BBC Music Artist Pages Beta
I'm happy to announce the launch today of a beta of our new artist pages on the BBC Music website. We now have a dynamically published, persistent and automated page for every artist we broadcast on the BBC, and thousands of others besides.
These pages form the foundation of an ambitious programme of work to improve the way we make our music content available to our audience.
Daphne Oram blowing a mijwiz while Richard Bird records the sound on a tape machine, BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Maida Vale, 1958.
The BBC has a long and distinguished track record of bringing music to new audiences through its music brands (programmes, events and websites) from Later... with Jools Holland to the BBC Proms, Radio 1's Live Lounge and new brands like the BBC Electric Proms and BBC Introducing. The other half of the equation - bringing brands to new audiences through the music they love - has been harder for us.
For example, if a fan of the band Foals doesn't know that we have video available online of both an excellent BBC 6 Music Hub Session for the band and an interview on the Later... website, they're not going to find out by searching for Foals on Google. If they find their way to the BBC's artist profile of Foals, they may spot the text links to this content, but how are they going to find the artist profile in the first place? And if they do, they still won't be aware that 6 Music is the best place to go on the BBC to hear more of Foals' music.
On a worldwide web where music content is abundant and readily discoverable - just look at some of the links on those Foals top ten results on Google, including free streamed music from Last.fm and YouTube - the BBC owes it to its licence fee payers to make it easier to find our music content. Particularly since, unlike many of our rivals, we invest so heavily in such a distinctive mix of music, including an unparalleled range of music that's new, live and specially recorded, British and from right across the genres.
We've taken a significant first step in this direction with the beta launch of our new generation of artist pages. By associating artist IDs with programme IDs, we have laid the foundations for making our content, and by extension our brands, much more discoverable by our audience. By exposing play count data (ie, displaying which networks and programmes have played a given artist), our beta artist page for Foals makes it clear to the audience that it's well worth tuning into 6 Music if they want to hear more from this band, and offers some pointers of which programmes to sample, with links to those programme's pages on /programmes.
The artist pages' URLs will also remain the persistent and definitive home of these artists on the BBC's website in the same way that episode and brand pages on /programmes remain the persistent, definitive home for individual programmes.
Having a persistent, and increasingly rich, resource to link to for each artist on the BBC should also help those pages appear higher up the search rankings, making it easier for our audience to find them.
This is only the start. There is a lot of work to do before these pages effectively aggregate all the BBC has to offer for individual artists. It's also important to point out that there also remain significant gaps in the play count information - one of the main reasons why this is a beta and not a live launch. For example, our data currently excludes Radio 2's specialist output and all of Radio 3, as well as significant amounts of content from across the radio networks. We also need to extend the concept of the unique ID from artists to releases, sessions, tracks, events and so on. But by establishing the crucial link between unique IDs for programmes and brands on the one hand, and unique IDs for artists on the other, we have put the building blocks in place for this work.
Another way in which we would like to make our content more discoverable is by openness to the web. We are working closely with the community-generated and -maintained music database MusicBrainz, which provides a unique ID for every artist as well as data on how they are related to one another and external links. By adopting this open standard, our pages are able to benefit from public domain content linked from MusicBrainz such as biographies from Wikipedia and discographies from MusicBrainz. But MusicBrainz IDs also make it straightforward for third parties to work with our data and automate links to our pages. (Photo of MusicBrainz banner by mayhern on flickr).
Tom Scott is blogging later this week [editor's note: Tom's blog post is now published here] about some of the ways we are facilitating this activity, by making our data available in different formats.
By the way, as this is a beta and most of the pages are unlinked, you may be wondering how to find a given artist. Here's how:
- visit http://musicbrainz.org
- enter artist name in the "artist" field under "Search" on the left hand side
- click on the name you're after on the list of results
- select the alphanumeric ID from the page's URL, eg from http://musicbrainz.org/artist/4dca4bb2-23ba-4103-97e6-5810311db33a.html, select 4dca4bb2-23ba-4103-97e6-5810311db33a
- paste the ID to the end of the URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/, eg http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/4dca4bb2-23ba-4103-97e6-5810311db33a
- careful, it's addictive
We plan to move from beta to live launch later this year, once we have added a few features to the pages, including the facility to promote content from around the BBC and more accurate play count information. Watch this space.
Matthew Shorter is Interactive Editor, Music, BBC Audio & Music Interactive.