Understanding the layers of artist names

I’m trying to get my head around how artist names are handled, particularly when they’ve changed over time so that I can model that relationship in my music collection i.e. identify them as a single entity whilst having the albums credited to their aliases.

From the style guidelines:

The artist name is the official name of an artist, whether it is a person, band, or character. In most cases, it is the name as found on releases.

Generally, use the name the artist mainly performs under as the artist name. Alternative names, including any legal names and name variations, should generally be entered as aliases, and can be used in artist credits and relationship credits when appropriate.

So the release/track artist is the name that’s mentioned on the packaging/track listing, but what does the release group artist represent? This example has ‘Various Artists’ as the release group artist but in all but the digital release they’re attributed to another set of artists.

Finally, I assume (based on examples including The Jackon 5, Puff Daddy and Cheryl Cole) the artist name (the name that’s in the Artist table) was how the band represents themselves today, but then why is the band ‘Twenty Øne Piløts’ set as ‘twenty one pilots’ when they - as far as I’m aware - identify themselves as the former; is there another rule around stylized names - although P!nk would break that rule? I would understand that for the sort name but not the artist name.

I’m not sure if these are nuances in the rules, entry errors or just my lack of knowledge.

Thanks for any assistance.


Great questions! I’d like to know the answers too.

Style / Release Group - MusicBrainz says:

The artist should usually be the same as the first release.

The release group for the Grease soundtrack that you mentioned doesn’t seem to follow this guideline. Like you said, all releases except the 2019 digital one are credited to John Travolta & Olivia Newton‐John, so the release group seems like it should be too. (The 2019 digital release has the same cover art as the other releases, so I would also question whether it should be credited to Various Artists. That’s what Spotify and Deezer chose to use, though – there’s plenty of discussion here about the value of data from streaming services.)

The twenty one pilots example is interesting too. I’m not familiar with them, but from looking at the cover art from their albums, I don’t see them start using ø in their name until their fourth album – is that correct? I think one could make an argument for using either “Twenty One Pilots” or “Twenty Øne Piløts” in the artist entity (and then crediting each release group and release according to what they were using at the time). The current all-lowercase name seems like a stretch to me unless there’s a statement from the artists somewhere saying that that’s what they call themselves, since I see at least one example where they use normal English title capitalization and others where they use all-caps. The artist name looks like it was all-lowercase when it was first added; I’m not sure whether anyone ever tried to change it.

I don’t know whether there’s a clear answer here, though. I tend to fall on the side of following the per-language style guidelines unless there’s unambiguous statement of intent by the artist or consistency across all their releases, since I’m annoyed when I see weird capitalization or punctuation in my playlist that seems to come from a choice made by a graphic designer.

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wikipedia also says “twenty one pilots” is stylized in all lowercase, though in my brief searching i haven’t found an artist statement. i’m sure i’ve seen one somewhere though.

Grease - I think that is added as a VA due to it being various artists on the release and the artwork just showing a cover with the Film credits on it. But as all the Release uses that credit, then the RG should follow the credit. The RG should be Travolta and Newton-Bomb.

Twenty One Pilots - the artist should be entered as the CURRENT\Latest releases. Stylised names are confusing when they change regular, but usually are aimed to be As On Release. Artist Intent usually rules in most cases. And MB tries to keep up with the current style of the Artist (unless it is French that seems to get different rules :roll_eyes: )

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Quite often, but never with a good reason: Search for Edits - MusicBrainz

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