ISNI In the Music Industry
From ISNI board member Paul Jessop:
Checking the release dates, it must have been in 1974 that I first heard Killer Queen on the radio while on the way to school. I was amazed at the guitar sounds and that started a life long interest in music technology.
Fast forward nearly forty years and I’m sitting in the offices of OCLC, who manage the database for ISNI, the International Standard Name Identifier. I’ve just been engaged to make sure that the ISNI system works for songwriters and I’m browsing the ISNI database. Rather like a schoolboy guiltily looking up rude words in the dictionary, I searched for the people I admire, the people I’m a fan of.
In 1974 I didn’t even know that the name of the guitarist on Queen’s Killer Queen was Brian May and I certainly wouldn’t have told my parents that he dropped out of a Physics doctorate at London’s Imperial College to make music with the other members of Queen. I’d have got a stern lecture about the value of education…
But I did find Brian May in the ISNI database and it listed his full name and some of the works he’d contributed to as a guitarist and a songwriter. But something was missing. You see by 2013 I knew that not only had he dropped out of Imperial, after Queen had run its course in 2007 he went back and completed his PhD – but his thesis wasn’t listed.
I wondered whether he might have been assigned another ISNI for his academic work and ran a few more queries. Sure enough there was another record with a different number. I mean, who would guess that the one of the greatest rock guitarists was also the writer of A survey of radial velocities in the zodiacal dust cloud.
The ISNI has the capability to correct errors so I filled in the web page form and quoted the address of the Wikipedia page that confirms that these are one and the same person. I carefully submitted it to the ISNI quality team. Checking a couple of days later I found that the two records had been merged and a single ISNI, 0000 0001 2031 4590, identified the rock god and astrophysics nerd, Dr Brian Harold May, born 1947, player of plucked strings and writer of We Will Rock You.
Not every rock fan or physicist will want to know that the same Brian May straddled the two fields but it is good to know that people with diverse interests like Winston Churchill (journalist, political writer, historian and artist) can have their fields of endeavor linked by their unique ISNI and no one need make the mistake of assuming they are different people.