, etc. Another example is some digital media releases having multiple artists in the artist field and vocalists in the title field, e.g. “artist1 & artist 2 - track (feat. vocalist)” so one could argue that the guideline doesn’t need to be followed in this case because of the artist (label) intent. So where do you draw the line as to which guidelines have to be followed and which don’t? I personally think that guidelines need to be followed so the database will be more consistent.

Also, there is that should resolve “the clash” between the cover art vs guidelines.


Cool, I didn’t know such a ticket already exists. I actually had a similar idea, only apart from:

  • “exactly as on cover”
  • official translation, for releases that have titles in mulitple languages
  • unofficial translations, for which we currently use pseudo-releases

we’d also need:

  • as on cover, only obvious mistakes fixed
  • as per artist intent (e.g. if the cover sais “feat. Mf Doom” it should say “feat. MF DOOM”)
  • as per style guidelines where a clear choice was not made on the cover (e.g. if cover says “Hey Part 1” it should say “Hey, Part 1”, but if cover says “Hey (Part 1)” it should stay like that).
  • completely standardized (fix even proven artist intent to follow standard guidelines).

I think MBS-4501 (alternative tracklists) is just meant to be used for translations, it’ll replace pseudo-releases.

But the issue description literally states that “Tension between normalized data and what the cover says is a recurring source of conflict.” and then lists “exactly as on cover” as one of the options which is exactly what the discussion in this topic is about.


@reosarevok: Could you please weigh in on the edit linked in the top post? @Hape40 claims he knows what your position is on this, but it would be interesting to hear directly from you.

I already asked him yesterday to do so. He seems to be on vacation. Meanwhile you can read his opinion in the chat between him and me which is linked in our discussion thread. Or you prefer to further follow your own interpretation of gods ten style guidelines and impose them on pour Israelites like me … Ah, this uncertainty, when God remains silent … Nothing left but to interpret his holy book … And sinners who break all the pretty rules … Sodom and Gomorrah!

I guess everyone is pretty much busy in MusicBrainz summit 2018. :smiling_face:



Yes, I was busy at the summit, sorry!

My position on this is that it is ok for people adding new data to not completely follow all the guidelines, as long as the data is usable and makes sense. As such, I did tell @Hape40 to not worry too much about following guidelines to the letter while adding new releases we’re missing, and to just follow the cover if desired.

That said, that point applies to adding new data. If the data we have already follows our guidelines, there’s generally no good reason to change it, and I agree that it generally makes sense to keep the title as-is in this situation.

I see the point about having all releases in the series follow the same standard, but then the standard should be the one the guideline calls for :slight_smile:


For all those who don’t understand exactly what you want to explain:
Do you vote “Yes” or “No” for the mentioned edit #56314627 ?

At this specific point in time, I would probably abstain because I think the consistency in the series titles might be worth as much as the consistency with the guideline. BUT, as I said above, I think the real solution to that is to change all entries in the series to follow the guideline. I just don’t have the time to do it at the moment. So if someone enters edits for the rest of the volumes to follow the guideline I’d certainly vote No here :slight_smile:


Here you go:

I made them all open edits since not everybody who voted yes on edit #56314627 did so purely for consistency.


It is with some trepidation that I step into this morass. I’m a tagger first and an editor second. The software I use to tag my library seeks matching release data at both MB and Discogs. This raises the first problem - their guidelines are different. e.g. MB uses Various Artists, the Discogs equivalent is Various.

I like my library data to be consistent. I want all my relevant releases to show Volume n (where n is a number) - I do not want vol., Vol., Volume Two, or any of the many other possible variants. Whatever decision is made at MB about how Volumes should be handled there will always be exceptions in the data, either of legacy entries that haven’t been ‘corrected’, or new entries that didn’t follow the guidelines (plus the occasional dissenter).

The solution in my case is to use regex (regular expressions) to massage all the ‘Volume’ variants to my preferred style. Similarly with Various Artists/Various - they are all converted to Various (a choice I had made long before I’d ever heard of Discogs).

From a tagger’s perspective the only sane approach is to accept that the database will always be inconsistent and work around it.

As to the question of ‘Guidelines’ versus ‘As per Release’ the argument would be more relevant if the release was always ‘correct’. Sadly the quality control of many releases is lacking and to my mind ‘Artist Intent’ is a myth - it’s really ‘copywriter’s intent’.

I think you all miss the point. To be clear: I just speak about classical music because I don’t hear/own any other music. But I think my arguments should also be applicable to any other genre.

Without any paperwork there is no chance at all to identify music on CDs, Vinyls or untagged files. The paperwork sold together with the physical media is the only source of TRUTH about the music on this specific medium. To help people to identify their CDs and/or already ripped files, it is crucial that some neutral agent transfers the truth from his paperwork into a database where it is linked to unmistakeable fingerprints of the music data itself, in the best case together with scans of the related paperwork - voilà, meet MusicBrainz! BUT: I wrote “some neutral agent”, not “some ideologues, who establish and change random style guidelines every second week”! The ONLY way to avoid discussions and rectification for ALL FUTURE, is to have an exact copy of the covers/booklets and also a scan to proof it. What is printed black on white by the original producer of the physical medium cannot be discussed or changed or be a subject of future changes in opinion, interpretation and/or insight/procedures. As Pilatus said: Quod scripsi, scripsi. Once a neutral agent has meticulously copied the paperwork into the database it can’t be changed or discussed or doubted, because the scans are saved together with it and everyone who has eyes, can see for himself if and that the entries match with the original printed paperwork. Correct is correct and a spelling mistake is a mistake - as simple as that, and in hundred years as sure as today. End of discussion - better: no room for discussion at all.

