What is a "Soundtrack"


I’m looking to edit some soundtrack releases but I’m not clear on how the RG type “Soundtrack” is defined or how I’m supposed to interpret the guideline for it, given at https://musicbrainz.org/doc/Release_Group/Type.

I’m looking at a release,

which is listed as type: Album + Soundtrack. Is this correct? This release obviously consists of recordings of film music, but why would it be considered a soundtrack?
Thanks for your help.


from the type definition, “A soundtrack is the musical score to a movie, TV series, stage show, computer game etc.”

Your example release contains recordings of the musical score to various movies – therefore is a soundtrack (or rather a compilation of soundtracks)


OK, I see. I was thinking of a soundtrack in terms of a single release that pertains to a single movie, tv show, etc.

What is meant by “musical score” here, does it include releases that just compile a bunch of songs that were used in a movie. Such as


Generally it does not include music that was not created specifically for the movie.


There’s quite a few soundtrack albums I can think of like this though. For example Quentin Tarantino is known for reusing previously released music in his films. Such as

But surely you’ve got to consider this a soundtrack release since it has “Soundtrack” in the title?


I think this is an important distinction. It’s a soundtrack but not the musical score.


I’m not sure I agree.

If the question is “was this music composed for a film/game/whatever?”, then “yes, but that’s already noted in the work type (for better or worse)”.

If the question is “were these recordings part of the soundtrack to a film/game/whatever?”, then isn’t the answer “no”? They are later performances, not the recordings used in the soundtracks.


Right, there’s a difference, this is largely my point of confusion since the documentation states that:
“A soundtrack is the musical score to a movie, TV series, stage show, computer game”

Furthermore, the style guide for soundtracks says this in regards to release groups,
“Film scores (which showcase the background music of a film/show) should not be merged with pop soundtracks (albums of pop songs heard in whole or part in the background of a film/show).”


I’d agree with this, except I’d still regard a re-recording to be a soundtrack. Many older film soundtracks have only ever been released in re-recorded forms.


Clearly that answer is “no” but I think it’s too specific. “Was this music created for a soundtrack” is the one I would ask myself to decide if it is a soundtrack.

I can think of three relevant questions, where yes to any of them might be considered “a soundtrack”:

  • Was this music composed for a soundtrack?
  • Is this recording intended to be used on a soundtrack?
  • Was this recording actually used in a soundtrack?

And some examples:

  • Alex North’s soundtrack to 2001: Written for a movie, only recordings were remade much later and never intended to be used.
  • “Unchained” melody: Written for a movie, One recording was used in the movie, but most are not intended for soundtrack use or for anything other than a pop cover song.
  • A Clockwork Orange: Written for a movie, recordings intended for soundtrack, only partially used in the actual movie.


But that’s already answered at the work level. Why would that question be re-asked at the release-group level?

Your examples are good grey-area ones, and I can see the impulse to mark those “soundtrack”.



Sorry @CallerNo6, but could you explain what you mean by “at the work level”. Do you mean setting the work type=soundtrack?


Yes, exactly. The nature of the composition is described at the work level. How that’s done currently might not be ideal, but that’s a different topic :slight_smile:

I would expect the release group type to describe the nature of the album, not the nature of the compositions.


I agree, what I believe @Hawke is saying is that the release type is determined by what the work type of the recordings is:

But besides, doesn’t the documentation specify that only a full soundtrack should be set to work type=soundtrack, from https://musicbrainz.org/doc/Style/Work:

John Williams’ soundtrack for Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back is set to “Soundtrack”, but the Imperial March should not be.

All the works performed in my example release, https://musicbrainz.org/release/591d1d14-af8a-4c2a-8d55-2630468e0e20
are only parts (or excerpts) of full soundtracks, therefore I can’t see how the release could be thought of as a “compilation of soundtracks”.
To me a compilation of soundtracks brings to mind something like this,


I would not call the original album mentioned a soundtrack, but just “Album”. Whether the songs are originally from soundtracks seems irrelevant - this RG is not a soundtrack to anything nor intended as such.


It’d sure be a big friggin’ help if the guideline gave a clue as to why the hell that is. Anybody around when that decision was made? Was it because it was premiered before the movie opened? Is it a derivative of the score that doesn’t actually appear in the movie? Or is the idea that only the top-level full score be set to “Soundtrack”, but portions of it should not.

Judging from the other “parts” of the ESB work, it looks like that was the intent. None of the other parts are marked as a “Soundtrack” work type, but they do appear on the ESB release, which is marked as a Soundtrack.

So apparently the Work and Release definitions for the Soundtrack type aren’t consistent. I don’t interpret the definition as meaning a compilation of music from soundtracks isn’t actually a soundtrack, or that it has to be the original recording. It’s still music that was originally composed for film (or TV, etc.). Besides, we use the Soundtrack type for Theatre releases too, regardless of when it was recorded.

(Or else you could interpret it the other way and say soundtrack means the same thing for work as it does for release, and the definition that “a soundtrack is the musical score to a movie…” really does mean not to use Soundtrack unless it’s the entire score to a single film.)


To the best of my knowledge, this. :slight_smile:


This. The whole score for the film is a Soundtrack, but one specific piece in it is not - it’s just a piece of music (it could be anything from a Song to a Sonata). In the same way as we wouldn’t set all parts of an opera as Opera, but would mark them as Overture or Aria where relevant (and Recitative, if we had that type, which I sometimes wonder if we shouldn’t).


So is the “Soundtrack” Release Type supposed to be the same or different than the Work Type?


Similar, but relatively unrelated. The work type was mostly intended for parent works for scores - I wouldn’t expect a soundtrack work to be added and linked when a soundtrack for a film consists mostly of songs that were previously composed and released unrelated to the film, but I’d expect it when the entire soundtrack is the specific compositional work of one or more composers (which can of course still be added as a work even if there’s no official recording of any of the music outside of the film itself).