Dealing with multi disc albums

Standard album tagging, such as the tags automatically populated by your favourite music player, work all well and good if your albums follow the one disc per album approach. However, as soon as you hit albums with more than one CD (such as George Harrison's hauntingly joyous All Things Must Pass) things begin to get messy.

Two key limitations of tagging digital music are exposed here. The first is the inconsistency of album title tagging. Typically, the album name is decorated with text such as "Disc one", "Disc 1", "Disc A" (more abstract that one) of "Disc I" (the Romans are coming!). Let's call it the 'disc label'. There are more variations on this theme, and the common effect is that if you have any number of multi disc albums you will have a mish-mash of album name and disc label formats, sometimes even within the same album. For instance:
  • All Things Must Pass (Disk 1)
  • All Things Must Pass (Disk 2)
  • Shine 7 Disc one
  • Shine 7 Disc 2
Arrgh! It's enough to expose your inner obsessive-compulsive tendencies.

Of course, you may also be of the mind that you don't want the disc label in the album title at all. Purists may say the album title should be just that.

If the visual inconsistency wasn't bad enough, a second limitation is that it also makes working with your music more difficult. Searching and sorting collections becomes harder.

Part of the answer is labeling consistency. If I want the disc label to appear in the album title then I should be able to choose the format of the full album title. This would then apply to all multi disc albums, rather than having to work through all my music and apply the rule to each album. I'd be able to set the format along any of the following lines:
  • Number format - numeric digits, numeric text, roman numerals etc
  • Disc label - CD, disc
  • Use of wrapping parentheses
  • Position in the label - prefix or suffix
  • Turn off disc number labeling altogether
Applied to all of my albums, this gives a simple, consistent and coherent representation across my entire collection.

The second issue is best addressed by specific tags that tell your music player how to treat the different discs. For instance, they say explicitly that a given disc is part of a set of discs. These tags already exist and are in wide use:
  • TPOS - used in ID3v2 (and, thus, in MP3s)
  • DISC and DISCNUMBER - used in Vorbis comments
  • Other non standard player specific approaches also exist.
I should be able to declare whether any of all of these tags are adopted and inserted into my music library. This makes working with multi disc albums a much easier process.

By formatting disc number labeling in a consistent way and applying specific disc number tags to my music collection I get both a visually elegant and more useful music library.
tags: multi disc

The Music Library Management blog

Dan Gravell

I'm Dan, the founder and programmer of bliss. I write bliss to solve my own problems with my digital music collection.