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[x] Solo artists are legitimate artists

pkasting·9 replies

[x] Solo artists are legitimate artists
18 years ago
Apr 13, 2005 - 1:36am
Mark is well aware of my position on this issue, but to facilitate public discussion, I'll post some comments from past emails with him as to why I think you should drop your rule that "solo artists are not considered bands". In short, my argument is that all other things being equal, the actual name of a band itself should not be a determinant as to whether it gets into the database. For more whining, I submit the following quotes:

Solo artists are just as much "bands" as anyone else. What's ridiculous is that under rule 7e you consider a solo artist a band if he's not using his own name as the band name (so Nine Inch Nails is a band... but it wouldn't be, under your rules, if Trent just called it "Trent Reznor"). How incredibly illogical and inconsistent is that? ... Either Trent Reznor/Nine Inch Nails is a band, or not; it should make utterly no difference what label he puts on his CDs.

I just reread the page and noticed the new "Cooper effect" rule 7f. ... You're drawing a very nitpicky line to no practical purpose. I stand by my statement that "no solo artists", and in fact all the rest of rule 7 too, does nothing to enhance the quality of your database, simply rules out legitimate bands/artists, and is dumb. There's a difference between being anal/exacting/demanding and just being petulantly silly for no good effect.

Mark wrote:
> Hmm. So, what do you think we should do about solo artists? Consider
> anyone that backed them? And generally, would you allow session musicians
> into the tree too? I guess we could always make

Yeah, actually, I would allow most of those things in general. For solo artists, at least the artist themselves should be allowed into the tree, even if them being alone means they're a leaf node. But if they're playing with a backing band (Alice Cooper, for example, or other artists who are less "solo artists" than "bandleaders of eponymous bands"), I'd allow the band too. The principle ought to be that the _name_ of the band has utterly no effect on whether the band is included; the rest ("are session musicians credited" etc.) is up for debate. ... I think you're right in perceiving that asking "who makes up "the band" is a hard question to answer well, but I think you've ruled out what most people would consider to be "real bands" in your attempts to keep the database pure.

Mark wrote:
> Yeah, sometimes I think that's the way to go too. Although then I think
> of guys like Steve DiGiorgio who show up as a temporary member on 10,000
> albums...

Well, I don't think there's a problem with that. Perhaps that's where we differ :)

I did find another band that falls afoul of your "no bands named after an artist" rule to whine about-- King Diamond. This is a pretty important metal band that links a lot of people together (though, admittedly, many of them are also linked by Mercyful Fate)-- too bad I can't submit it because its name happens to be the same as one of its members :(. Maybe if I keep harassing you guys enough about that rule you'll relent!
When is a band not a band?
18 years ago
Apr 13, 2005 - 4:25pm
I can empathise with your position, after all it was me that argued that the original Alice Cooper Group (as it is generally known these days) was a BAND not a solo artist, although I must admit it's a bit of a fine distinction at times.
My reason was that Alice Cooper was the name of the group, as well as the name of the CHARACTER adopted by Vince Furnier while on stage. He didn't legally change his name to Alice Cooper until later (although I'm not sure if that necessarily matters). So from the beginning until Muscle of Love, "Alice Cooper" was a band. After "Muscle of Love", Furnier fired the rest of Alice Cooper, retaining the name for a solo career. Anything after Muscle of Love is in fact a solo album with a "backing band".

I agree that sometimes an artist will siply use their own name rather than adding "Band" onto the end of the name - for example I would like to see Robin Trower added in - unfortunately the albums are simply credited to "Robin Trower" rather than "The Robin Trower Band" even though that's what it was for all intents and purposes for at least the first few albums.

Certainly I agree with the "no guests or session musicians" rule - but a stable band line up over several albums is surely not guests/session musicians?

Frank Zappa and Neil Young
Matt Westwood
18 years ago
Apr 13, 2005 - 6:14pm
If we allowed single-artist-named bands we'd be able to have a wealth of interesting connections via Frank Zappa, who at the moment languishes on a single LP as The Mothers of Invention which is a tad limiting.

I agree with Kate about Robin Trower, which was as stable a band as you can imagine.

Agreed that session & guest musicians would not be allowed, which would keep it lean and mean - but there are lots of solid bands out there that are being kept out merely because their band leader is an egotist.

If a single artist keeps a band together for the course of an album or two and a tour, then whether that band calls itself Santana or Carlos Santana or Carlos Santana and the Santana Band would then be immaterial.

