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The correct way to tag MP3 files?
tin34543
post May 31 2013, 21:55
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Hi,

I want to ensure that the independent tracks we release are identified correctly no matter
where or how they are played, so that the correct details appear in an MP3 player listing
the artists, track name, cover artwork etc etc.

So...

As I understand it:

You create your MP3 tracks as an indpendent artist.
You edit the tags of these MP3's with a tag editor filling in the correct details
and adding cover art.

At this point the tracks are released online for people to download, but do MP3
players always read the tags in the MP3 file itself, or do the query one of the many online MP3
tag details databases? Or does that only happen when the MP3 player does not have access
to the interent?


If you have to use online tag databases then...

How do you submit this information to all the various online MP3 tag databases?
Do you have to submit to each one this tag info individualy?
If you on submit to one, does this tag data propgate to other tag databases automatically (not sure how)?

As explained I want to ensure the corect details always appear for each MP3 released no matter where it is
played, and I would rather not have to spend the time (there are a lot of tracks) having to submit this info to
online databases if including the tag info in the MP3 itself would suffice.

I am also confused as to how the "Discnumber" tag would fit in to the above scenario?

If I have misuderstood how this all works please correct me! smile.gif

Cheers

PT
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db1989
post May 31 2013, 22:06
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Tags are read from the files themselves in the first instance. For most people, this is sufficient as long as the releaser has filled the tags adequately.

Online databases are only used when tags are missing or the user wants to add extra info, and most often, this has to be invoked manually. Anyway, such databases are oriented around CDs or acoustic fingerprints, not MP3s; there is not really any such thing as an ďMP3 tags details databaseĒ. The most common way of submitting tracks to a database is done when ripping a CD for which no metadata already exist in whichever database is being used, e.g. freeDB or Gracenote/CDDB.

Anyway, back to tags. For maximal compatibility, use ID3v2.3 tags because v2.4 is not supported by Windows Explorer, and also add the older ID3v1 tag just in case any of your prospective listeners have severely outdated players that only support this.

Adding the metadata itself should be quite trivial. General players and media-library apps should offer the main fields, and programs such as foobar2000 and MP3tag exist for situations in which you want more control. For details on the various flavours of ID3, you can consult Wikipedia and id3.org, as well as various past threads here.
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tin34543
post May 31 2013, 22:24
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Thanks for the quick reply. So is the "Discnumber" not critical?
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db1989
post May 31 2013, 22:50
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In what sense are you concerned about it? Without knowing why you are asking, I can only offer the various general impressions that I already have about those fields.

If there are no real discs involved, e.g. it is a web-only release, then discnumber/totaldiscs are, by nature, irrelevant.

Even for actual CDs that do not have more than one disc as part of a single album, I personally do not bother including these fields, and I even remove the discnumber 1 of totaldiscs 1 that iTunes adds. Of course, you might prefer to keep these. There is probably a good semantic argument in favour of the latter approach. It depends upon personal preference, really: some might view the fields as redundant if both are equal to 1, whereas others might argue that they should nonetheless be included so as to match multi-disc releases that do ontain those fields.

If you do have more than two discs for one release, I am still unsure of how widely supported these two fields are, particular in hardware. If a particular player does not recognise them, then releases with the same name in album and relying upon discnumber to arrange the two sets of tracknumbers properly might end up getting their discs interleaved together when browsing through files, etc. A more compatible way to separate/sort discs is to incorporate their numbers into album, for example as Album Title [CDn]. Of course, after that, nothing stops you including discnumber and totaldiscs for the sake of completion, semantics, or whatever.
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AllanD
post Sep 12 2013, 16:50
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One field in the tag to not ignore (as apple iTunes typically does) is the "Album Artist" field.

I could make a long discussion about how iTunes ignores parts of the tag and the confusion that causes
but that really should be a separate discussion

This post has been edited by AllanD: Sep 12 2013, 16:52
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rick.hughes
post Sep 13 2013, 15:04
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Another way to handle disc number is to include it as part of the track number. For example, disc 1 track 1 would become track 101, disc 1 track 17 would be 117, disc 2 track 11 would be 211, etc.

