We’ve been working on a suite of new features to help surface more information about individual Tracks. The whole idea behind this project, which we call ‘Tracks’, is to make it easier for collectors to:
- discover new Tracks
- discover information specific to individual Tracks (not just releases)
- discover the relationships between Tracks that transcend artists and labels
If you’re on an artist page there’s a ‘Tracks’ link at the top right of the ‘Discography’ section:
Click on it and you’ll arrive at that Artist’s ‘Tracks’ page, where you’ll find all the different Tracks and Compositions released by that artist:
A ‘Composition’ is the conceptual blueprint for piece of music, for example the musical score, the lyrics, the chords etc. Every Composition will appear on one or more releases. ‘Tracks’ are the physical manifestation of a Composition on a release. If an artist writes one Composition that appears on two different releases, then that Composition has been released as two different Tracks on two different releases.
Clicking on the dropdown arrow to the left of any Composition you can see all the releases it appears on as a track.
You can now also click on individual Tracks in the Tracklist section of every Release page to get to the relevant Composition page:
What you can do on Tracks pages:
- Search for track names in the search bar on Tracks pages
- To see the most popular / most released Tracks by an artist, use the ‘Sort by Track Count’ filter
- Find Tracks you don’t have from artists you love
If you have one or more Tracks from an artist in your Collection you can ‘Sort by My Collection’ to find their Tracks you don’t have
- Help us identify which Tracks are different releases of the same Composition with the ‘Migrate Composition’ tool (see the last section for more details)
There are now also Composition pages...
Clicking on the title of any Composition will take you to the Composition page where you can see all the different releases that Composition appears on as a track.
The bigger picture
This project is part of the bigger vision to make Discogs the biggest and most comprehensive music database in the world. Since the first release was entered into Discogs on the 1st September 2000, the fundamental ‘unit’ of Discogs has always been ‘the release’, and it’s very easy to do some basic musicology by looking at all the 7” punk vinyls from 1992 in the UK or checking out all the 12” vinyls mastered by Christoph Grote-Beverborg at Dubplates & Mastering.
But the Discogs community wanted to know more about individual Tracks. When was the first recording? How many times was it repressed? There’s often quite a bit of information about individual Tracks on any release in the ‘Tracklist’ section of a release page but because it’s mostly free text it can’t be cross referenced.
What we’re trying to achieve with this version of the Tracks feature is an understanding of the relationship of certain Tracks between different releases.
What’s planned for the future? We’d like to make it possible for people to know the fine grained details of the relationships between Tracks. How many Tracks has the Amen Break appeared on? Other than Kanye, who else sampled Curtis Mayfield’s Move On Up?
How is all of this possible?
Because we have so many amazing contributors that dedicate serious hours to making sure Discogs is clean and orderly, the database is already a goldmine of information about individual Tracks and Compositions.
Over the past few weeks we’ve been processing evert Tracklist section of every Release in the entire database and synchronizing it into a new and independent system. And we’ve run some reasonably clever algorithms over the data to try to identify which Tracks are manifestations of which Compositions, in an attempt to identify instances where Tracks on different releases are from the same composition.
The basic idea is to try to make a giant list of Track Titles with Composition Credits. We do this by trying to figure out the name of the Artist with the most important role in composing a particular Track, checking to see if certain fields already exist in the database:
- First we check whether an individual Track has Artist Credits like ‘Composed By’, ‘Written-By’, ‘Music By’, etc.. Not all Credit roles are checked, only those that indicate a role in composing. If they don’t exist for an individual Track then we check whether they exist for the release as a whole.
- If no Composition Credits are identifiable from the individual Track or the Release as a whole then we’ll use the Main Artist from the individual Track.
- Lastly, if the individual Tracks don’t have a Main Artist either, we use the Main Artist from the Release as a whole.
Any time we find a pair in the list with the same Track Title and Credits, we assume it’s the same composition.
The limit to using algorithms to identify different Tracks from the same Composition is that it’s impossible to account for all the edge cases at once. It’s surprisingly common to find the same Composition with different Track Titles on a different Releases, for example when a Track Title is listed as ‘[Track Title] (Original Mix)’ on a reissue. So we don’t count text in parentheses at the end of a title. Which means our algorithm assumes ‘Authority Stealing (Part 1)’ and ‘Authority Stealing (Part 2)’ are the same Composition, when they’re not. We also strip out punctuation and make the whole title lowercase.
Obviously we’ll refine the process as we learn more about how it works in real life, but for now we’re looking to you, the Discogs brains trust, the most learned group of musicologists to have every existed, to help us clean up all the edge cases.
And that’s why we need you!
How can you help:
You can help in two ways.
Firstly, you can help us improve the feature with feedback and suggestions. Tracks is a work in progress and we want to get as much feedback as possible before moving on to the next step. There’s a link to the feedback form at the top of every Tracks and Composition page (takes about 5 mins to complete).
Secondly, in launching Tracks we’ve just embarked on a huge, huge project - cross referencing all the information about all the individual tracks that exist on Discogs - and the thing we need the most help with right now is determining which Tracks are from the same Composition. The algorithm is good but we know it’s not perfect, and nothing can beat music buffs like you in helping get the matching right!
Check out these two articles in our new knowledge base for the specifics:
Lastly you can also join the conversation about Tracks in the forums and let us know there!