xdef's proposal for file-based/digital release submissions on discogs

To begin with, there are a couple of possibly controversial rules which I have proposed:

  • Only entire releases may be submitted.
    • Discogs doesn't knowingly allow incomplete physical releases to be submitted to discogs. This rule should stay for digital releases. For one, it causes confusion (track numbering will be wrong, people will be unsure what release it is, etc.) This is really only controversial when dealing with paid releases, where some people only want to download individual tracks.
  • Only exclusive releases may be submitted from scratch.
    • I have proposed below a system through which non-exclusive releases will be generated from the physical version. This, I fear, will be extremely unpopular with many newer and future users. However, I believe that for the present (and years to come) it is our only way to maintain the accuracy (if I may say so) for which we have been applauded. Most labels distributing their music via digital services keep spreadsheets or rudimentary databases of their releases (one track per row). They provide this data to the online distributors (and others involved in the whole process), sometimes as file-names, more often as spreadsheets, etc. Unfortunately, this information is quite often inaccurate! Wrong catalog numbers, titles, names, etc. Truncated data, missing fields, etc. This is what the online digital distributor uses to generate their listings -- and then they often mangle it further, tweaking with titles and such. Thus, it isn't uncommon to have different services listing the same album with slightly different titles, none of them being accurate. When labels get sales statements back from distributors, they sometimes aren't even able to figure out what track some sales corresponded to. With this current state of affairs (and no real solution in sight) I believe it is best for discogs that we just stick to basing data off of the physical version, when it exists.
    • Note: if we need to change this rule eventually it wouldn't fly in the face of any of my proposals below. But I believe that my proposed rule should suit us well for at least the next few years, if not more.

Anyways, here we go. And please note that when I am giving evidence for things, it isn't hypothetical. I work in this industry and the evidence given here are things I've seen or had to deal with.

  • Allowed Releases
    • Publicly available releases.
    • Privately available releases by artists already in discogs AND where said release appears in the artist's official discography.
    • (I always hate coming up with rules for this...)
  • Submission Guidelines
    • You must have downloaded the entire release in order to submit it. Discogs does not allow partial release submissions. You must also have the files available on the computer you are submitting from, and also the release's download/purchase page open in your browser or other application.
    • The label should be the releasing label. In some cases this will be a netlabel or other label that releases it over the web. In other cases it is the label that released the physical version. The only time when the label can be the online digital distributor is when the release is digital-exclusive, exclusive to a specific distributor, and arranged directly via an artist or licensing agency and not via a label.
    • No external links are allowed in the notes. In general there should be no need to list non-linked external urls (most netlabel releases should be accessable from the url on the label-page, for instance). One-off releases, releases announced on mailing-lists, etc. may not be accessable by normal means and thus a url (unlinked) to the release web page will be permitted (and probably required if moderators cannot find the release online).
    • Track times will be required for all file-based/digital releases.
    • In your mod notes please provide the a link to the release if it is available on the web. Otherwise, please state which online service (such as iTuenes, etc.) you downloaded the release from.
  • Submission Procedure
    • Exclusive releases will be submitted on the usual discogs submission form. A new format will be created for file-based/digital releases (name t.b.d.). Once selecting this format, a new section of the form appears. Here they can choose from a number of options (such as MP3, ogg-vorbis, WAV, etc.) and/or(?) mark that it is available from online digital music services (i.e. iTunes, eMusic).
    • Non-exclusive releases will be submitted via a new section of the Update Release page for a given release. This will bring up a form where the digital options (as listed above) can be checked, and new release notes (defaulting to the existing notes) can be added. (Most of the rationale for this is given in my intro.) Kind of like a copy-to-draft with most of the data fixed. I must admit that I'm not too sure what to do with release year, though... it is usually unknown by all involved. I guess catalog numbers could also be edited (some smaller labels give these new cat#s) -- but we should be extremely wary of such changes.
    • I do not favor allowing people to mark which individual services it is available on, or the formats it is available on from those formats. Unless a release is "iTunes exclusive" or something (which can be put in the notes) labels use online music services in pretty much the same way that they use physical distributors. Except in some cases where it was released with the cooperation of a specific distributor, etc. we don't list that releases were distributed by Ryko or Rough Trade. Nor do we list that CDs are available from amazon.com or Tower Records. Similarly, digital releases are often made available at a variety of online file-based/digital distributors -- the list of distributors for a given release can change and expand over time. Some labels have employees whose only job is to find obscure online digital distributors to sell their music through, no matter how little income it generates (think $0.52 cents per month for a big label). There's something on the order of 100 online digital distributors and no one is sure where the market will lead. Many services have their own proprietary formats, for downloads, tethered releases, etc. As the market and technology changes, no one is quite sure where this will go either. With potentially dozens of distributors per release, and a different format for each, it is probably unreasonable for us to attempt to keep this info up-to-date, especially when labels aren't even able to do so. (Well, that was probably overkill, but I hope I got my point through.)
  • New Discogs Structure
    • Due to the diversity of interests of discogs users, we must come up with a system that will satisfy everyone. While some users want to see all MP3s, others want to see none. Thus, I suggest a three-tiered system of personal preferences to deal with this. They are as follows:
      • View everything: All file-based/digital releases are viewable, both exclusive and non-exclusive.
      • View exclusive: Only file-based/digital releases that are exclusive are viewable.
      • View none: No file-based/digital releases are viewable. However, if an artist or label does have exclusive mp3s it may be desired to have a note at the top of the page to the effect that "Some file-based/digital releases are not being shown due to your preferences." Clicking a link there will show that page from the View exclusive perspective (by throwing an extra param onto the url).
    • Adding to collection. If someone has View everything set, clicking "Add to Collection" for a file-based/digital release will present a per-track checkbox (and a select all button) to allow them to add individual tracks to their collection.
    • Collection listing -- I haven't given this too much thought to date. I have a few ideas, but it's less critical compared to the rest of this. In general I think it should just list releases, not tracks. If someone has only some tracks for a release it can have a flag indicating that it is partial (and maybe a mouse-over box listing the tracks).
    • Want-list I guess could be similar to collection.
    • Moderating -- probably similar to the existing setup, but with a new update (Generate digital version) and digital/no-digital preferences.

A few other thoughts... we probably need to have clear definitions of these near the top of the guidelines:

  • netlabel
  • online digital distributor