Edit MP3 metadata for a navigable, organized music collection

Metadata embedded on a disk

I often create playlists of music from a particular year. Sometimes it's to evoke some special memories or sometimes just to relive the old days. Music players, such as my Squeezebox make this easy by allowing you to browse by year and add the music to the current playlist.

But I have a lot of music for which the year is reported 'unknown'. This is where there is no year 'metadata' recorded for my music. It's frustrating to not have a complete record of music metadata when the information is so useful.

It's not just the year of a record's release. There's also its genre, lyrics for the song, performers, conductors, soloists and many more. The reason this is important is that it helps you navigate your music collection, helps you choose music to play and therefore enables you to enjoy all of your music.

Technically, this information is stored within tags embedded within your music files. Different music file formats, such as MP3 and FLAC, store these tags as simple 'key value' pairs. This means the tag type (such as 'year') paired with the value (such as '1983'). Your music player reads these tags so that it can arrange your music. When you want to view or play music from a certain year it displays all the music with the year tag for that particular year.

So, when music appears to be missing the information by which we want to view our music, it means the tags are missing for this information. How does this happen? There are a number of possibilities:

  • The online source of your music data does not have the information
  • When you ripped music from a CD the information was not found
  • Wherever you bought the music didn't include the information

How can you complete the information, filling in missing metadata? One way is to source it from online databases such as the All Music Guide, MusicBrainz, Discogs or even Wikipedia. Then you can use MP3 tagging software to complete the information for yourself manually.

However, this can take a long time, it can be a lot of effort and it is prone to human mistakes (we all make them! Apart from Chuck Norris). Depending on the automation risk (likelihood of incorrect tags multiplied by the impact of assigning these tags) this seems a good candidate for rule based automation. I've been putting some work into a missing tags rule that will complete information for common tags. Hopefully this work will be released in a few weeks. Later I hope to generalise the rule to correct other forms of disorganisation.

For an easily navigable and enjoyable music library, keep that music metadata complete!

Thanks to Termari 09 for the images above.
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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.