MP3 Tags

MP3 Tags

“You spin me right round baby, right round, like a record baby” … Cue several of my younger readers to ask “what’s a record?”

When I first started ripping CDs to MP3 I was very careful when tagging the information. I used Tag & Rename to make sure they all (ALL) had complete fields. I didn’t bother, back then, with album art as my MP3 player didn’t support it. A few years on Apple release iTunes for Windows and, after a few false starts, I decide to forego my compulsion and let iTunes do what it does best. Take care of my MP3s.

Except it didn’t. Whilst I’m happy that iTunes manages where the files live (within a directory chosen by me) it isn’t really up to the re-tagging of MP3s.

And yes, for those of a nervous disposition, I am talking about illegally downloaded MP3s, and yes, if I like an album I will buy it at a later date. In fact this post is entirely due to the fact that I’m going through my library deleting albums I don’t want and checking what I have purchased.

Where was I? Oh yes.

The problem is one of album art. My older MP3s (mainly those ripped from CD) vary when it comes to the quality of the MP3 tagging. Some have embedded album art, some don’t. Some have track numbering, some don’t. I’m guessing that my switch over iTunes, many years ago now, is to blame but that doesn’t help me at the moment.

Whilst it’s not a big hassle to add album art, one thing that does seem to have gotten out of kilter is the fact that not only does an MP3 tag have an Artist field, it also has an Album Artist field. It seems that, for one or two tracks across most albums, this field is filled in whereas, for the rest of the tracks, it’s blank. So, when playing an album in iTunes (I’m still very album-centric) the track appear out of order as iTunes thinks they are DIFFERENT ALBUMS.

This is a royal pain in the ass and so I’ve been trying to fix it. I have a large library of music so I thought it would be a good idea to find some way of automating this, as much as possible. I’ve tried MediaMonkey on the suggestion of Lifehacker but that only does one album at a time and, I think, has actually introduced the same issue.

So it looks like I’ll be going through all of my music by hand, tagging it properly (although maybe therein lies the real problem, there is no standard to adhere to, just an open set of fields that can be (and are) abused). That’s over 20,000 MP3 individual files.

I’m seriously thinking of hiring a student to do this in the summer.