Theatre cast credit in Join phrase?

A question came up on this edit. Track 2 is credited to “John Travolta, Olivia Newton‐John & cast,” but the “& cast” was entered in the “Join phrase” field with no following artist credit:

That seemed a weird way to do it to me, and not in line with the official style guidelines for Theatre, so I assumed it was a mistake, and changed it to (what I feel) is the more correct way:

It was pointed out to me by @chabreyflint that this odd use of the Join phrase is actually suggested in the annotation on the [theatre] SPA, and so it is, along with an admonition to use this SPA “sparingly.” The annotation was added several years after the guideline was established in its current form, if I read the histories correctly.

My concern is this: If the suggested use of the Join phrase in that annotation is an acceptable use, we now have two methods of achieving the same result. It seems to me that this is an undesirable situation, as it diminishes the consistency of the database.

I think that suggestion should be removed from the annotation, as I see no reason for it. It’s not very intuitive, and I see potential issues arising from its use (can you search for the text in a Join phrase? If part of the artist credit is there, isn’t that important?). If there is a legitimate reason to use the Join phrase in this manner in certain situations, I think it should be spelled out in the Guidelines rather than an annotation.

If the [theatre] SPA is used as specified, I don’t understand the admonition to use it “sparingly.”

Looking for discussion.

1 Like

All SPAs are kind of a hack, to be used as a last resort, when nothing better can be found. The guidelines Style / Unknown and untitled / Special purpose artist - MusicBrainz, in different wordings, ask to not use them if they can be avoided. As such the annotation on [theatre], asking to use this SPA “sparingly”, is just a precision of the generic guideline, showing a (quite elegant, IMO) way of avoiding it while still crediting a given Recording “as on cover”.

As for the search: who would want to search for [cast] in such a context? And would it really make a difference? Artist Credits do not give an exhaustive description of the involved artists: for this we use relationships.

Using the join phrase to credit tracks “as on cover” is not unusual in MB:
– “Vocalist” with orchestra (relationship will credit [unknown] as orchestra, or, if known, the conductor of the [unknown] orchestra). Several examples here:
Or the [unknown] performers/orchestras may be included in the artist credit
– “Henri Salvador et son trio rythmique” (relationship will give vocal and instrument credits, if possible). Examples: Release “Intégrale, Vol. 1 : Maladie d’amour 1942‐1948” by Henri Salvador - MusicBrainz

1 Like

Just as there are reasons someone might search for recordings involving a particular person, there likely are reasons someone might search for recordings involving a musical cast. Knowing that the [theatre] SPA is designed for this purpose, I can search for [theatre] and find those recordings, including those who are “[theatre] credited as ‘cast,’ ‘company,’ ‘ensemble,’” etc. Such a search would miss those where “& cast” is in the Join phrase. I know of no way to search for those.

I don’t believe using the Join phrase in this way is better than resorting to the SPA, for the reason above, and because I don’t think it’s a good idea to have two methods. Just because it has been commonly used doesn’t mean it’s the best method.


I can’t think of a sensible search other than for statistic reasons, and I can’t find in the current search functions an easy query which gives you useful results. Maybe I’m missing something, but searching Recordings for theatre, [theatre] or “[theatre]” gives the identical number of results. With advanced query syntax you may be able to filter them somehow, but again: to what avail?

1 Like

I agree with this - as chabreyflint points out, this applies to [unknown] as well as [theatre].


This is exactly why I think the Join phrase is the wrong place to credit the cast, when the [theatre] SPA is searchable.

Do those results include recordings where the ‘cast’ credit is in the Join phrase? I don’t believe they do, so searching for theatre, [theatre] or “[theatre]” gives incomplete results. You can’t filter these results to find records that aren’t there. So, even if you’re only searching for statistic reasons (which ought to be reason enough, even if you and I can’t currently imagine another one), you’re getting inaccurate statistics.

1 Like

I second the use of a Special Purpose Artist, data that isn’t searchable is not as useful

I’m not familiar with what [theater] is used for, but I wonder if we should use a new SPA like [cast] to make it’s use a bit more clear to non-musical theater people like me, and it would also more clearly include movie/television/other casts

at the very least we should add “cast” as an alias if we do use an SPA

1 Like

The Theatre guideline page has the best explanation of the purpose of the “theatre” SPA. Whether “theatre” is the best name for it, I don’t know.

The [theatre] SPA has a long list of aliases, including “Cast.”

1 Like

Unless there is only cast on the recording or track name, cast should be in join phrase. “[theater]” is used for all Theatre & Soundtracks based on musicals for when there is no other artist on a track at all. I’m not sure why using the join phrase would be wrong. We use it for things that appear on releases, i.e. “on piano”, “and friends”, etc. There is nothing gained by using it for “and cast”, IMO.

I canceled the edit, since we don’t seem to have a consensus on it. Hopefully we can come to a decision and the guideline can be clarified one way or the other.