On the other hand, things like "Kiki Dee" would probably *not* get their band on because her bands tend to be session musicians. The difficult would come with entities like "Kate Bush" because although her bands tended to be recorded with mainly session guys, it's the same ones each time, and they even went (in the early years) on tour with her, and she referred to them as "The KT Bush Band".

Would be nice to have little oddities like "Daevid Allen and Euterpe", and of course that towering scene Neil Young and Crazy Horse ... and it would also be nice to allow duos in like "Eliza Carthy and Nancy Kerr", which IMO *ought* to be in there, so that my local heroes "Epona" get a look-in (and there's an awful lot of folk is being ignored purely because of this rule).

And "Crosby, Stills and Nash" aren't in because they're a subset of "Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young", which IMO is arbitrary.

But what the heck, it's your website, you do what feels right ...
18 years ago
Apr 13, 2005 - 6:32pm
Matt said:

"there are lots of solid bands out there that are being kept out merely because their band leader is an egotist."

and that does indeed seem to be the case.

Not quite sure how we get round that one, in the light of the rules of this site! ;)

What Is And What Is Not A Band
18 years ago
Apr 13, 2005 - 7:22pm
This is a very good topic which brings up one of the most contentious parts of the website, who is considered a band and who is not, but more than that is it a good vehicle to introduce the logic behind the Rules and how they were composed. Although they may appear arbitrary at first glance, the Rules were forumated in a very straight forward manner, addressing the broadest circumstances and refined down as particular instances appeared. Before going into the specific rational of this point of conversation I'd like to first put the Rules in context, both historical and in their application. is not our (Mark and myself) first implementation of a band mapping program, as a matter of fact it is the third or fourth (sixth or seventh if you count how many times I've had to re-write the mapping algorithim). The earlier versions were alway a part of a broader website but always failed for one of a couple of reasons. The first is due to data integrity. If you ever wondered why we are such sticklers for the Rules it is because we have witnessed first hand when they are not adhered to. We have to be very cafeful as to who is added to the band list because if at some point a band member is found not to be legitamite and has to be removed (see the Simon Philips post for Judas Priest by Python) any band put in as a connection through the offending party become isolated from the rest of the tree. If there are isolated bands in the tree and you try to connect them the mapping algorithim is brought to it's knees instanty, and I mean instantly. I've seen it happen and it is not pretty. Therefore our primary goal, above all else, is to not break the system. For that reason we have to very careful about what we are doing and in order to tread lightly around the system it is absolutely necessary to have guiding principles about what to do when adding a band and thus the Rules were born.

To begin to understand the Rules it is important to appreciate the heartache of watching our earlier implementations of the program collapse due to a chaotic methodology of adding bands. When we sucked it up and decided to give it one more try we decided up front that it was imperitive to have a decent set of rules to help us along the way and help us avoid the pitfalls into which we fell far too many times. At the outset we had to have a broad definition of what is a band. What is a band actually? Here's a definition from

1. A group of people: a band of outlaws.
2. A unit of social organization...
3. A group of musicians who perform as an ensemble.

So this is where we began, a band is a group of musicians who preform as an ensemble. That is simple enough and in our view exactly what we need since in order to connect two bands each must share of member of each group.

Actually, before moving on I don't want to lose anyone in mapping out our logic of the contruction of the Rules so I'm going to pause here to let this sink and address any potential issues that may have crept up thus far (rest assured I'll get to explaining solo artists, single member bands, etc shortly).

What Is And What Is Not A Band: Part II
18 years ago
Apr 15, 2005 - 6:14am
I left off the previous post with a dictionary definition of what a band is, however I do not want to give the impression that we began this project in a mechanical way where we laid down a set of rules and then proceeded to add bands based upon them. Instead I wanted to provide that mechanical base and then show how we reached it through a historical and humanistic perspective. Presenting a definition of a band also important because the vast majority of the rules on the Rules page are directly related to it helping to clarify in a variety of circumstances, so to understand our derivation of the definition is to also understand the Rules as a whole.