This works well to keep multiple discs playing in the correct track order even if the player ignores the disc number tag.
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db1989
post Sep 13 2013, 15:23
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Good point. Although I donít like that aesthetically myself, Iíve seen it used fairly often, and it does remove the need to differentiate the disks in their titles for players that ignore the disc number, as I suggested.

QUOTE (AllanD @ Sep 12 2013, 16:50) *
One field in the tag to not ignore (as apple iTunes typically does) is the "Album Artist" field.

I could make a long discussion about how iTunes ignores parts of the tag and the confusion that causes
but that really should be a separate discussion
Probably. But you brought it up here. So you should explain what you mean. In what way does iTunes typically ignore the album artist? I havenít encountered any such problem with this field and albums marked as compilations, either in iTunes or browsing on my iPod. I also seem to recall it being perfectly workable to tag an album with one main album artist (not Various/compilation) and then add finer detail such as featured artists as (per-track) artists. If youíre going to tell people to be careful about something, you should tell them why.
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AllanD
post Sep 18 2013, 21:58
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QUOTE (db1989 @ Sep 13 2013, 10:23) *
Good point. Although I donít like that aesthetically myself, Iíve seen it used fairly often, and it does remove the need to differentiate the disks in their titles for players that ignore the disc number, as I suggested.

QUOTE (AllanD @ Sep 12 2013, 16:50) *
One field in the tag to not ignore (as apple iTunes typically does) is the "Album Artist" field.

I could make a long discussion about how iTunes ignores parts of the tag and the confusion that causes
but that really should be a separate discussion
Probably. But you brought it up here. So you should explain what you mean. In what way does iTunes typically ignore the album artist? I havenít encountered any such problem with this field and albums marked as compilations, either in iTunes or browsing on my iPod. I also seem to recall it being perfectly workable to tag an album with one main album artist (not Various/compilation) and then add finer detail such as featured artists as (per-track) artists. If youíre going to tell people to be careful about something, you should tell them why.


The issue arises from the folder/file tree structure that iTunes also uses.

Ok here goes... DISCLAIMER: this description of iTunes special brand of pseudo-organization
will by no means be complete, I am neither a meth-head nor suffering from an
Obsessive/compulsive mental disorder, I just like to FIND my own computer files
when I want them.

PHILOSOPHICAL POINT:
I also understand that anything that seems sufficiently "crazy" when you examine it
so that it prompts you to say to yourself "What on earth were they thinking?" is only
prompting you to ask what is by definition a rhetorical question that fits right next to
"Are you stupid or something?" in a long list of rhetorical questions.

Now to my explanation of the "issues"

iTunes leave the "Album Artist" field in the ID3 tag empty. iTunes use other means to maintain album continuity when
the "album" is played in iTunes.

The issue comes when you eventually reach your saturation of frustration with iTunes, bounce your iPod off a concrete wall
(or duct tape it to a railroad track) and export the files to some other media playback software.

At this point you discover the confusing failings of how iTunes "organizes" your music files.

iTunes file/folder tree structure tends to "Break up" certain albums because of other tag information.

Greatest Hits albums are typically separated into multiple folders based on original release date of the individual tracks
NOT the release date of the "collection"
Additional separation into another folder is done if any track has a "guest" or "featured" artist.
This is why your iTunes folders typically have one or more missing tracks, because each of these
"missing tracks" has been placed in a separate folder.

AN EXAMPLE of a song that can be hard to locate, the song "Under Pressure", which prominently features
the voice of Freddy Mercury, but only appears on Queen "greatest hits" collections and live albums.


part of the confusion is because it is NOT a "Queen" or "Freddy Mercury" recording... it is actually a David Bowie
Song on which Freddy Mercury was a featured/guest artist, so to look for this track in your iTunes you must go
looking under the CD title folder under "Compilations"

What iTunes does with Movie or Broadway "soundtrack" albums is similar.

Live albums are broken up the same way as "greatest hits" and typically the original release date of the non-live version of the tracks
is often used, not the date of the live performance or the release date of the live album itself.

(I am curious what iTunes does to the Dio: Live at Donington two disc set... two concerts at the Donington Festival in 1983 and 1987,
but was only released on CD in 2010....)

Live albums are rarely placed in the folder of the recording artist, but are placed into a folder named "Compilations"
(why not have a "compilations" sub-folder under each artist name?)

