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BBC Music Artist Pages Beta

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Matthew Shorter Matthew Shorter | 20:24 UK time, Monday, 28 July 2008

musicbeta.jpgI'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.

musicbrainz_on_wall.jpgAnother 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:

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.


  • Comment number 1.

    1st url in post is wrong

  • Comment number 2.

  • Comment number 3.

    Now that is rather cool! VERY good integration of Musicbrainz data into the pages, it's good to see this deal between the BBC and MBz is finally taking shape. Am I right in thinking that the tracklists and 'most played' tracks are sourced from the current Last.fm profiles of the various BBC radio stations?

  • Comment number 4.

    Looks good.

    While on the topic, iPlayer should link to /programmes consistently - it sometimes does, sometimes it goes to other bbc pages. It should take info from /programmes too, like the credits. And even more importantly, why not tell us when the programme was on, on iPlayer, and when the next programme in the series will be on?

    On /programmes, how about linking to news about the programme (e.g. press releases), fan sites, reviews etc, etc... That'll make the pages really valuable. Currently they seem a bit 'dead', like they're stub pages that hold the bear minimum.

    I know this isn't your department, but you've got to keep joining things up :) Integration, integration, integration!

  • Comment number 5.

    Plus, for films, why not pull data from IMDB? It's publicly available for download...

  • Comment number 6.

    As with iPlayer and /programmes, the URL's could be a *lot* more useful.



    rather than the current:


    That way I can just type my way to the artist I want, and developers can link to the page they want easily, rather than having to know that cryptic code...

  • Comment number 7.

    > Plus, for films, why not pull data from IMDB?
    > It's publicly available for download...

    Or even better, Wikipedia...?


  • Comment number 8.

    Sorry to outstay my welcome, but the contact us page is a little messed up, CSS isn't working correctly.


  • Comment number 9.

    I'd be interested to hear more about how the Wikipedia integration works.

    Is it a 'live' copy, or are you caching locally? And, if you are caching, does it update? Is there some sort of mechanism for avoiding 'bad' wikipedia edits whilst making sure that you DO catch major factual updates?

  • Comment number 10.

    You can download Wikipedia from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Database_download, it's about 15GB compressed and 30+ uncompressed. You've then got everything, except images.

    IMDB you can download in various text files from https://www.imdb.com/interfaces. I'd say IMDB is more reliably accurate than Wikipedia, though that's purely because I've never heard anyone say that IMDB was inaccurate, and IMDB employs editors...

  • Comment number 11.

    This looks really good. It will be great to track artists through this site.

    Any chance you will ultimately link it to other BBC sources such as John Peel sessions? I wait with baited breath for the day that I can listen to any old Peel session through iPlayer...!

  • Comment number 12.

    i think you are mistaken about IMDB, ed lyons -- the data can be downloaded, but can't be resused commercially without special arrangement...

    If you do want to use IMDb data for commercial purposes, you must contact our Content Licensing Department at https://www.imdb.com/Licensing/

    so, not a no-brainer, certainly...

  • Comment number 13.

    And reviews? Will all that tasty content at the beeb be linked to on the discogs? ;-)

  • Comment number 14.

    Is the BBC 'commercial' use? If they don't advertise on the page, they aren't profiting from it... BBC Worldwide is the BBC's commercial arm, they don't run the website.

    I'm sure a deal could be made with IMDB/Amazon either way, the BBC have made such deals before (e.g. MusicBrainz)...

  • Comment number 15.

    yes, i'm sure it's possible to collaborate with iMDB, but my point is that it's not as straightforward as using Wikipedia data -- wikipedia has, by design, a more liberal license.

    and, yes, i'd say that the Beeb is a commercial company in this regard -- certainly has market impact (for instance, impact on the markets iMDB and Amazon are interested in)

  • Comment number 16.

    Tom Scott has blogged some more detail here.

    Nick Reynolds (editor, BBC Internet blog)

  • Comment number 17.

    It would be great if the BBC had a website similar to Google Labs (https://labs.google.com%29 which provided information about BBC websites that are currently in development or in beta.

  • Comment number 18.

