Track durations for vinyl releases

Continuing from Voting/Auto-editor Request Thread - #1400 by thomnottom

  • Is it ok to add track durations to a vinyl release based on an associated digital release absent evidence to the contrary? Is it a good idea?
  • Could we display implied track durations on releases that don’t have their own track durations? (This would encourage adding a separate digital release with track durations.)

But also:

  • What should vinyl track durations even be? Sometimes (rarely) they’re printed on the cover or labels, and not so rarely those seem to deviate more or less significantly from the duration I’d get via playback and stopwatch – which one wins?
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There are occasions where vinyl will have different lengths to a CD or digital edition. Best to take your timings from the real thing.

Even the written track times on vinyl can often be wrong.

Using a stopwatch on vinyl is really the only accurate way. MusicBrainz is about documenting the real music you have in your hand.

In majority of cases all the numbers will line up, but I could point out enough unusual cases to show this is not always a solid rule.

Even a stopwatch is going to be tricky to choose the exact moment a fade out stops…


I would agree with @ivandobsky. “Stopwatch time” should be used whenever possible for an LP (or cassette), just like we use disc IDs in preference to what’s printed on a CD case. If that’s not available, use printed times from the LP release. If neither is available, I’d say to leave the times unspecified.


…but at least, they are comparable - if they differ within a few seconds, I leave them as printed. If there are major discrepancies, I correct them (usually to net lengths without silence, sometimes to ripped track lengths, if other durations given also include a few seconds of silence)
The most important thing is that the lengths can be compared with tracks on other releases.

There is a risk that some tracks were shortened on the LP, or sometimes even on the CD. As stated before, this should not be done under any circumstances.

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This is exactly how I do it with the caveat that I’m too lazy for the stop watch method. :sweat_smile: It would be nice for this to become a standard.

Also, similar to disc IDs I wish there was a way to indicate that someone timed the tracks. Occasionally I’m tempted to remove times from entries that look like they were just copied from other media, but don’t want to inadvertently delete someone’s legitimate work.

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I was using “stopwatch time” loosely to mean the actual running time. I have set times from vinyl by ripping, splitting tracks by ear, and then using the times from my resulting flac/mp3 files. When I do that, I indicate in the edit note something like “track lengths from my vinyl rip”.


I could show you some 1970s Pink Floyd with comically bad written times on the vinyl.

That is a highly accurate stopwatch. A ripped digital file is a good record of the actual length.

Where I am always suspicious is when I see a time entered to thousandths of a second that just happen to be identical to the CD. Then I know someone just cloned the CD release and likely didn’t actually check.

Would be nice to see that in the annotation. Sometimes it is in an edit note, but they can often be hard to find back in the history.


I know I’m the odd one out (so please don’t relentlessly @ me :stuck_out_tongue: ) but my thoughts are:

It’s weird to me that the consensus is that having a database with 99.9% track times of ?:?? is better than one where we have track times, but they might be off by a few seconds.

Not to mention that the 99.9% empty version will still be off by a few seconds, if not even more so, because of vagaries in turntable belts/drives and where the ripper/timer decides the start and end of tracks are.


I don’t think it’s that much. Most vinyls have printed track lengths and these should be entered (in my experience, in most cases these do not differ very much from the actual lengths), but it would be important to record the source of the information in the edit notes. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.

But if there is no information about durations, they should not be made up. I would choose the same recordings for the tracks if there is no reason to believe they are different - but without track lengths. The chance of them being added later by a record owner is probably higher if no times are specified.


Maybe that’s true for recent-ish vinyl releases? My experience with 60s/70s LPs is that there are rarely track lengths printed, and if they are, they’re frequently massively off.

I’d hazard a guess it’s only once CD manufacturing required a precise idea of track length to be tracked that the same data was then used to print accurate numbers for the LP releases.


On vinyl, it seems that most US/CA releases have track times, whereas most Europe releases do not. At least in the last century. Pink Floyd & The Beatles are examples of this. See US ( & UK ( I’ve noticed this for a long time and always thought it was an odd regional thing about track times.

Yup - I’ve just added a bunch of vinyl where I point out the track times are from the cover or label, but that’ll get buried if those releases have more edits.

Sorry, Imma gonna @ you! :laughing: The concept is that bad data is worse than no data. It’s also why all of those 200+ country digital releases bug me. All that incorrect data is much harder to correct than missing data. If someone puts down that “Digital Black Epilogue” is 9:27 on a vinyl copy of Urge Overkill’s Exit the Dragon, I can’t really prove they’re wrong without access to that copy even though it’s almost definitely the original 8:47 length.