The main issues that people I'm recovering data for (I get paid to untangle such messes) have is that their iTunes "Crashes" for whatever reason
and often fails to recognize any previously purchased tracks

Recently a new installation of iTunes (on a customer's computer) placed ALL previously purchased tracks in
the recycling bin folder on their computer. Luckily I was able to recover the vast majority of their tracks and
replace the small portion of their library that I KNEW (I could see the unrecoverable files listed by name) that
they had but the files had already been damaged by having been partially overwritten.

Though beyond the scope of my original comment or your question in reply to it, another irritating thing iTunes does
(I mean besides crashing and deleting the music library you paid for) is to DUPLICATE the iTunes library,
several times on the same computer... typically one copy for each user accounts on the specific computer
iTunes is installed on.

if you have a 4000 song music library this is not a "disaster" it just costs you ~30gb of free space for each duplication

If on the other hand you have a rather large music library (well over 50,000 tracks last I checked) you experience shock
and dismay when iTunes starts WRITING an additional copy to your wife's user account and another copy to the "public"
user account and taking up >250Gb for each of these copies... not to mention that presuming nothing interrupts the
process will occupy most reasonably fast dual core computers for several hours, reading and writing 250gb of files to
another folder on the same drive they are being read from is hardly an "efficient" process.

I don't use iTunes, I want nothing to do with it.
I had my complaints and friends thought my problems were "isolated incidents" until the same screw-up events happened to them.

fortunately for me when my iTunes had it's massive "conniption", my entire music library fit neatly on a 60gb HDD
with 20% free space so it would defrag quickly and efficiently.

But that was a nearly a decade and 160gb ago...

If you run a "PC" you will likely experience iTunes crashing sooner, but owning a Mac or an iPad
is no guaranty that iTunes won't go all self-destructive and take your expensive music library
with it to whatever alternate dimension it's alleged organizational logic originally came from.

It should come as no stunning revelation that the larger your music library the more important that real organization
of your files becomes.

To that end my 50-something thousand unique tracks is organized rather simply
in a top folder "Music Library", under that by "Artist", then by "album" and within each album
the individual tracks plus the .jpg album art folders. (I typically only bother with the front cover Art)

As a note to avoid having albums listed in alphabetical order you either need to assign a sequential number for each studio,
live or compilation or simply append the release year before the CD/album title.

so you'd wind up with a complete file path that looks like this:
G:\Music Library\Metallica\1984 - Ride The Lightning\07 Creeping Death.mp3

The reasons why this data should be duplicated on another hard drive on your computer
(as well as on an external drive that spends most of it's time unpowered) is because anyone who
actually knows computers also knows the inherent truth & wisdom in the saying that "Data you have only
one copy of is data you are trying to prove is data you are willing to lose" (presumptively beyond recovery)


Hopefully everyone understands the advantages of putting your data somewhere other than on your system drive,
typically under your user account in the "My Music" folder, because that itself is another long discussion
(It is likely that if you use an SSD as a system drive you have already moved your data off your system drive)

This post has been edited by AllanD: Sep 18 2013, 22:24
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db1989
post Sep 18 2013, 22:10
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Um, OK.

QUOTE (AllanD @ Sep 18 2013, 21:58) *
Greatest Hits albums are typically separated into multiple folders based on original release date of the individual tracks
NOT the release date of the "collection"
No. iTunes organises folders on the basis of artist and album only, and file names from disc number, track number, and title only.

QUOTE
Additional separation into another folder is done if any track has a "guest" or "featured" artist.
This is why your iTunes folders typically have one or more missing tracks, because each of these
"missing tracks" has been placed in a separate folder.
This is due solely to the user not tagging the files correctly, or rather how you would want them to.

QUOTE
part of the confusion is because it is NOT a "Queen" or "Freddy Mercury" recording... it is actually a David Bowie
Song on which Freddy Mercury was a featured/guest artist, so to look for this track in your iTunes you must go
looking under the CD title folder under "Compilations"
So change its artist to David Bowie and untick Compilation. What exactly is the supposed problem here? Where are you getting all these files with metadata that you hate? I hope you are at least buying them that way and simply counterproductively refusing to change them for some reason, rather than tagging them that way yourself in the first place.

QUOTE
Live albums are broken up the same way as "greatest hits" and typically the original release date of the non-live version of the tracks
is often used, not the date of the live performance or the release date of the live album itself.
So change the year.

