Online music information databases
It's essential to include music metadata in your music collection, to keep it navigable and well organized. But how do you get the information in the first place? Tools like bliss may find the information automatically, and sometimes you know the information yourself, but what if you need to look something specific up? Here's a list of music information databases that can be accessed online.
For each database I have considered the following data points:
- Coverage (quantity of information)
- Quality (accuracy of the information)
FreeDB is a free database and is commonly used by CD rippers to populate initial information when ripping. FreeDB was formed when CDDB, a previous online music information database, changed its licensing to become more restrictive. Reacting against this, FreeDB was formed. Unfortunately, of all the databases this one is the most unreliable in terms of data quality. That said, it's correct more often than not and it has a large number of releases covered and can be searched online.
MusicBrainz is another free database and like FreeDB it is built and maintained by its users. MusicBrainz's search tools are very powerful and it covers a large amount of music. MusicBrainz's quality level is high, presumably because of the high number of maintainers and constant viewers of the data. Unfortunately, genre information is not specifically included, although 'tags' are generally used for this purpose. MusicBrainz has an API so tools can be written to fetch information from the MusicBrainz database, as bliss does. MusicBrainz also partners with AmpliFIND to store acoustic fingerprints: ways of identifying music by the music itself. This makes it useful when music is missing all information, such as album name and artist name.
Discogs is a free and open community site similar to MusicBrainz. While MusicBrainz is very strong with officially released music, I find Discogs is similarly strong for other types of releases such as bootlegs, cover mounted CDs and similar. There's also an API, like MusicBrainz, so software can fetch information.
The grandaddy of information sites, Wikipedia is invaluable for looking up information of mainstream artists. However, its depth is not so great as the other databases, and it is not as structured, making it difficult to compare information from release to release.
allmusic (formally "The All Music Guide") is something of an Internet legend. Started back in 1991 it has always had a reputation for quality data and well written reviews. Unlike most other databases it is not open to community edits but written by professional writers and editors. It is free to browse the online version. It also concentrates on official releases, so you won't find information about bootlegs.
|Cost||Free (for online browsing)|
I hope this list of online music databases was of use. Maybe you should bookmark these sites for the next time you are at a pub quiz!