As I mentioned before, this is not our first implementation of a band mapping program and in fact in previous versions we did include solo artists as legitimate bands but that quickly spelled disaster for a number of reasons. First off often times you'd be reading through the list of band names and run across:

Nick Cave, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Neil Young, Neil Young & Crazy Horse

and if you clicked on the two you'd have a result like:

Neil Young
|- Neil Young
Neil Young & Crazy Horse

In my opinion, that is absolutely absurd. On a limited basis it may not prove so bad however, you may not realize it but as soon as you start allowing solo artists, they soon start to equal in number as actual bands ultimately ending up with a band list that is half artists, half bands. Furthermore a majority of the solo artists are just that, solo artists and are the only performing member of the "band" and as a result half the band list is comprised of single artists diluting the original intention of the entire program. This has ruined previous BandToBand projects because, as I've mentioned, once the data has been entered into the system and been built upon it is nearly impossible to change your mind and attempt to go back and cut out large swathes of data. To destroy a project of this nature by letting faulty data poison the system is devastating and after seeing it happen on more than one occasion, I could not bear seeing it happen again. Therefore from the outset it was ruled utterly unacceptable to risk total destruction once again, and solo artists were banned.

The logical question then is why not simply make a rule prohibiting singular recording artists as opposed to solo artists who record with a band? While not a difficult rule to write that is a very difficult rule to implement. When is a supporting band a supporting band and when is it not a band at all? Does anyone in the world believe Michael Jackson is a band although he's had the same drummer for ten years? This circumstance is so tricky and difficult to grasp that it really isn't worth the effort. Recall that the vast majority of solo artists are just that and these sticky situations where there may be a supporting band are just a small percentage of the whole that suffering through the close calls simply isn't worth it. Finally, even if we were able to interpret every situation perfectly and only added those solo artists that did preform with a "real" supporting band, the majority of users of the website are not as savvy as you guys who are reading and debating the Rules. Instead the average user will look at the band list and see Neil Young but not John Lennon and get confused with the obvious omission of John Lennon, and from a design perspective confusing the base user is a cardinal sin. Therefore it was finally decided, after a tremendous amount of debate between Mark and myself, and a number of earlier attempts to include them that allowing solo artists could no longer be a possibility.

I realize that despite these arguments, disallowing solo artists entirely can still appear to be Stalinistic. However if you were to look at the Rules in the broadest sense, we do everything in our power to allow solo artists in. Although a solo artist (or band) performing under a full name is excluded, we allow using part of a name (Van Halen, Bon Jovi) or even a full name with another word (The Jimi Hendrix Experience). We are doing everything in our power to maintain optimum inclusion potential while not falling into solo artist pitfall. It would be incorrect to read the Cooper Effect as an anal attempt to uphold a restrictive rule of excluding the solo artist Alice Cooper, but rather it is an anal attempt to include the band Alice Cooper without opening ourselves up to potential downfall.

I don't want to beat this subject senseless but ultimately it is important to understand that we want to include every band possible without having our project fall to the same demise that we have met on more than one occasion. Are we a bit gun shy and playing it overly conservative? I'll be the first to admit that we are however as I look over and see that we have over 2300 bands in the system by playing it conservative, I'd say we're doing alright.

18 years ago
Apr 16, 2005 - 3:43am
Wow, I think I can't possibly disagree with you more :)

For starters, your entire premise seems wrong to me:

"as soon as you start allowing solo artists, they soon start to equal in number as actual bands ultimately ending up with a band list that is half artists, half bands. Furthermore a majority of the solo artists are just that, solo artists and are the only performing member of the "band" and as a result half the band list is comprised of single artists diluting the original intention of the entire program."

Uh... it seems to me the intention of the program was to show how bands connected to each other and what groups people played in. Since solo artists are real artists, showing that Neil Young plays as a solo artist is an important reflection of reality, not a messy artifact. The fact that so many people entered the database as solo artists before was not a problem, but a reflection of how many people make music on their own (a lot!). That's a sign that your system is _healthy_, that it reflects the real world, not that it's broken. I claim that DISALLOWING solo artists in order to try and bump up the number of "bands with connections" (which, it appears, is what you want to do,) is what ruins "the original intention of the entire program". Of course, it's your program, so you're the one making the call as to what the intention is. But if your intention is to simply provide bands that link to lots of other bands and aren't leaf nodes, as opposed to allowinging (without prejudice) EVERY artist that can link with the existing tree, then I'm a lot less interested in your site.