Now a word to your beloved consistency: One should not strive to achieve consistency where there never was any in the first place. There is no authority nowhere who declares this spelling to be correct and that one not to be correct. To soar yourself to become such an authority - because: your database, your rules! - does not solve any problem but creates new ones: people like me who doubt the rules or other people who are simply to sloppy or don’t understand them at all. (BTW: Every change of rules requires hundreds of thousands of adaptations in entries made under the former guidelines. No rules means no adaptations, still no consistency (which is a chimera anyways), but no headache, no discussions and no disappointed users/contributors as well. Make your choice!)

My solution to all this: Let contributors fill the database and ask them as the only simple rule to copy the paperwork as exactly as possible. Ask them as rule number 2 to provide high quality scans of the complete paperwork whenever possible. Let other contributors correct mistakes and inconsistencies between paperwork and database entries if they wish so. Trust their good intentions and their rationality and do not impose any rules on them except to try to be a trustworthy copyist. ---- And then, in the background make all the necessary relational work yourself inside the works-part of the database! Clean up, create consistency, follow your own rules as much as you wish, but under the hood, unnoticed by regular users or contributors who just enjoy the magic of a working database. This was the agreement, rosarevok and I had in the past few months. The sad thing is, that I can see on many many points that MusicBrainz is already structured in this way. For example: Try to enter the cellist Natalia Gutman into an artist field. What happens? Some Cyrilic gibberish appears with “Natalia Gutman” in latin letters in brackets. Her real Russian Name is linked to the latin transcription. Bravo! - Or: After entering all the data of a new release you could (and should) enter relations to the virtual, ideal catalogue of works (which is unfortunately still a mess by itself). Here, into the catalogue of works you all should put all your efforts and impose your rules! Create a consistent catalogue to which all faulty, sloppy Babylonian confusion of tongues relates to - here should be the place where it all comes together and gets its consistency. But let the releases and release groups to the contributors. That’s just the surface of the ocean, let them correct each other under the one rule to be truthful to the paperwork. Amen.


Stop your condescending. You know very well that this is not about consistency or not, but perspective, as explained several times. I voted on this edit purely for consistency of usability, and on that edit alone because the potentially guideline altering discussion was held there: so as not to litter with beans elsewhere.

The physical release in my hand cannot alter itself to follow an immaterial guideline open to change by majority vote, and the majority of users go to MB to search for stuff found outside of MB. You comment at the edit “Luckily, we also have the original cover art (in many cases, ideally in all of them of course :slight_smile: ) which enables us to see exactly how it is printed if we care.” but the cover art is not searchable by its depicted text.

I have no time for this. I have spent hours on hours re-checking guidelines already checked because they are not intuitive. I will follow ~my own~ compromise and expect the Borg to assimilate my additions according to whatever whim of the day. No big change for MB, but huge time savings for me. Data dressed as it may, I only use MB for its related ID:s. I understand no better and, by the way, identify as common sensible.


As I said somewhere earlier, that’s perfectly acceptable. I’ve seen your edits adding data, they’re good (so are @Hape40’s!) and I’m grateful to both of you for it :slight_smile: Cleaning the small guideline details is something I’ve been happy to do afterwards. My main issue with this case (and I think the same applies to most others who have an issue here) is that it’s different from the “I’m adding my release” one, in that it changes already existing data that follows the guidelines to not follow them anymore.


As said, no big change for MB. Bigger for outsiders.

And now I tell you a joke: The series I entered is another release than the first volume which already existed in the database. I should and could have added the Volume 1 of my series together and consistent with the rest of my series - and no one would have cared about it (because: new entries = my choice of spelling!) But I was lazy and thought it wouldn’t matter if one volume stems from another release (it is identical but for the barcode and the order number) … How wrong I was!

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I just found out the code we have for the alternative tracklists already has an option to have an alternative “just as on the cover” tracklist (which could then be used by Picard and other taggers).

Sadly, we’re now dealing with React migration issues that will keep us busy for a few months. But expect this in 2019, hopefully Q2 but no promises about exactly when.


I think this discussion became needlessly heated. My take on this:

  1. In general, we should follow the guidelines even if we disagree with them
  2. Not always will the guidelines be applicable, we should use common sense to find consensus in those cases

The second part is important: Reality is too messy to have every case covered in detail by some guidelines. So from time to time we will have to come up with specific solutions or even deviate from the guidelines. But if this happens it should be discussed.

For the case represented here I actually disagree with the initial assumption that changing the title to “Sämtliche Orgelwerke Vol. 1” matches the spelling on the cover. The cover actually shows different distinct information, clearly separated by the layout in different boxes. There is no strong indication on the cover that the title is “Sämtliche Orgelwerke Vol. 1”, rather the cover indicates that this is a series with the name “Sämtliche Orgelwerke”, and this specific one is “Vol. 1”. It totally makes sense to me to apply our styleguide here to format these two informations into a coherent title.