Music Discovery Requirements

IV.G Other Aspects of Music Discovery: Enhancements, Third-Party Content

The ability to incorporate third-party content is an important enhancement to discovery systems. Existing data from vendors, publishers, and other content providers can be leveraged to increase the information available in and through a discovery system. A related issue is that many discovery systems now integrate metadata from a variety of sources (local catalog, electronic resources, digital repositories, etc.) A discovery interface needs to support ingest and use of metadata from all these sources, as well as actual retrieval of items available digitally.

Content from outside a bibliographic database can be either linked or incorporated. Links to external content have been included in traditional MARC bibliographic records for some time: URLs pointing to digitized versions of tangible resources, movie reviews, tables of contents, program notes, or finding aids.

Incorporated content may come from any number of sources and can include cover art, reviews, summaries, previews of initial/selected pages, or other content. In some cases content may be purchased from a vendor such as ProQuest Syndetics Unbound.[1] External content can also be incorporated from sources that gather content, provide content directly, or sell products, such as LibraryThing, Open Library,,, iTunes, Wikipedia, IMDb, or Google Books; additional enhancements may be in the form of user-contributed tags or reviews. Looking to the future, it may be possible to incorporate audio or video clips, and systems that are able to take advantage of such a service provide music users with a greatly increased capability to determine if the item in question suits their needs.

For music formats, particularly scores, it may be difficult to incorporate content for a number of reasons: information may not be available online; in some cases the only available information may be a short description from a publisher or vendor, with no cover image available; reviews may only be published in subscription-only journals; and there may not be a way to make a reliable match to third-party content. For scores, initial pages of music will be much more useful than the cover to help users identify the work and evaluate whether it meets their needs as to style, difficulty level, and similar considerations.[2] Even when content is available, a service that uses only ISBNs to extract content will not function for items that do not have an ISBN, as is often the case with scores and sound recordings. Creating match points on standard numbers in addition to ISBNs, such as publisher numbers, recording issue numbers, or ISRCs would allow for enrichment of records for music formats in cases where data is available.

Most importantly, third-party content must enhance, not replace, existing data. This is a risk when categories are duplicated across data sources but the data is different. Sound recordings are particularly at risk with the various versions of genres and “contents” that may exist across data sources. For a given item, cataloger-supplied contents notes and CD track listings are very different (tracks may simply be identified as “Allegro”), titles and track listings may vary in clarity depending on source of the data, and specific functions of composers, performers, or other contributors with different functions may not be reliably identified (for example, there may be a single column labeled “performer/composer” containing only a single name without explanation). This information should not necessarily be blocked from catalog records--in some cases third-party data may be the only source of contents, or provide additional information of interest to users--but it must not replace cataloger-supplied notes. Furthermore, identifying the sources of data may reduce confusion where fields are duplicated.

Other possible pitfalls of incorporating third-party data include a lack of local control, the possibility of broken links or “link rot,” and a search giving the false impression of completeness when there may be other available resources not integrated into the discovery system. Weigh the advantages and disadvantages of such issues, and consider labelling third-party data to make it obvious to the patron.

Recommendation: Display and maintain links within bibliographic records, with ability to suppress links to inaccessible material such as subscription-only access an institution does not hold. Allow local customization and interoperability with providers of third-party content to incorporate elements not present in or linked from bibliographic records. Ensure that match points are reliable. Identify third-party content with its source, either by category (Source A genre; Source B genre) or by source (Source A: genre, contents, etc.). Do not hide or replace content in bibliographic records. When the discovery system integrates metadata from various sources, support ingest and use of all metadata.

[1] ProQuest Syndetics Unbound, accessed Aug. 25, 2017,

[2] As of early 2017, authors of this document were not aware of any vendors that make initial pages of scores available for library incorporation, except occasional incidental inclusion; for example, some Dover scores may show up because they are treated along with the Dover’s book publications. Many commercial vendors do make initial pages available on their websites for selling music.