In the past couple years, we’ve steadily reduced the amount of standardisation we do, instead preferring to stick closer to the original release information (except for obvious errors) and let the end users do any standardisation as desired. The main rationale for this is that it’s generally easy to standardise automatically, but impossible to get the original information back: as such, standardisation is best done on demand over the original data. The last big step of this process is to simplify and soften the very restrictive featured artist guideline.
The guideline was originally written when we could only store one artist per track/release, as “add (feat. X, Y & Z) to the track title”. This allowed us to enter the featured artist information on the track title in a standard way in order to deal with it better in the future. And that worked fantastically: in fact, it allowed us to write a series of reports (for release groups, releases and recordings) that make it easier to find entities where the artists need to be moved to their rightful place in the artist field, now that we can!
When we started migrating the info to artist credits, we decided to basically keep the guideline as-is, but start adding the artists to the artist field. So we’d have “Song”, by “Artist feat. X, Y & Z”. This was a huge improvement, since the artists were now properly linked, but such strong standardisation was always a bit heavy handed, and at the same time quite restricted (since it only applied to variations on the word “featuring”, but not to any other linking phrase).
As such, we’ve decided to stop standardising credits using variations of “featuring” as well. The new version of the guideline can be found as part of the artist credit guidelines, and reads:
Featured artists should always be entered in the artist credit, not in the titles. You should generally enter the credit as it appears on the release, omitting any separators (like parentheses) that are intended to separate it from the track title. For example, if the tracklist has “Artist 1 – Song Name (featuring Artist 2)”, enter “Song Name”, by “Artist 1 featuring Artist 2”.
It also gives a few examples:
This decision was taken a few weeks ago, but to avoid disruption we waited until we had a Picard plugin available for anyone who still wants to standardise “featuring” in their own tags. That’s now available (thanks to Sambhav Kothari), so we feel it’s the time to make the change official. If you want to keep all variations of “featuring” as “feat.”, go ahead and install that plugin, and things should remain basically as they were!
One last note: I strongly encourage people not to vote against any edit moving featured artist information from the titles to the artist field, even if it doesn’t exactly follow the wording used on the cover. As always, any clear improvements like this one should be accepted, even if they’re not perfect, and the data can be improved further afterwards.