What are the most important/relevant infos to add in an artist name's disambiguation?

Tags: #<Tag:0x00007f820fab86f8> #<Tag:0x00007f820fab8220>

I guess disambiguations shouldn’t be extremely long, so I wonder which infos are considered most important to be included.

  • Location
  • Genre/s
  • Occupation/s (e.g. rapper, producer, singer, band/group …)
  • Legal Name
  • Alias/es
  • Group membership/s
  • Gender

0 voters

Bonus Question: What infos should be included for unknown artists (e.g. if you create a new artist because you don’t know if one of the already existing artists of the same name is the same as yours)?

  • “unknown” (or any other hint that this artist might be a duplicate)
  • any of the info from above that you know
  • any of the info from above that you can guess (accompanied by “?” or “probably”)
  • invitation to please merge/split/disambiguate/…
  • guess for which other entry might be the same artist
  • info about the recording that you are adding them for (e.g. “collaborates with artist xy”, “featured on album xy”, “performs on song xy”, …)

0 voters

Anything else that I missed?


After many hours of confusion when adding Releases by relatively unknown regional artists and trying to figure out of the existing Artists of the same name is the same person, here is what I do.

  1. I now add a disambigutation string for every Artist I create. Usually it is region and occupation, e.g. “South African baritone”. Sometime it will be an “active” or “c.” decade or century, e.g. “active 2000s”, “c. 16th cent.”. The test is: if I see this Artist’s name and disambiguation string in a list from a name lookup in an Add Relationship dialogue, will it tell me that this is the correct entry?
  2. I now add Artists before adding a Release, so that I can pay more attention to fleshing out the Artist entry without the new Release hovering in the UI.
  3. I am not satisfied unless I can add at least a few External Links or Relationships to an Artist I create. Obvious facts to add are: link to official home page, link to a bio, link to Wikipedia or Wikidata, link to their social media accounts, relationship to a Group they belong to, etc. If I can find a bio or Wikipedia entry, I can often get year or date of birth, place of birth, current place of activity. The test is: if I want to make a Relationship to an Artist (e.g. for a Release entry), and I look at this Artist entry, can I be pretty certain whether this is the Artist I want to use?
  4. Sometimes I create an Artist entry for a group, so that I can designate my new Artist as being part of the group. Sometimes that leads to creating Artist entries for the other members of that Group. And the Group should have external links, Relationships, dates, and disambiguation string. It becomes a cascade of extra work.
  5. Annotations are my friend. I add annotations where facts or unclear or where the standard fields and relationships don’t tell the story. The annotation (not the disambiguation string) is also the place for notes to other editors about ambiguities or work to be done.
  6. When I add an Artist with a similar name to an existing Artist, and that existing Artist doesn’t have a disambiguation string, I add a disambiguation string to that other Artist. That requires looking at the other Artist, and whatever Releases or Relationships they are part of, to understand that story. Often I will add external links and relationships to that other Artist to bring the entry up to my standards.

As a rough guess, about 30% of the time I take to enter a new little-know regional classical music Release is taken up with entering the Artists required for that Release, and the cascade of other Artist edits that results from the new Artist.

My answer is that you should resist accepting Artists as being “unknown”. Take a look at the existing Artists which might apply before you enter their new Release. Make them known. Improve their Artist entry and disambiguation string before you start on the Release itself. If it’s really not clear whether or not the existing Artist applies to your new Release, then make a decision to either use the existing Artist or add a new one, but certainly add Annotation(s) to link the two Artists and the evidence that they might be the same and that they might be different.


For me [Country] [genre] has been enough, unless there’s some reeeeally similar bands, in which case more is helpful.
On a case-by-case basis sometimes it’s necessary to use something like ‘features with X rapper’ or sometimes the decade that a group was active in etc.

I think this is really important, I know some people don’t like this method, so I’ll share thoughts on it:

Maybe the main one being that I don’t enjoy having to click through to every single artist page when I add a compilation to check if it might be a different artist. Going down to checking release genre through external links… for every artist. I know new users certainly don’t, which is why we end up with messy artists in the first place.
Also, the method of ‘only add a disambiguation when there’s an artist of the same name’ is only 50% effective - because you still end up with the original artist without a disambiguation. Someone else can add a disambiguation later - assuming they know something about the artist. But the person adding the artist in the first place is probably in the best position to do this, and it’s not much extra time or work for them.

When splitting an artist that has a lot of different possible artist releases in it, with no helpful edit notes or links, and a google search doesn’t find anything, I quite often have to add an ‘unknown’ artist for whatever’s left over.
It’s not ideal, but it happens


Depends on what you know, and even who it is.
For me, many of them have been 1920s US jazz trumpeter. While others, Omaha bassist or simply member of The Moores.

