RDF Schema for musical family trees?

by Dan Zambonini

I was recently talking to another alternative music geek at a party -- trying to explain the incestuous relationship between many of the bands I liked -- and started sketching out something that resembled a lo-fi version of this:

Diagram showing relationships between many musical artists

After a few relationships had been drawn, I started thinking about how this could be represented with RDF (yes, I am a lot of fun at parties). I don't want to re-invent the wheel, so does anyone know if anything already exists that could model these relationships? I'm aware of the Musicbrainz metadata scheme, which borrows from Dublin Core, but the scope doesn't go so far as to map relationships (from what I've seen).

If nothing does exist, what kind of classes and properties should we have? I'll start making a draft list below - if you can think of any others (or corrections to mine), let me know below.

  • I was thinking about sub-classing the MusicBrainz Artist class with Band/Group and Musician (which would include vocalists, etc.) classes

  • Maybe the MusicBrainz Album and Track could be sub-classes of something like a Recording class? That might make it easier to say that someone can 'feature on' or 'produce' (etc.) any type of 'recording' (whether it is an entire album or a track)

  • So we probably need properties for is member of, produced (which would apply to a recording, not a band, as in my diagram above), features in/on (there's probably a much better semantic term for this), has covered (again, unlike my diagram above, this should go from a band to a track, not a band - the original band/author can be found from a second relation)

  • I guess we'd want to be able to say that someone was is member of for a particular date range too, so that we can represent musicians moving from one band to another.

  • There are plenty of vocabularies to describe family relationships (e.g. http://vocab.org/relationship/), so we don't need to add anything for this

What else?


2005-10-12 03:36:29
Musicbrainz does some of this, though not in RDF (yet?)
Musicbrainz recently introduced what are referred to as 'advanced relationships' which allows you to (amongst other things) say who the members of a group are, when individual members joined/left, when individuals where born/died, link siblings, parents, spouses and various other things.

e.g all Flaming Lips relationships (http://musicbrainz.org/showrel.html?id=1114&type=artist)
(note the date founded and type:group under the name)

and David Fridmann's here (
http://musicbrainz.org/showrel.html?id=250751&type=artist) (note type:person and lack of a birthdate because no-one's entered it yet)

You'll notice that they co-produced The Soft Bulletin (http://musicbrainz.org/showrel.html?type=album&id=21403) and that a fella by the name of Peter Mokran (
) did some remixes for it.

As you can see that's a fairly complex web of information, unfortunately it is currently well hidden in the web interface and apparently completely missing from the RDF.

I'm unaware of what the plans are for providing this information as RDF. I know that some people (e.g. last.fm) are using this info, but I'm not sure if they're just hosting a copy of the DB.

Where it somewhat breaks down is the fact that MusicBrainz, for historical reasons is really set up around 'discs' (as in a round shiny thing) rather than 'releases' (which may include multiple round shiny things) or 'versions' (with each 'release' possibly having multiple versions from different countries or special editions).

As a result you're really limited at the moment to saying this 'artist produced this disc', but it's relatively easy to extract the information you want from that, it's just not explicit in the data model at the moment.

2005-10-12 05:24:31
Why not start with FOAF?
While obviously not specifically geared towards the "inbred genealogical family tree" that tends to be prevalent in the music industry, it is geared towards mapping relationships between "friends" and could act as a nice starting point if nothing else.
2006-06-05 09:37:38
we are working on such an ontology in my lab since quite a while - it is not published yet, but i think it will soon!
in fact we define music production by focusing on the concept of event (which has several sub concepts, like, as you said, Recording, but also Performance, Composition, and so on...).

We also thought about a "Getting a member" event, which can allow to specify an membership for a given time interval.

Just drop me a line if you are interested

yves.raimond at elec.qmul.ac.uk