Various Artists releases where the cover features some of artists, but not all


I’ve noticed some ambiguity around Artist Credits for known compilation series that tends to cause some grief when trying to make edits.

It’s a common cover style where the cover may feature a few of the included artists as a sales feature. i.e “includes artistA, artistB, artistC and MANY MORE!”. This style is deliberately non-inclusive and often leaves out large numbers of actual artists on the release. Example

However, the MB guidelines suggest that you use actual artist credits where they are included and proper, only only use Various Artists if no other artist credit is on the release.

For compilations like these, I’m assuming most people would naturally agree these should be added as Various Artists

This leads to Release Groups with those partial lists as the Artist Credit Release group “Empire Elite: The Best of the Best Modern Soundtracks” by Björk, Ash, Propellerheads, The Beta Band, Gomez and many more… - MusicBrainz. Attempts to fix can then get voted down if the editor is pedantically following the style guidelines.

Is this ambiguity a deliberate choice? Should all Various Artists releases with any mention of names on the cover be edited to include those partial credits as the Artist instead? Is it more desirable to put these kind of compilations under Various Artists?


I think NOW 5 should only be linked to Various Artists at the release-level.

For your second example, you’re not alone: Edit #91991169 - MusicBrainz


“and many more…” These are marketed as Various Artists releases. This is very different to when four or five artists join together to make a release.

That Empire Elite release is also very wrong looking too. That is also clearly a Various Artists release.


Reading the earlier discussion I assume @rossetyler is trying to push the guidelines to be updated. That is a very literal reading of the words there and I don’t believe that this is what is meant by those words.

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I have enacted auto-editor privilege and returned that example release back to Various Artists.

I agree with the rest here, marketing copy (which is what I would class it as) does not belong in the artist field.

If anything that copy is more suited to be placed in the Annotation Field.

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Yes, I am a strong proponent for following guidelines.
Mutually agreeing to follow our guidelines results in a nicer editing experience for all as we can point fingers at it rather than at each other.

In general, you should just enter the artist(s) as shown on the release (see the guidelines for artist credits). See Special Purpose Artist for what to enter when there is no proper artist or the artist is unknown.

When proper artists are prominently listed on the release cover they are certainly known and, per the MB guidance as currently written, should be used to credit the MB release instead of some special purpose artist (e.g. Various Artists).

I don’t know how to interpret our current guidance any other way.

If this is not what the MB community desires (I can understand and appreciate such arguments) then, at least for my sake, the guidance needs to clearly say otherwise.


I definitely appreciate the approach. I guess my question as a less experienced user is how does the case get made to update the appropriate guidelines? I’m happy to write up a bug proposal on the bugtracker per the docs if that’s appropriate.

I opened as [STYLE-2155] Clarify that Various Artists SPA is appropriate for releases with certain cover features - MetaBrainz JIRA. Feel free to add more expert opinions if needed.



how does the case get made to update the appropriate guidelines?

I think you have done a good job taking the first step(s).

I think this forum is a great place to talk about this issue and hone a resolution with consensus.
Ultimately, a ticket for change must be submitted.
I see you have already done so.


Style/Artist Credits - MusicBrainz Wiki new draft language has been added.

Who knew this would be so difficult to write down in words,

I’ve added a section to this guide, with Guidelines for Compilations; if people are happy to review and amend what I’ve said as I think I’ve got the jist of how we do things here


I agree with @rossetyler interpretation to enter the artists as shown on the release (like the guideline says), and to use Various Artists SPA only when no artists is shown.

The NOW series is a good example of a classic Various Artists series. It is sold by the label as Various Artists. It appears in the charts as Various artists. There is a whole defined musical category for these releases. And they always mention some of the artists on the cover as part of the artwork.

MB should not be redefining how the music industry has always treated these.


I’m sorry but I have to whole-heartedly disagree, it would make the database look like an absolute mess.