Common names like John Smith need more information. Some artists are never going to leave their city (therefore listing country is overkill), and may never have a 2nd band that gets listed. While some of the bands aren’t famous, but do tour the world.

Remember, we are dealing with all musicians on the entire earth from the beginning of time until the end of time - and we will add other planets once we become interplanetary. John Smith is going to be used plenty of times.


I don’t really understand this?
If I’m adding John Smith from New Zealand, surely it is useful to know that your John Smith is from the United States, even if he’s never left?

You might need to distinguish your John Smith from Auckland from my John Smith from Christchurch, though.


Agreed, but for people who don’t know that Christchurch is in New Zealand the country is still important.

That’s what I was going for…
St. Louis John Smith vs Green Bay John Smith. You wouldn’t want them both being listed as US John Smith.


Thanks for the answers and votes so far.

Here is why I ask: Most my edits so far are removing “feat. xy” from the track title and adding them to the artist credits (I haven’t used pickard yet, but that would be the first thing that would annoy me).
To find releases where the featured artists are credited wrong I don’t just search for “feat.” or “featuring”, but I search for recordings with " feat XY" in their title, where XY is an artist (usually rapper) I know. I then fix it for the whole album and often I know many of the artists, e.g. because they often collaborate with XY too.
Sometimes I don’t know the artist and if there are many entries by that name what usually helps me the most is something like “US rapper”. The further distinction of location doesn’t help me personally as I’m not familiar with US geography.
If there is no entry under the name of the featured artist the number one info that helps me is if the alias is in the disambiguation, because then they still show up as the first result (E.g. the track features “MC XY” and the first result is “Lil’ Z (aka MC XY)”).

By doing what I do I regularly have to add unknown artists without any info. I believe if I did a long research before adding any unknown artist that would slow me down immensely, but I’d probably only find relevant info about the artist in 10% of the times. Until the artist is featured more often or release their own stuff there is just nothing to find.

Adding a disambiguation for any artist (even if there is no other one by the same name) is a great idea I think. I then also like to add the group membership (at least if they did more with the group than solo) so they are found when searching for the group too.


You can only add what you know. and others can edit later when more information is found.

But, yes, I have spent an entire day (7-8 hours) working on one release. It is not uncommon. Some of that is the slowness of the site, while some of it is the research time.

Some information, like adding a birth date, is quick and easy. Other information, like adding album personnel, takes a much longer time. No one can force you to “go all in” with your edits. I just wish some people would quit being so damn lazy. Last week, I changed a credit from a 1920s country singer to a 2010s techno musician. I knew the minute I saw it on my watchlist that it was wrong, why didn’t the original editor.


Sometimes your mouse moves a bit further that you intended it to and if you blink at the wrong millisecond you don’t realize that you clicked the wrong entry. It’s not always laziness, sometimes it’s just bad luck.

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MB has a very steep learning curve, often new users are struggling to just add a release, let alone alone know how to create an artist etc.
I would always recommend following users who you spot making basic mistakes and giving them friendly advice in small chunks. If they still ignore the guidelines tafter that you can in good conscience get grumpy at their lazy butts!


About slowness of the site, how much does this represent in those 7-8 hours ???

If you have suggestions about how to speed up the process, you may want to submit your ideas. @chhavi is working on next-gen UI, and is likely to be interested about your feedback and workflow.

Some people are lazy, some are lacking of time, some are making errors, some just don’t understand something, some are unaware of guidelines, etc… but everyone is building the database and deserves respect.

You can always point a misbehaving editor to https://musicbrainz.org/doc/Code_of_Conduct or report them, but don’t assume errors in the database are just caused by lazyness, as said by others, MusicBrainz learning curve is steep.

Can you point concerned edits ?


I can imagine that there are occasional editors whose only contribution is to attribute fields to just any old entity as long as the name matches so that Picard tagging “looks right”.

I do wonder if they’d be more inclined to create/find the correct entity if faced with a mis-matching disambiguation. So I try to add disambiguations which maximally exclude same/similar-name entities using multiple common categorizations. Which are fancy words for 3 or more of paulakruezer’s disambig infos.

And yes, even people who only small amounts of dis-information to the db deserve respect. Why? Because if that is the worst thing they are doing then they’re probably better than most.


Something like “underground” or even “not the artist you’re looking for” is often useful, for artists where that’s
probably true.

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What would also be really helpful is if such artist that have almost no linked recordings or relationships don’t show up as the first entry if you search for an artist.


  • 2Pac (Probably Cabo Verde artist From Verão 2001 CD) - only featured on one recording shows up before:
  • 2Pac (American rapper) with 26 pages of recordings.

Even worse is when I try to add Nature e.g. as a featured artist to a recording. There are 11 "Nature"s that show up first so you have to click “show more artists” to see the one “Nature” that has more recordings than all others combined.