Why don’t Classical releases have track artists?

So having listed to the comments on about previously closed thread it seems the main problem was the thread should have been split and that I repeated certain points. So I’m just to seek clarification on particular statement that I try as I might I really don’t really understand

Classical releases do not have track artists

If I have a pop/rock release by a single artist typically the artist is credited on the front and spine. Then on the back the list of tracks is listed, the artist is not listed against each track the only person who may be listed is a a guest singer or musician. So on the basis the artist is not listed against each track we don’t have a track artist for tracks on this release, but of course we do its implicit from the artist written on the front. In the absence of any other information we can safely assume the release artist and track artist are the same.

With Classical releases that I have the spine and the front usually list composer(s), soloists(s), orchestra(s) and conductors(s). Then on the back it lists the tracks (i.e movements), if solist is only on some tracks , or only some tracks were composed by a particular composer then that is clarified on the back. This is done as succinctly as possible so that if there are two concertos by different composers it will clarify that concerto 1 is by composer1, concerto by composer 2 ectera rather than listing the composer beside each track.

It seems to me that both rock and classical have track artists - the difference being just that for Pop/Rock the track artist is usually a single person or band, whereas on Classical is usually comprises Composer, Soloist, Orchestra, Conductor.

And like Pop/Rock in many cases there would be no difference between release artist and track artist, but in many there would be.

Why is this understanding wrong ?

In what way do you mean that classical releases don’t have track artists? It seems to me that they do.


I certainly think they do. I’m paraphrasing various comments from reo and hawke stating that there is no such thing as track artist credit for classical and that it might be better for Classical to not even use this field. As I understood it from what they said real Classical releases did not have track artist credits and therefore it problematic trying to put something into the MusicBrainz Track Artist Credit field, do you not agree with that ?

I know this has been discussed many times, but I’ll give it a shot too :slight_smile:

Before we had the full relationships we do today, the track artist was all we had to indicate the artist for the tracks. For Pop music, this was normally the performer, but for Classical, it was normally the composer. Thinking about tagging my music in Picard, I definitely want to be able to use the track artist to search for Ludwig van Beethoven to find a particular piece of music. It is much less common to search for Boston Symphony Orchestra to get the same result. Given the track artist field, it was the best option available.

Today, I much prefer all of the relationships that can be built, and with those fields captured in the tags and good music players, you can search for both and it works beautifully. Still, many people may only be able to take advantage of the track artist, so it is still there, with the composer, as we expect.

Placing the writer/composer in the track artist field for Pop music would be even worse - many of those composers are virtually unknown.

So, I think the compromise with the track artist today is the best solution.


I totally get that given the choice of Composer rather than Orchestra then composer would probably be the best choice for track artist, but with Artist Credits you can have multiple artists so I don’t understand why we cant have both for classical music at track level if that is what credited on the release. (And note because based on how credited on release cover that wouldnt lead to composer being added for Pop music since the composer isn’t usually credited on the cover)

But really the key thing is (which was the focus of this post and I was trying to ask in an uncontentious way) is I still don’t understand why some have said there is no such thing as classical artist track credits, or have I misunderstood what they meant ?

And relationships are great for adding composer ectera, but what they dont let you do is specify how the artist is credited on the release i.e Beethoven, Ludwig Beethoven which credits do.

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Well, they do, but because it’s actually on the recording, it’s shared between all releases that contain that recording—which is indeed sometimes not ideal. But so is duplicating that information yet again (the ARs, the recording’s artist field, and then the track artist).

FWIW, I asked @Hawke the same thing in IRC.

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Classical (in the broad sense) has composers, arrangers, librettists, and various performers; it does not have recording artists because, well, it predates music recording by a few centuries (well, except of course sheet music is a way to record music, but yeah…)

Calling someone(s) the “artist” is just to make classical fit in with things designed for pop; if you were building a database just for classical, you’d probably not have “artist” fields at all. At least except for some very recent composers, depending on how broadly we take classical.

