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That hour I lost last night?

March 2, 2010

There are limitations to building complex relationships in MusicBrainz, and my best guess is that it’s because to handle every nuance of relationships between artists, tracks, labels, releases, etc. would make the system much more difficult to design. Stephen Malkmus’s relationship to the Silver Jews is such a relationship.

Malkmus and co-Pavement member Bob Nostanovich were founding members of the Jews, along with frontman David Berman. While Berman remained constant throughout the Jews’ now finished career (sadness!), Malkmus and Nostanovich came and went from album to album. I wanted to express his relationship to the band in MusicBrainz, and since he didn’t play on every album but was a founder, I thought that it would be appropriate to tick the “additionally” box when building the “performed on” relationships. However, after a really nice discussion in the edit notes with two other MB editors, we came to a sort of collective conclusion that MB can’t really handle this kind of nuance came-and-went band membership, and it’s best for me to cancel and redo with him as just “performed.” But one of the users did point out that this is exactly the kind of situation for which the annotation box is well suited. That is, I can go in and make a note that Malkmus was a founding member, but came and went.

I just made the changes but the system hasn’t updated yet. I can’t see my canceled edits or my new edits from my profile yet. I hope MB didn’t eat them or something. [UPDATE: apparently if you change too much, too fast, it just can’t keep up]

Why is this information important? In my opinion, connecting these entities in MusicBrainz, even just with annotation to explain, aids in using MB for music discovery and information in general. There may be a handful of Malkmus fans out there who don’t know about the Silver Jews, and would indeed be happy to discover them through a link to their profile on Malkmus’s page. I haven’t really thought about MB as a system for discovery until now, and I think it’s an area I’d like to look more closely at as I proceed. Building the relationships is a very nice way to bolster MB’s potential as a resource for music discovery.

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