Setting up the server

You can set up CritiqueBrainz server using Docker. It requires minimum amount of configuration.


Make sure you have the latest version of docker and docker-compose.


First, you need to create custom configuration file. Copy the skeleton configuration:

$ cp

Then open critiquebrainz/ in your favourite text editor and update configuration values as described next.

MusicBrainz login

To be able to log in using MusicBrainz accounts you need to set MUSICBRAINZ_CLIENT_ID and MUSICBRAINZ_CLIENT_SECRET OAuth values.

These values can be obtained from MusicBrainz after you register a new instance of CritiqueBrainz at (you’ll need a MusicBrainz account). In the Callback URL field type:



<HOST> field should be set to localhost if you plan to run a local instance of CritiqueBrainz for development purposes. For example:- If you are running your local instance of the server on Port Number 8000 then <HOST> should be set to localhost:8000.

After application has been registered, set MUSICBRAINZ_CLIENT_ID and MUSICBRAINZ_CLIENT_SECRET in your to the values that you see on the MusicBrainz website.

Spotfiy API authentication

To use the Spotify Web API, you need to set the SPOTIFY_CLIENT_ID and SPOTIFY_CLIENT_SECRET values. OAuth keys can be obtained after registering on the Spotify developer website.

After registering and logging into your Spotify account, head to and then register your application following the instructions at

Finally, save the obtained Client ID and Client Secret fields in your fields SPOTIFY_CLIENT_ID and SPOTIFY_CLIENT_SECRET respectively.


We provide a helper tool, to wrap docker-compose and to provide some shortcuts to common tasks.

Build all CritiqueBrainz services with:

$ ./ build

A MusicBrainz database is required for running CritiqueBrainz. The mbdump.tar.bz2 is the core MusicBrainz archive which includes the tables for artist, release_group etc. The mbdump-derived.tar.bz2 archive contains annotations, user tags and search indexes. These archives include all the data required for setting up an instance of CritiqueBrainz.

You can import the database dump by downloading and importing the data in a single command:

$ ./ run --rm musicbrainz_db


You can also manually download the dumps and then import it:-

  1. For this, you have to download the dumps mbdump.tar.bz2 and mbdump-derived.tar.bz2 from


    Make sure that you get the latest dumps

  2. Set the environment variable DUMPS_DIR to the path of the folders containing the dumps. For example:

    $ export DUMPS_DIR="/home/me/folder/with/dumps"

    You can check that the variable DUMPS_DIR has been succesfully assigned or not by:

    $ echo $DUMPS_DIR

    This must display the path of your folder containing database dumps. The folder must contain at least the file mbdump.tar.bz2.

  3. Then import the database dumps by this command:

    $ ./ run --rm -v $DUMPS_DIR:/home/musicbrainz/dumps \
    -v $PWD/data/mbdata:/var/lib/postgresql/data/pgdata musicbrainz_db


You can also use the smaller sample dumps available at to set up the MusicBrainz database. However, note that these dumps are .tar.xz dumps while CritiqueBrainz currently only supports import of .tar.bz2 dumps. So, a decompression of the sample dumps and recompression into .tar.bz2 dumps will be needed. This can be done using the following command

$ xzcat mbdump-sample.tar.xz | bzip2 > mbdump.tar.bz2


Keep in mind that this process is very time consuming, so make sure that you don’t delete the data/mbdata directory by accident. Also make sure that you have about 25GB of free space to keep the MusicBrainz data.

Next, initialize the CritiqueBrainz database:

$ ./ run --rm critiquebrainz python3 init_db

You will also need to run some commands to build the static assets (javascript and css files) for the first run:

$ ./ run --rm static_builder npm install
$ ./ run --rm static_builder npm run pre-dev

Then you can start all the services:

$ ./ up

Visit CritiqueBrainz at http://localhost in your browser.

Importing data dump

We provide daily data dumps from that include reviews and most of the data associated with them. If you want to import that into your own installation, download the archives from (you’ll need to get the base archive cbdump.tar.bz2 and the reviews cbdump-reviews-all.tar.bz2) and use python3 dump import command. First you need to import base archive and then the one that contains reviews. For example:

$ ./ run --rm critiquebrainz python3 dump import cbdump.tar.bz2
$ ./ run --rm critiquebrainz python3 dump import cbdump-reviews-all.tar.bz2

Keep in mind that CritiqueBrainz only supports importing into an empty database. This should work if you just ran init_db command.


To test the web server run:

$ ./ test up --build

Modifying strings

CritiqueBrainz supports interface translation. If you add or modify strings that will be displayed to users, then you need to wrap them in one of two functions: gettext() or ngettext().

Before committing changes don’t forget to extract all strings into messages.pot:

$ python3 update_strings

For more info see Translation.