Testing Murfie metadata

As readers of this blog know, I'm a streaming luddite. There are two main reasons for this: first, the audio quality from most streaming services is sub-CD quality (although this is changing). Secondly, not having ownership of my files feels uncomfortable. I enjoy picking and assembling a music collection, rather than picking simply what to play next from a gargantuan but anonymised catalogue.

Edit - 7/20/2014. We received an excellent reply from Murfie. It seems Murfie are serious about improving the metadata provided in their downloaded files, even beyond the current high standard!

However, I do recognise the convenience benefits of purchasing online, and not having to find storage space for my many CDs. So I became interested when I began reading a lot about Murfie a year or two ago. Basically, Murfie is a CD marketplace on which you can buy and sell CDs, but pertinently you can also stream and download those purchased CDs. As a result it is a hybrid streaming service - you still get curation and ownership, only the CDs are stored by Murfie (by default - you can also have them delivered) and the music is available in multiple lossless forms.

Just like my post about Bleep downloads a few months ago, I figured it was time to give Murfie a try and give their metadata the once-over. Is their metadata complete and consistent? Is the cover art as high quality as the lossless audio? What about the file and folder paths?

The download process

The purchase and download process is straightforward and broadly as you would expect.

You can purchase with your credit card or your Paypal account. They have a neat integration with Paypal which means you just provide your Paypal details in their website - no leaving the website. I should implement this in bliss!

In this test, I purchased three albums to make sure I picked up any inconsistencies between albums. I picked a new release and two old ones (unfortunately being a US site many of the new UK releases I wanted weren't there. Still...). The albums I purchased were Portishead's Dummy (I know, that's always been a hole in my collection), The Maccabees Colour It In (I enjoyed Given to the Wild so I wanted to check some of the back catalogue) and the recent release was LP1 by FKA Twigs.

Once you have purchased your music you can request downloads. I am only interested in FLAC downloads, so that's what I picked. You receive a message saying that the download is being prepared and you will be emailed when the downloads are ready. Sure enough, just five minutes later I received this email:

Download ready email from Murfie

So I visited the link to begin my download:

Downloads from Murfie in progress

The downloaded files are ZIP archives with the music files and folders within. The ZIP file contains the album name and the file format: dummy-6391-21949-flac.zip. That might be quite useful if you are in the habit of storing those archives.

For me though, the archives are just a temporary location. I unzipped them, copied them to my music folder, and began assessing that metadata!

Files and folders

Having unzipped the archive into my music folder, here's the file and folder structure that greeted me:

File and folder structure of a Murfie download

That's a good start. The file and folder structure is generally minimal, clean and follows my own minimalist doctrine when it comes to file and folder names.

If I were being picky, I'd say the artist name in the file name is unnecessary, and the whitespace should be changed to underscores, but the latter in particular is subjective.


More important is the metadata contained within the files. I pointed bliss at the albums, then opened the Tags page to, first of all, view the basic tags:

Basic tags inside a Murfie download

Again, a good start. On a per album basis the tags are consistent. All the basic metadata fields are there. Genres are broad, which I tend to prefer.

Slightly odd is the use of the COMPOSER tag in Dummy. Operating a multi genre library including both classical and popular releases, I tend to find use of COMPOSER in popular releases annoying. It does make sense why you'd want this, but especially when the other albums do not have this metadata the inconsistency is quite annoying.

Similarly I find disc numbers on single disc releases a pain.

There's inconsistency in the use of the YEAR tag. Colour It In contains the full date including the month and day-of-the-month. While such precision may be welcomed, depending on your software this may be interpreted in different ways.

Thought: a nice idea for bliss would be date format control for the year tag...

So far I'd say seven out of ten for the basic tags.

But the tags go on! I was quite surprised to find just how many tags were in the files. Clearly the Murfie staff have ripped these CDs themselves because there's metadata included by the CD ripper. It appears Murfie use dBpoweramp!

Extract ripping tags inside a Murfie download

Some of this may be useful for software to lookup extra information about the releases, so it's worth keeping.

But wait, there's more! Yup, more tags. Some good, some bad:

Even more tags inside a Murfie download

It's great to see the MBID in there, just a shame it's not against every release.

Probably the most worrying find so far amongst the metadata though is the inclusion of the RATING field. I don't know why this hasn't been removed, but such a subjective field should be. Software may pick this up and display it.

Cover art

Finally, the cover art! The first thing I noticed when I unzipped the download archives was that there was no co-located album image file, a cover.jpg or Folder.jpg. I think this is an oversight because some software still uses this approach, and use of Folder.jpg is an easy way to get Windows Explorer to display album artwork in folders.

Cover art is included embedded in the music files, however. The artwork is of an inconsistent size and generally too small for today's larger displays. LP1 came with artwork at 750x750 pixels, which is ok, but both Colour It In and Dummy had 300x300 sized artwork, which is disappointing.

Fixing with bliss

So, overall the file structure, metadata and cover art received in a Murfie download is adequate, but there are a few improvements to make! So how should bliss be configured to handle a Murfie download?

I chose the following rules to fix some of the issues above:

  • Set minimum artwork size to 500x500
  • Save a cover.jpg
  • Change the file organisation pattern to artist/album/tracknumber-trackname

I set bliss running with these rules and I was soon able to upgrade the artwork and move the files about:

Murfie albums fixed by bliss

Colour It In was an interesting case for artwork. There are multiple different versions of the artwork with different colours for the figures therein.

I'll see how some of the other issues pan out. I'm particularly interested about how my different music players will handle the full date information for Colour It In.

I almost forgot, now I need to listen to my new music!

Edit - 7/20/2014. We received an excellent reply on the above concerns from Murfie. Murfie seem to be serious about improving their metadata, even beyond the current high standard!

tags: flac download
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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.