As a side note, a lot of classical releases don’t even really have albums. Look at the title—it’s just a list of works on the album—and those names are often just numbering them (Symphony no. 1, etc.) and sometimes not even assigned by the composer, but rather by musicologists digging through his papers after his death. The selection of what goes on the disc generally isn’t done by the musicians responsible for writing or performing the music.



To show some example artwork:


It has a set of artists for the entire release, but no track-specific artists at all. This is pretty much the same as a normal pop album, except that putting the entire artist set on each track tends to get unwieldy.

Similarly, http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/notes/68103-B.pdf (tracklist on page 4 of the PDF) – global composer and performer; performer group artist is broken out into four singers; singers identified on each track by initials. I would not count those sets of initials as “track artists” – the way the release seems to de-emphasize the individual singers on any given track suggests this is also release artists only (composer + performer group)

http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/notes/67929-B.pdf (page 3) – global performer; there are not per-track artists at all, but “track group” artists which are exclusively the composer (apart from one track group which lists a single guest soloist). Since MB can’t give credits for a group of tracks, the best we can do to match the release is list the composer on each track.

http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/notes/67997-B.pdf (page 3) – global performer, two release composers; tracks broken into two groups by composer. Just as above.

http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/notes/68087-B.pdf (page 3) - global performer. This is the first one that seems to arguably have track credits beyond the composer. It does list the composer or a similar source as well as arranger and soloist, but the format (and de-emphasis compared to the global performer) suggests to me that these are more akin to our ARs rather than track artists.
Consider track 6: “Owain Park / mezzo soprano Helen Charlston, soprano solo Faith Waddell” – CSG style would say “Owain Park”. Would you have it “Owain Park, Helen Charlston, Faith Waddell”? That lists all the artists that the release lists on the corresponding track but it exclude important performers: the choir and director Stephen Layton. So maybe “Owain Park, Helen Charlston, Faith Waddell, Choir of Trinity College Cambridge, Stephen Layton”. I guess that’s complete but it sure is long and ugly. Now we have a huge list of artists with no indication of their roles so we have to look at the ARs to find them. Since we have to do that anyway, why stuff them all into the artist field when we could just look at the AR list anyway.

This is pretty typical stuff for classical in my experience, but just to show that I’m not only considering one label:

http://www.naxos.com/SharedFiles/pdf/rear/8.573496r.pdf – global performer, tracks grouped by composer, which is the only sort of “per-track” artist.

http://www.naxos.com/SharedFiles/pdf/rear/8.573566r.pdf – global performer, per-track artists are exclusively the composer.


See also http://tickets.musicbrainz.org/browse/MBS-7490

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I just would like to remind that all our tracks do have track artist credits. It is just a data display feature that when all tracks have the same AC as the release on a medium, the track AC column is hidden.


ARs dont let you specify a different name that is what Im saying. I kinow yo can specify this detail as recoridng or track artist credit that is my point.

Maybe this is the key thing, the word ‘artist’. So yes okay the word ‘artist’ is not the best word for Classical, however ‘people’ are credited at release and track level, if within MusicBrainz you consider ‘artist’ to mean person then thats not a problem, in fact we already do this as every person in the MusicBrainz db is in the Artist table. Composers thought in terms of works but we still buy and consume music as ‘albums’, that is why in this thread How to explain Works - #39 by yvanzo I want to add works to tagging metadata to allow users to browse by work rather than album

They do; you may not be up to date on the MB schema if you are convinced otherwise.


Thanks for taking the time to do these examples

Yes this is an example of bog standard classical release, as you say like many pop albums there is no difference between the release and track credits. So my proposal here would the recording artist credit would be essentially the same as the release artist credit with composer, orchestra, conductor. Track Artist credit would be exactly the same as recording artist credit (at database level would point to the same artist_Credit record.

Agreed, so I would have composer and performer group for release artists/track artist/recordng artist. Then the individual performers would be added via AR’s, this allow differentition between who actually performeed (ARs) and who is given credited on the cover (composer + performer group)

Yes you could call them “track group” or maybe “work artists” as typically differences is at work level. But you say the best thing you can do is put the composer at track level, I would say the best thing you can do is put the composer at track level except tracks 6-11 where you also put the percussionist. To me the way the composer and soloist are credited at group level rather than track level is simply to make it most easy to understand for the consumer, there is no point repeating the composer for every track in a work as clearly (though perhaps there are some edge cases) all tracks from one work will be composer by the same composer, and most likely the solist will also be present an engaged throughout the work.

