One of MusicBrainz' aims is to be the universal lingua franca for music by providing a reliable and unambiguous form of music identification; this music identification is performed through the use of MusicBrainz Identifiers (MBIDs).
In a nutshell, an MBID is a 36 character Universally Unique Identifier that is permanently assigned to each entity in the database, i.e. artists, release groups, releases, recordings, works, labels, areas, places and URLs. MBIDs are also assigned to Tracks, though tracks do not share many other properties of entities. For example, the artist Queen has an artist MBID of
0383dadf-2a4e-4d10-a46a-e9e041da8eb3, and their song Bohemian Rhapsody has a recording MBID of
An entity can have more than one MBID. When an entity is merged into another, its MBIDs redirect to the other entity.
Using MBIDs for disambiguation
MBIDs are used to disambiguate between entities that share the same name in the MusicBrainz Database.
For example, there are two popular artists with the name "John Williams":
- John Williams, the soundtrack composer and conductor, has an artist MBID of
- John Williams, the classical guitar player, has an artist MBID of
And there are two different singles titled "99 Red Balloons":
- 99 Red Balloons, the original by Nena, has a release MBID of
- 99 Red Balloons, the cover by Goldfinger, has a release MBID of
Using MBIDs in applications
MBIDs play an important role when managing a digital music collection and there are several applications that are MusicBrainz enabled.
Multiple MBIDs may be written to a file by a MusicBrainz enabled tagger application. They are commonly used to identify:
- the recording itself
- the release
- the label
- the track artist
- the release artist
For more information, read the MusicBrainz tag specification.
Music player applications can take advantage of a file that has been tagged with MBIDs to do things such as:
- query the MusicBrainz Database for further information about the file or related entities
- reliably search for related files based on a unique string, instead of by potentially ambiguous strings such as artist name or release title
See Flickr Machine Tag for information about adding MBIDs to photos on Flickr.
Uniform Resource Identifier
URIs can be constructed by prefixing the MBID with the address of the MusicBrainz server and the entity type, for example Queen's URI becomes http://musicbrainz.org/artist/0383dadf-2a4e-4d10-a46a-e9e041da8eb3, and Bohemian Rhapsody's URI becomes http://musicbrainz.org/recording/ebf79ba5-085e-48d2-9eb8-2d992fbf0f6d.
There are several other identifiers that MusicBrainz uses:
- Disc ID: An ID calculated from the TOC of a CD.
- PUID: The IDs used in the proprietary MusicDNS audio fingerprinting system operated by MusicIP.
- Barcode: Machine-readable numbers used as stock control mechanisms by retailers.
- ISRC: The International Standard Recording Code, an identification system for audio and music video recordings.
- ISWC: The International Standard Musical Work Code, an identification system for musical works.
- IPI, a number identifying persons connected to ISWC registered works (authors, composers, etc.).