    I'd guess thats what backstage.bbc.co.uk should be mbuguah. It seems to be somewhat neglected ... much like google labs...

  • Comment number 19.

    #6 it is all very well doing that with the name, however you are going to get confusion because

    1) bands sometimes have the same name like

    "Bad Company" (drum and bass)


    "Bad Company" (rock band)


    2) names with the indefinite pronoun in them (often wrongly)


    try searching for "The The" on MuisicBrainz - it doesn't work.

    #18 please see https://welcomebackstage.com/

  • Comment number 20.

    Matthew Shorter, who wrote this post, is on holiday. I'm the Senior Producer of the Music site so in his absence here are answers to some of your questions.

    Hempsworth (#6 & #8) - thanks for alerting us about the Contact Us page's CSS. We fixed this yesterday. Brianist (#19) explains exactly why we are using unique IDs in the URL structure. You can be assured that there will be redirects from the likes of /artists/beatles etc to the correct page once we move from Beta to Live.

    castle79 (#9) - Tom Scott has written in detail about the Wikipedia integration on his blog here: Derivadow

    acotgreave (#11) and Jonesisdying (#13): When the site moves from Beta to Live it will certainly link to all of our album reviews. Regarding sessions, as Matthew wrote, our ambition is to "effectively aggregate all the BBC has to offer for individual artists". This, naturally, includes sessions and we hope the archive will be represented.

    I will attempt to answer any other questions you have in due course.

  • Comment number 21.

    Congrats on getting this launched! It's awesome that you're linking together MusicBrainz and Wikipedia data together witih your own to create this. It's an excellent idea - and you win geek points.

    I am quite dissapointed to see a lack of Last.fm incorporation. More about this on my blog, though: https://my.opera.com/coxy/blog/2008/07/30/bbc-music-beta

  • Comment number 22.

    First of all, apologies for coming late to this thread - I've been on holiday and thoroughly unplugged. I'm really pleased to see so many constructive comments.

    Though Nigel covered most of it, in case any of you are still waiting for answers to your questions, here's what may be a final trawl:

    pauljarvis: the most played tracks are not sourced from the current Last.fm profiles of the BBC radio stations, but it's a sensible assumption, because both are drawn from the same data - our automated playout system (VCS). This is also why we are keen to emphasise the same caveats as we do on Last.FM (see Radio 2's profile around the currently incomplete nature of this data while we are still in beta.

    castle79: you'll already have seen the technical details re Wikipedia integration on Tom's post that Nigel pointed to above. To answer your question re the mechanism for avoiding bad edits: essentially we're relying on the Wikipedia community to deal with any vandalism in their usual timely manner, augmented by our own users who we encourage to click through and help if they feel strongly. Because we are updating pages in real time, we are confident that any bad edits will not be on our pages for long. In the event that this assumption proves unfounded and there is a high profile problem, we can suspend the Wikipedia biography for a given page.

    acotgreave: as Nigel said, we aim to aggregate more and more BBC content over time and this would include details of archive sessions. However, I'm afraid it's unlikely that everything from the archive will be made available for free on bbc.co.uk. Such content has a commercial value, and the BBC through its commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, has an obligation to seek opportunities to exploit its archive commercially. This is partly in order to avoid negative impact on our competitors in the marketplace, and partly due to the nature of the rights we acquire from artists and labels, among other reasons. Having said that, there's a balance to be struck and we're actively exploring where that balance lies.

    coxy: you'll have see the response from Tom Scott on your own blog post re Last.FM integration and some of the problems we're facing there. But I would also add that in the long run we are keen to link and aggregate to the best content avaialble on the web, within the bounds of rights, editorial policy and so on, and Last.FM would certainly fall into the latter category for us. As much as anything else it's a question of time. I'd reiterate that what we launched last month is very much a first step.

    I hope to post a progress report later in beta, and certainly when we make the pages fully public.

  • Comment number 23.

    spot the deliberate mistake in the above comment.... the link to coxy's blog should of course have been https://my.opera.com/coxy/blog/2008/07/30/bbc-music-beta. Sorry!

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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