That would mean that a release like: Release “Now That’s What I Call Music! 4” by Various Artists - Cover Art - MusicBrainz

Read as follows:
Now That’s What I Call Music! 4 ~ Release by Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Aaliyah, Marc Anthony, Savage Garden, Macy Gray, Smash Mouth, blink-182, Eiffel 65 and many more

Or another example like Release group “Now! 4” by Various Artists - MusicBrainz

Which would read big breath
Now! 4 ~ Release by New Radicals, Brandy, Barenaked Ladies, 98 Degrees, The Moffats, Sugar Ray, Robbie Williams, Jewel, Spice Girls, Aalyiah, Sheryl Crow, Brandy, Third Eye Blind, U2, 98 Degrees, Edwin McCain, Jennifer Paige, Aaliyah, Sky, Aaliyah, Sheryl Crow, Sugar Ray, New Radicals, The Moffats, Robbie Williams, Jewel, Brandy, Brandy, Edwin McCain, U2, Sky, The Roots, 98 Degrees, Jennifer Paige, Roots, Third Eye Blind, The Moffatts, Brandy, Aalyiah, Jennifer Paige, Jewel, The Roots, New Radicals, Sky, Brandy, Barenaked Ladies, Sugar Ray, Robbie Williams

As you can see… if you’re just going to put every single artist on the front of a release and not use the more widely accepted form of “Various Artists” then you must be crazy. Also think how much this would piss people off when they’re trying to use Picard, and it renames Various Artists to something ludicrous above…


The “and many more!” bit makes it very clear that the artists listed are just there for illustrative purpose. Various Artists is the right choice here.


I don’t see how wanting to accurately reflect artist credits on the actual release in MB makes an editor “crazy”. Sometimes artists and marketeers do crazy things but MB should, without judgement, objectively transcribe reality, where possible. With MB AC this is now possible. Before MB NGS this was not possible, hence the need for the VA SPA.

However, I also think the concerns over what this would do to an artist’s discography and how tracks on such releases be tagged are legitimate. MB artist overview pages have a Show all various artist release groups filter, that is normally turned off, to reduce this clutter by redirecting the browser back to same page with a va=1 parameter.

It seems to me that, on an MB R/RG, VA just needs to be a boolean (true or false) to satisfy our needs and using a VA SPA that always clobbers the actual credit is a mistake. It might be less disruptive, however, to interpret the existence of a VA SPA component in an MB AC as this boolean being true. That way, web page filters can discriminate on such releases/groups by looking for the VA SPA component and MB picard tagging can too. The rest of the components in the MB AC can still be concatenated to reflect the real-world presentation, if desired. Perhaps this is as simple as having an empty presentation for the VA SPA component.


A vote here for not changing these VA releases to multiple artists. I don’t think the wording on those guidelines was ever intended to be interpreted like this. The guidelines are explicitly a guide. I think there is a danger in taking everything there absolutely literally, rather than looking at the intent.

If we make database changes some day to make it work, great, for now, please no.


I think that’s the key problem here: I don’t think there is an artist credit there. It is not the intent of the cover to say these specific listed artists created the release, I think it’s more similar in spirit to the tracklist on the back (imagine if the front said “Includes <Song> by <Artist>!”).

Just because there is text on the front cover I don’t believe we should force all of it into the artist credit.


The guidance wording, to my ears, is absolutely clear - use MB AC to reflect what is on the cover.
If that is not the MB style intent then the wording should be changed.

What I suggested requires no DB change, just a broader interpretation of what is already there and supports both sides. If you find no value in crediting the MB release as the creator does then you don’t need to use it.

It is not the intent of the cover to say these specific listed artists created the release

They didn’t create the release but they are certainly credited.
I believe, absolutely, the intent of the release creator is to credit these artists (bigge$t names first, of course).
That is what they are $elling.

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As far as label intent goes, I’m certain they would say ‘file under VA’ if a shop asked.