Given that I think your descriptions of previous results as "disastrous" are not only overwrought but in fact the OPPOSITE of reality, it's not surprising that I don't agree with the rest of what you say. Given your comments about Michael Jackson (yes, I do believe he's "a band" because to me "a band" is a synonym for "an artist" and he's clearly an artist), you obviously have a very different idea of what a band is than I do. And given that, in the ideal form, your concept of a band looks to you to be hard to quantify or describe, I think the logical suggestion is that perhaps your concept is in fact wrong, since I find accuracy and simplicity often coincide :)

I suspect the problem here is your conception (at least, given how I read your earlier post) of a band as an ensemble. As a (non-publishing) solo musician myself, I have no such illusions. More and more people are making music alone, and whether people make music in a group of 1, 2, or 20 is irrelevant so long as that group calls itself some kind of entity and releases some pieces of work. Therefore, any idea of "bandtoband" that is based on a view of that as "grouptogroup" is, in my view, fatally flawed.

"the average user will look at the band list and see Neil Young but not John Lennon and get confused with the obvious omission of John Lennon, and from a design perspective confusing the base user is a cardinal sin"

And you don't think my examples of including Nine Inch Nails but not self-named artists confuse people? I guess we have different views of the "base user" then.

"we do everything in our power to allow solo artists in"

And that is the final nail in the coffin of why I think you are wrong. If your view is that solo artists shouldn't be in, then they shouldn't be in. Making a rule that you then try your hardest to work around is a CLEAR sign that the rule itself is erroneous. If you don't want single-member bands (under WHATEVER name) flooding the site and "diluting" the purpose you have for it, then just disallow sigular recording artists and be done with it. Your claims of "enforcement difficulties" don't wash with me because you already go to great effort to try and make the (to me meaningless) distinction of who is "really" a member of a band, who's a guest artist, who's a studio artist, etc., on basically every band submitted (I should know after having enough of my submissions examined critically...). If you think you can accurately distinguish that in the general case, you can certainly distinguish it in cases like Michael Jackson where you don't seem to feel he is/has a band.

Like you, I don't want to "beat the subject to death" in this post as I've made it abundantly clear what my views are. It's obvious that even without allowing solo artists in, you'll be able to add many more bands (I would guess at least 10,000). Maybe that is good enough for you. For me, if I find a link between two bands I like to be far longer than it actually is in real life, just because an intervening artist performed under his own name, the number of bands in the site doesn't matter: the site has failed. Perhaps you can resurrect one of your previous "disasters" and I can be more happy there.
A compromise?
Matt Westwood
18 years ago
Apr 16, 2005 - 9:21am
So how about: disallowing Neil Young, but allowing Neil Young and Crazy Horse; disallowing Frank Zappa, but allowing Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention (and while I think about it, what about "Rubin and the Jets"?)

Also the distinction that disallows "England Dan and John Ford Coley" seems to be a little fine.
Bands vs Solo Artists
18 years ago
Apr 16, 2005 - 11:25am
Well to a certain extent I can see where everyone is coming from. We wouldn't want the site "broken" would we?
I can see some argument for "one man bands" but I can also see the arguments against. I don't think I would really like to see solo artists included except where they are clearly performing with a band, e.g. the aforementioned Neil Young and Crazy Horse.

Personally I wouldn't want to see the likes of Michael Jackson included, and in my own mind at least there is a clear distinction between Alice Cooper the band and Alice Cooper the solo artist.
I suppose to a certain extent it's to do with the "mentality" of the artist - are they just a solo artist doing their own thing and paying a bunch of people to accompany them, or do they see themselves as just a part of a "band"? And in some cases, who knows?

Maybe it's just a fine distinction that each of us makes, in which case the dividing line could be in a different place to each person ;)
I mean to me, Robin Trower and Brinsley Schwartz are bands (in the latter case nobody believed it was a guy's name anyway LOL so he just used it as a convenient band name) but neither have made it onto the site.

But at the end of the day, the decision is down to Mark and Kevin and that's the way it should be. (Won't stop us all arguing though LOL).

18 years ago
Apr 17, 2005 - 6:21am
It seems clear to me that everyone else is approaching the problem from a more pragmatic perspective ("I'd really like to see group X in here, so how can we get them in?") than my purely philosophical one ("decide what you mean by band and enforce it to the letter") -- which on its own would probably be enough to cause endless disagreement, on top of the fact that I insist on interpreting "band" as equivalent to "artist", which I haven't heard any clamoring for in other quarters (in addition to Kevin, Kate also seems to disagree with that definition).

Sigh. I suppose, as I once joking threatened to Mark, I could always spider the site and set up my own "" and do it _my_ way :). But, as I concluded before, it's too much effort :P
Mapping the Rock 'N Roll genome since 2005