Auto tagging MP3s

Blank Pages In An Open Notebook

Tags are important for making your music collection easily navigable and searchable, but what do you do about MP3s or other music files without tags? A simple manual tag editor can help you insert tags in your music files, but if you have more than a few files to tag it might be best to use an auto tagger.

Tags are the building blocks of your computer music library. Without them, most music players won't even allow you to browse your music by the rich structures of artists, album titles, genres and years of release. Tags are internal, textual (generally) metadata that are stored inside your music files. Some people confuse tags with the music filenames themselves, but tags offer a far richer alternative; multiple values can be entered, and the weight and range of data would make using file and folder names cumbersome.

However, tags are optional in music files. A music file can contain the audio, but potentially not the tags describing the audio, such as the name of the track, its containing release or album name, its genre and so on. Such music files are known as 'untagged' files and to make them easily searchable and navigable in your music player you need to add tags.

What to do with untagged files

There are two ways to get tags into music files: the manual way or the automatic way. Traditionally, the manual way was the way everyone added music tags. You'd use a Web browser to find the information that you need to tag, such as a track listing for a given album, and a tag editor to transfer the text into the music file.

This works fine and there are plenty of applications to perform this for you. Check out Mp3tag or puddletag. You may also find your music player allows you to enter tags.

It's a different story if you have a large number of untagged files. Looking up the correct information and then transcribing this into the tag editor will take time, and multiple this by tens or hundreds (or thousands!) of tracks and that will be a lot of work. In this case, you need smart automation.

Lucky, then, that in the past few years we've seen the rise of acoustic fingerprinting. Acoustic fingerprinting is a boon to auto tagging MP3s and other music files; it works by recognising the actual audio within your music file, and comparing that to an online database. If the online database contains the same fingerprint, your music can be identified, and the tags added.

Acoustic fingerprinting is only as good as the data that is in the online databases of course. If you have rarities that have not been submitted then you won't get a match. For those occasions you'll have to fall back to manual tagging, but then you can always submit the fingerprint yourself so that others can benefit from your work.

Auto tagging applications

What are some auto tagging software that you can use to auto tag your untagged music files?

Well, bliss has its own auto tagging functionality. I write bliss, of course, so I'm bound to be biased. Why not try it for yourself by downloading it and sending some feedback?

If you want to look further, check out Picard or Jaikoz. Both are more 'traditional' music tagger applications to bliss but also have the ability to auto tag using acoustic fingerprints.

Good luck in tagging those untagged music files!

Thanks to D Sharon Pruitt for the image above.
tags: tagging autotagging
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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.