As I assume Stephhn Layout and choir are still involved as release artists would say "Choir of Trinity College Cambridge, Stephen Layton, Owain Park, Helen Charlston, Faith Waddell"Just like Pop/Rock I would like to differentiate between who is credited and everyone involved. So the as track artist/recording artist that tells us who is credited then we can use performers AR to allow addition of all the people, including any extra people that were involved but not deemed sufficiently important to be given main credits. If a RockPop track was credited to six people you wouldn’t expect to not list them all because it looks ugly

So I think now I understand what you mean by there being no track artists, its essentially that there is unlikely to be a single track that is credited differently, tracks are more likely to be credited at work level (what about one track works), which may or may not be the same as release level, but as your own example shows sometimes credits are at track level .

To me the fundamental differences between Pop/Rock and Classical are really that:

  1. Multiple people are credited for each release/track, always composer, usually conductor and orchestra and sometimes individual musicians.
  2. Credits natural grouping is at work level rather than album level

I’m sure there are examples of Rock/Pop releases that also credit songs at a ‘group level’ rather than a track level. In theory you could extend MusicBrainz to group level credits but I dont really see it would be of much interest. What I don’t see are good reasons for why track artist credits and recording artist credits mean different things in CSG, it seems better to me to simply treat group level credits as track artists credits for the tracks involved which Im sure is what we would do for Rock/Pop with group level credits.

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I was basing it on the UI, I didnt look at the schema but as far as I can see you cannot do it when you add a relationship on the site.

There is a text field labelled As, in the relationship editor pop up, that is made for artist credit on the relationship.

Ah, didnt notice that thankyou.

Historical reasons mostly.

  1. Pre-NGS we could only have one artist per track.
  2. Most important artist was deemed to be the composer.
  3. Thus CSG track artists were set to composer.
  4. Recording artists were copied from tracks, so recording artists were also composer.
  5. This made classical recording artists useless (due to thousands of recordings now appearing to be “by Bach” for example) and illogical (in many/most cases the composer had no direct involvement in the creation of the audio recording)
  6. There were previously no standards for recording artists, so this was defined to be performer to fix the above.

Maybe something is different now and another change is warranted. I would support relaxing the requirement that track artist only/always be the composer, but I don’t think I would go so far as to list every artist that happens to be mentioned; this is for convenience of data entry as well as cleanliness of display.

I think that for many classical releases (including the previously-mentioned “Yulefest!” release), the very detailed “track artists” are basically what we would normally set with ARs. They’re not proper track artists. This also applies to that single track with the guest soloist. Compare to the pop music situation – have a look at https://ia800308.us.archive.org/9/items/mbid-cf0d899c-bbc6-4a33-ba74-5e335284e836/mbid-cf0d899c-bbc6-4a33-ba74-5e335284e836-1353923836.jpg
– we wouldn’t consider the “(Barrett)” text to be a track artist, even though it’s directly on the tracklisting.

I would not mind if, in cases where there was no specific track artist listed, we would consider it “obviously they meant that the release artist should apply here” and entered it matching the release artist, as we do for pop. This has the advantage that if the release is all the same artist the display will not bother repeating that information for every track. However it falls down as soon as a single track is different in any way.

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I’m sure I’m not alone here, but I’ve been losing the thread a little bit! (again)

It would be really nice to see a clear and concise proposal, perhaps on @ijabz wiki page (eg not somewhere where it can be buried) as to what different guidelines would be proposed, and also some examples as to how they would deal with the examples given by Hawke (showing how the new credits would look vs the old). It’s probably already been written down somewhere, but I can’t remember!

I understand the ideological argument happening but my brain is starting to fray a bit visualizing the details :sweat_smile:
Personally a ‘classical’ tag or checkbox would be a pretty huge step forward, especially if/once Picard supports it.