QUOTE
Live albums are rarely placed in the folder of the recording artist, but are placed into a folder named "Compilations"
(why not have a "compilations" sub-folder under each artist name?)
So remove the Compilation attribute and make sure the artist is who you want it to be.

Again, I have no idea why, if something bothers you this much, you do not simply change it. iTunes is not bad enough that it forbids you to edit tags, even on purchased files.

Also, (A) iTunes intends users to browse it by metadata, not file/folder structure, although (B) you are free to stop iTunes from automatically renaming/moving files, and in fact, that option is off by default, so you had to opt in for iTunes to rename/move anything in the first place.

The rest of your post is way off track, so if you want to continue on that bearing, start a thread of your own.

This post has been edited by db1989: Sep 18 2013, 22:11
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AllanD
post Sep 19 2013, 02:52
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Each of us is talking about half of the failure chain.

Yes, many things can be "unticked" but you are talking about the iTunes settings that
the average user either doesn't know how to change , doesn't know they should change
or is actually afraid to change before things go all "sideways" on them... for whatever reason.

for most of those people if the files go from the Itunes store to their computer and then to
their iPod they are happy...


having the settings correct will "hide the issue" with missing/incomplete/incorrect tags,
but those "issues" will be noticed when the same music files are
used with some other application that is not as "adjustable"

Having the tags correct is easier when you KNOW what correct tags are
(I don't presume to believe that the average Newbie does know.)


My correcting the tags makes some of the settings you mention irrelevant.
if the tags were complete as the files are downloaded from the iTunes Store
the files in the libraries I have to reconstruct and organize would not be
disorganized in the first place.


Another point is that the files being discussed IF "correctly tagged" will work better in ANY playback or sync application


It is my position that incomplete/incorrect tags on music purchased as compressed downloads is "unacceptable".

I am sure you know how to tag your files, I'm sure I know how to tag my files
but the AVERAGE user (outside of a specialist site like HA, Digital Inn, MyCE) will give you their "free blank look" when
you mention the phrase "Tag" and if they actually respond it will be with a reference to a Hanes
Underwear commercial featuring Michael Jordan ripping the collar tags from undershirts.

IF you are especially lucky they will say: "Tag, what is a Tag?" and actually ask for an explanation.

IF God is smiling on you that day they might actually understand your explanation... without getting obviously bored.
(and might not actually fall asleep when you start discussing bitrates)

You would change iTunes settings, great if the "unknown theoretical user" of the files being created by the OP
are going to be played with iTunes (possible, not nearly certain)

the "Average user" uses their iTunes music as downloaded and with the default settings of iTunes they are blissfully
unaware of the issues this can create when they want to use the same music files in... say... WMP?
and the missing tag information makes a mess.

People typically build a moderately sized compressed music library well before they become technically proficient
enough to come here to HA or to other sites like MyCE

Most people handed a music CD couldn't make MP3 files from the disc if you held a gun on their pet goldfish
(for if they failed) and promised them $1million if they succeed. Tagging the files? You're kidding right?
Frankly I'm surprised by some people when they put the disc in the player with the correct side up.

to most people mp3's are something they buy from Amazon.

I have a friend who talks about AAC files, but supplies me with the expected "blank look"
when I ask "m4a, m4p or mp4?" in reply...

This post has been edited by AllanD: Sep 19 2013, 02:54
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tpijag
post Sep 19 2013, 03:54
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Most people, people typically, a friend, those people, pet goldfish and the unknown theoretical user.

With all due respect, other than expounding upon generalities, just what is the point?
Maybe this would be better suited to a personal blog

This post has been edited by tpijag: Sep 19 2013, 04:07
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_if
post Sep 20 2013, 21:11
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QUOTE (AllanD @ Sep 12 2013, 16:50) *
The reasons why this data should be duplicated on another hard drive on your computer
(as well as on an external drive that spends most of it's time unpowered) is because anyone who
actually knows computers also knows the inherent truth & wisdom in the saying that "Data you have only
one copy of is data you are trying to prove is data you are willing to lose" (presumptively beyond recovery)

Are you aware that you can simply re-download any of the music you have purchased from the iTunes store at any time, without paying for it again?
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