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In MusicBrainz terminology, a work is a distinct intellectual or artistic creation, which can be expressed in the form of one or more audio recordings. While a work in MusicBrainz is usually musical in nature, it is not necessarily so. For example, a work could be a novel, play, poem or essay, later recorded as an oratory or audiobook.


A work’s distinctiveness is based on the artists who contributed to its final output, and whether a work is derived from another original work. Examples of works that are distinct:

  • a work that is written by an individual songwriter
  • a work that is the result of a collaboration between composer and lyricist
  • an instrumental work where an artist later adds lyrics
  • translation of an original work into a different language
  • a parody of an original work with differing lyrics
  • a medley of multiple original works
  • a mashup of multiple original works

Types of works

Works are represented predominantly at two levels:

Discrete works
An individual song, musical number or movement. This includes recitatives, arias, choruses, duos, trios, etc. In many cases, discrete works are a part of larger, aggregate works.

Aggregate works
An ordered sequence of one or more songs, numbers or movements, such as: symphony, opera, theatre work, concerto, and concept album. A popular music album is not considered a distinct aggregate work unless it is evident that such an album was written with intent to have a specifically ordered sequence of related songs (i.e. a “concept album”).

Style guidelines

Please see the guidelines for works



The canonical title of the work, expressed in the language it was originally written.


The type of work.


If a discrete work is known by name(s) or in language(s) other than its canonical name, these are specified in the work’s aliases.

Lyrics languages

The language(s) used in the lyrics for this work.


The International Standard Musical Work Code assigned to the work by copyright collecting agencies.


See the page about MBIDs for more information.

Disambiguation comment

See the page about comments for more information.


See the page about annotations for more information.


A work is associated with artists, recordings and other works through advanced relationships.

Work-to-Artist relationship

A work can be associated with one or more composer, arranger, instrumentator, orchestrator, lyricist, librettist, translator and publisher.

Work-to-Recording relationship

A work can be associated with one or more recordings. This provides the indirect association between a work and its performance and production artists.

Work-to-Work relationships

A work can be associated with one or more other works. There are two types of work-work relationships:

Part-of-work relationship
A work can be expressed as a part of another work.

Derivative work relationship
A work can be expressed as being derived from one or more other works. Examples: instrumental work with lyrics added later, translation of a work into a different language, mashup.


Works do not have an artist of their own, all artists are derived from the work's relationships. A work will show up under the works tab for any artist directly linked to a work (e.g. composers, lyricists). Any works linked to the artist's recordings will also be shown there.

See also

External databases

ProviderMain areas coveredNotes
ISWCNet database provided by CISAC.Many countries [1]
Search engine provided by SACEMFrance
Search engine provided by GEMAGermany
Search engine provided by SIAEItaly
Search engine provided by SGAESpain
Search engine provided by JASRACJapan
Search engine provided by KOMCASouth Korea
Search engine provided by SUISASwitzerland
Search engine provided by BMIUSA
Search engine provided by ASCAPUSA
Search engine provided by SESACUSADoes not contain ISWCs
Search engine provided by CASHHong KongDoes not contain ISWCs
Search engine provided by e-LicenseJapanDoes not seem to contain ISWCs
Search engine provided by MÜSTTaiwanDoes not contain ISWCs
Search engine provided by SACMMexico
Search engine provided by SOCANCanadaDoes not contain ISWCs
Search engine provided by APRAAustralia/New ZealandDoes not contain ISWCs
Search engine provided by SAZASSloveniaDoes not contain ISWCs
Search engine provided by SABAMBelgium
Search engine provided by ZAIKSPoland
Search engine provided by MACPMalaysiaDoes not contain ISWCs
Search engine provided by RAORussiaDoes not contain ISWCs
Search engine provided by OSACzech Republic
Search engine provided by AKMAustria
Search engine provided by BUMA/STEMRANetherlands
Search engine provided by CCLIMany countries [2]Requires an account to access; does not contain ISWCs
Search engine provided by HFAUSA?Does not contain ISWCs
Search engine provided by AKKA/LAALatviaDoes not contain ISWCs
  1. Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Jamaica, Mexico, Norway, Panama, Peru, St. Lucia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, USA (repertoire represented by BMI), Uruguay and Venezuela
  2. Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Lesotho, Luxembourg, Malawi, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States and Zimbabwe