City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

The Donna Summer dilemma

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Sigh. Those of us involved in trying to solve metadata issues around music continue to be confounded by people’s inexorable tendency to be … people. In all their maddening individuality and creativity, their incessant desire to be unpredictable and inventive.

A new(ish) artist name flashes across my cortex in a recent Boomkat newsletter … Donna Summer. No, not that Donna Summer. A new Donna Summer. Actually, a pseudonym, deliberately contrived. Probably not deliberately contrived to screw our increasingly carefully constructed systems, but that’s the effect it’ll have. Search for Donna Summer, and get gloriously high-camp, metronomic, Munich machine, Moroder-programmed funk, a luscious disco diva draped in white feathers beaded with sweat – or some guy named Jason Forrest, whom Boomkat memorably describe as "celebrity bastardhardplunderingelectropunkheadscrambleartist of the hour", who has decided to call himself Donna Summer too … [Buries head in hands]

Actually, I’m not that fussed at all. We’ll never be able to map 100% accurately how people think about – feel about – music, about how they organise it. Good as it is, stop and think about actual insufficiency of Apple’s iTunes (the highest-profile music metadata work thus far?), even with their focus on utility and their new ‘grouping’ tag, despite their hardware fundamentally changing the way people enjoy music.

Differing namespaces, linked by smart RDF glue, still won’t really deal with this Donna Summer dilemma. So ultimately the role of ‘the human’ in all of this continues – hence preserving the role of the DJ; the record shop assistant; the journalist, even. The ultimate navigators of namespaces, their roles continuing into a world of shared playlists, invisible music sharing, albums unbundling.

And this from the guy who once wrote "what is a DJ but metadata"?!  😉


3 responses to “The Donna Summer dilemma”

  1. Blackbeltjones Work Avatar

    Straw Dogs are from Mercury?

    I get so confused now I am in my dotage. Come back from CeBIT blurry-eyed and bamboozled, only to…


  2. Kim Avatar

    Have you joined the discussion list for Audioscrobbler? They’re on a crazy discussion about music metadata right now…


  3. Dan Avatar

    I’m on the Musicbrainz discussion list … where there is what I imagine is the same stuff going on. It’s a very very interesting place to lurk. But I should join Scrobbler list too – you’re right. Ta … D.


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