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Jeff Werner

Designer in Vancouver, Canada. Secretary of the 221A Artist Run Centre, member of Fieldwork design collective, and former exhibit designer at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum and the Vancouver Aquarium. Graduate of Emily Carr and University of Victoria, and worked in the Philippines, Indonesia and the Netherlands. Cycling advocate and race on the Garneau Evolution team.

Music, April 7, 2005 3:59 AM 3 comments

Tag Your mp3s Properly

It's not so hard people. I'm talking to you, recording artists and labels and online music distributors. Properly ID tag your mp3s, please, otherwise it's hard to know what I'm listening to and even harder still to actually buy music from you.

It's rare to find a band or recording artist not releasing at least some sort of music online, be it a single, some live tracks or a whole album. I've only booted up Kazaa twice since Christmas 2004 because these days you can compile a decent sampling of popular and independent artists every week via legal mp3s from labels (Matador is pretty good) or band websites, or review sites like Pitchfork.

It's a hot topic, the evolution of the music industry, DRM, pirating, the changing role and form of the album. But I'm discussing legal downloads for now, in other words promotions in the form of a single available for download, the try-before-you-buy premise as old as radio, enticing you to buy more from an artist. So for your sake and mine, promote your product properly.

Bad Tagging
Song Name Artist Album
Les Mouches - Carload of Whatever - You're Worth More To Me Than 1000 Christ...
Close_to_you.mp3 Les Mouches Bloody Orgy ! ! ! EP
Track 01 Artist Album

Sometimes all your info is placed in the Song Name field--song, artist and album, even the track number--and the other fields are blank. So then I have to go cutting and pasting into the proper fields. Or the filename has been substituted in the Song Name field, file extension and all. Or the album title contains a meta description of the album, such as EP or LP, that was never in the original. Then there's just the real lazy (and most common), where the file name is completely nondescript (ex. 01.mp3) and there is no ID info whatsoever.

It's as inept as say, Patty Schmidt on Brave New Waves airing an uninterrupted string of incredible new songs from three new bands you've never heard of, then informing us that the songs were Track One, Six and Live while proceeding to pronounce the band names with marbles in her mouth.

In all these cases I'm usually having to keep the browser window open where I downloaded the song from so I can alt-tab and cross-reference three times with iTunes to straighten things out. Or worse, the page I downloaded from has little to no pertinent info about the song, or how to spell it correctly, so I'm off in another browser tab searching through Amazon for the correct track order, spelling, etc.

Proper ID tags help us, your listeners, remember your name. They help us share your work with our friends without confusing who we're talking about, listening to and swapping. A lot of us are downloading and trading dozens of legal tracks everyday, and not being able to clearly distinguish who/what/where we're listening to certainly isn’t going to help us should we ever wish to actually buy some of your music.

And that's just traditional (in the sense of listening to music on our computers, traditional) listening habits. These days when I import music into iTunes the program auto-copies the files to its own iTunes folder, then even more "conveniently" copies files into folders by artist and even album (ex. iTunes Music\The Dears\Protest\02 Summer of Protest.mp3) all of which is nice...

...except of course when the damn ID tag for a song was given about as much attention as my kitchen dishes, and so now I've got three different songs by one artist scattered across Unknown Artist and Unknown Album folders, making them, at the most, a pain to locate, backup, find; at the least, an affront to my sense of organization.

Additionally, myself and a number of my friends (and tens of thousands of users) log our music with programs like Audioscrobbler, a free online service that tracks our listening habits and displays our Top Artists and Recent Tracks for all to see, and thus share. But it gets tricky determining if Track 01-Artist-Album is the actual name of some post-rock, self-referential, shoe-gazing indy band or just some lazy indy band.

P.S. This goes for you too, podcasters and other spoken word mp3ers. I'm looking in your direction Benjamen Walker: toe_17.mp3? That's it?

3 comments on Tag Your mp3s Properly

1. A | April 7, 2005 6:32 AM

Check out MusicBrainz (http://www.musicbrainz.org/), an opensource "community music metadatabase". They have software that will run through your mp3s and tag them correctly. Of course if what you are listening to is very rare, your chances of success are slim. I have had success though with live music and other bootlegs or non 'mainstream' songs and bands. Now, combining this service with Audioscrobbler would be excellent.

2. Dave | April 8, 2005 9:36 PM

Damn right! It's about time people started to complain about this.

3. Donttryit | September 14, 2008 10:34 PM

I have tried tagging my mp3 with (http://www.musicbrainz.org/ but it is really really bad. Find something else.

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