Hmmm, wonder if that’s an ASCAP thing (happens to be listed next to the times on the US label).

If we can only add vinyl track times by ear/measuring, we’ve rendered the time column useless for 99.9% of the vinyl in the database. And for what? I’m still not clear on what the win is.

If MusicBrainz operated by the rule that all data has to be perfect, you should not use the same recordings for vinyl as digital at all, without first manually comparing the audio of each. Luckily we don’t do that, because it would make recordings in MB impossible to deal with. We can use common sense, and then separate recordings out if we think they are different.

In situations where the same recordings have been used I don’t see how timing a record doesn’t often deliver worse data - especially with seamless albums where it is not clear where one track begins and the other ends.

For what it’s worth, when I press records I do a master for vinyl, but the the track times will never change. Someone timing their vinyl is introducing error. If I am using alternate recordings or extended versions it will be mentioned somewhere.

That is a different situation - if anyone has reason to suspect that the recording used or the length is substantially different it shouldn’t have digital track times copied over!


For the record, I’m clearly just an average editor with no authority posting my opinion. And IMHO the gain is in knowing what you know for sure. Digging into… say… jazz from the 60s and 70s, the recording lengths can really vary between pressings then and now. Looking at the variation can sometimes help guide me towards figuring out which recordings are probably right and aid in research to get more accurate data. If someone just copies the times from the Spotify page, that gets a little tricky.

Is it a huge deal? No. I’m not going around deleting track times from vinyl entries. And if you’ve got a copy of an LP released last year and look at the Bandcamp page and the CD, the times are probably all the same or close enough (although I’ve hit exceptions to that recently).

For starters, I would never expect data to be perfect. But there’s many different levels of quality of data below that. Yes, people can use common sense and link or separate recordings. All I’m saying is that adding the times from a CD or digital release to a vinyl album can make that a little harder.

You make good points, and I’m more inclined to say that manual timing is probably less reliable (except to find when times are very different) and that releases from around the same date are probably good references for times. I would definitely love to hear more input from the community.


Don’t worry, me too :grin:

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I think we’re all in agreement, other than what constitutes “reason to suspect”. :slight_smile:

I would guess that there’s a significant difference between recent releases that came out simultaneously on LP and CD/digital, which are more likely to have the same lengths, as compared with rereleases years or decades after an initial LP, like the jazz examples @thomnottom mentioned. Tracks which were originally edited to fit the time limits of an LP have in many cases been restored to full length on reissues.


Often happens also that LP are using shorter versions without telling.
Using the same recordings by default makes things easier.
Leaving the length empty when we don’t know, to tell people to not take that for granted and that exactly which recordings are there was not carefully researched.

But when times are printed on the packaging, I would usually default to this, except if I carefully checked them otherwise.

And tell where the times come from, in the Add medium edit note.

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Firstly: If we suspect the timing might be different, I agree not to recycle track times from elsewhere. But applying this as a blanket rule still doesn’t make sense to me. For instance, on newer vinyl releases you should know if it’s using different or alternate recordings. If that’s not the case on older releases then it should be applied there.

I’m not saying it wouldn’t be great to have every LP or tape track timed by hand with perfect precision. But how many people in this thread are really planning to time and submit a substantial amount of LP track times?

Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am exaggerating* with the figure of at least 99.9% of LP/cassette releases would have their time blanked if this was implemented as a guideline. At that rate of data loss the column isn’t even useful anymore. Even sites with a dedicated vinyl crowd can’t maintain that level of detail, let alone MB, which already doesn’t have good LP or cassette release coverage.

I have hundreds of LP’s and cassettes I’ve added to MB, and I have a few hundred more to add. I don’t have another lifetime to add all the releases I would like to see in MB, let alone time all their tracks - presumably just so I can submit them as listens to LB?

I just don’t see it. Separating recordings by master would be a 10x easier undertaking.

*Actually, I realise this probably is exaggerating when it includes printed times. A lot of the older popular LP’s probably do have track times printed. In my (reasonably) modern collection of (largely) underground LP’s and tapes I struggle to find any with printed track times. My collection in particular would have the track time data, accurate as far as anybody will ever know, wiped out.


So what about that idea of displaying the implied track lengths when the release itself doesn’t specify the track length?

I’m imagining styling this differently (i.e. print those implied track lengths with a lighter black, or in italics) so it’s apparent.

I think that’d do a lot to alleviate the desire to add track times because of all those awful ?:?? when we have a pretty good idea of what those numbers should actually be. And it’d encourage adding a separate digital release instead of just slapping a streaming link on the vinyl release.