How Wikimedia UK is working with the music industry to improve Wikipedia

  • June 24, 2019
Wednesday Campanella performing at Primavera Sound 2019 – image by Jwslubbock CC BY-SA 4.0

By John Lubbock, Communications Coordinator at Wikimedia UK

Why should the music industry engage with Wikipedia? Firstly, they already do, but often they don’t do it very well, and get content deleted which they add to artists’ pages because they don’t follow the site’s guidelines. Second, a Wikipedia page is important in that it gives legitimacy to especially smaller artists, helps them get booked, and gives their fans a quick way to find out about them. Wikipedia biographies are also used by sites like BBC Music and Spotify, where artists can choose to link their artist page to their Wikipedia page.

Wikipedia pageviews also contribute to some music charts, like the Billboard Social Top 50. I know this because when I search Twitter for people talking about Wikipedia, there’s lots of K-Pop fans encouraging their peers to visit the Wikipedia page of a particular group for 3 minutes in order to add to their Social Top 50 ranking score. All the data about Wikipedia pageviews is open for anybody to see, and I personally like knowing that the Wikipedia page I started on the singer Jorja Smith has now been viewed over 1.8 million times. Wikipedia also constitutes a place where music fans can curate information about the band they like, and encouraging fans to help improve an artist’s Wikipedia page, if done correctly, can get around the conflict of interest of a music label writing about an artist they are promoting.

How not to engage with Wikipedia

WP:NOT’ is the abbreviation for the Wikipedia policy that outlines what Wikipedia is not. It’s not an advertising platform, a soapbox or a business directory. For a lot of non-notable businesses, vanity articles on Wikipedia which they ask staff to write will simply be rejected or deleted. However, some industries like the music industry promote artists who often do deserve Wikipedia pages, or may be in a notability grey area where they could potentially deserve a Wikipedia page, if written well and according to the site’s rules. But music companies generally don’t understand how to write Wikipedia pages, and if they do so they often break the site’s rules like WP:NPOV (Neutral Point of View), or simply do not succeed in demonstrating the WP:N (Notability) of an artist when they create a page on them.

It was because I noticed music companies engaging with Wikipedia in the wrong way that I reached out to the Association of Independent Music in 2018. AIM represents independent record labels in the UK, and asked me to come and talk to industry representatives at one of their regular events. I also gave a talk at AIM’s invitation at the Great Escape music festival in Brighton in May, and we have now organised an event for people from independent music labels in London on July 2 to teach label employees how they can engage with Wikimedia projects in a way that avoids conflicts of interest.

One of the best ways that music companies can engage with Wikimedia without violating guidelines on Conflict of Interest is to release content about their artists. Releasing a good Open Licensed photo of an artist is a way that music companies can have some control over the images media use when reporting on their artist. If there is only one CC licensed image of an artist, and it’s used on their Wikipedia page, it will probably appear at the top of the Google image search for that artist and be used by people writing about them.

Give the Wikimedia community access to events

Another way that the music industry can engage with Wikimedia without directly releasing content is by giving Wikimedia charities press passes for events where artists are performing. I went to Primavera Sound festival a few weeks ago, and was given a photography pass by the festival organisers to take a good camera inside. You can see all the photos I took on this Commons category, so feel free to improve the Primavera Sound Wikipedia page by including one or two.

Wikimedia UK members are welcome to ask us to apply for press or photography passes for music or other events where there are opportunities to take photos to illustrate Wikipedia with. Glastonbury gave us access this year, and we welcome community members to ask us to apply for access passes for them at other music festivals. If you’re a Wikimedian who is going to Glastonbury, there’s even a meetup organised there by Wikimedia UK members, so why not go along and say hi to them?

Little Simz performing at Primavera Sound 2019 – image by Jwslubbock CC BY-SA 4.0

One of Wikimedia UK’s priorities is to improve underrepresented content on Wikipedia. There are many artists who could have Wikipedia pages who currently do not, because the people who like their music are not the same demographic as the people who usually edit Wikipedia. So we particularly encourage Wikipedia editors to write about music from underrepresented cultures, about non-European/American artists or about female artists who are less likely to have Wikipedia pages.

Last year, I tried to organise an event with the Black Cultural Archives and Warp Records to improve Wikipedia pages on Soundsystem Culture, as the Warp Records artist GAIKA had just released an album inspired by Soundsystem culture and was interested in doing an event to improve content related to it on Wikipedia. Unfortunately the event didn’t go ahead, but subject areas like the history of Afro-Caribbean music in the UK are particularly rich areas which are underrepresented but could be improved on Wikipedia.

Music history is important, as is representing the richness and cultural diversity of contemporary music in the UK, and artists who have made important contributions to the UK’s world-famous music culture deserve to have Wikipedia pages so people can read about them. Music companies can contribute to surfacing these stories by releasing content which we can use, by giving press passes to our community members, and learning how they should and should not use and engage with Wikipedia.

Signups for our event with AIM in July indicate there is a big appetite from music companies to understand how to engage with Wikipedia, and as the event became fully booked very quickly we will probably organise future events. If you still have any questions, or would like to talk to Wikimedia UK about releasing content on an artist, feel free to contact us directly.

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