Spring cleaning your music files

Spring is approaching (in the Northern Hemisphere), when it's traditionally a time to think about big clean-up and organizational endeavours. With digital music increasingly integrated into our lives, spring cleaning your music library can be a way of making your music library more searchable, navigable and generally beautiful than before.

So what are some projects you could pursue this spring?

Project #1: Improving existing album art

Hopefully by now we've fixed our missing album art, all gaps filled!

But what about the existing album art you have? Is it fit for purpose as displays get larger? Will your 300x300 artwork really look good on a 42" television? I doubt it.

The best way of improving your existing artwork, so it looks good on larger devices, is to replace it with higher resolution artwork. At the same time you can look into adopting a lossless image format, such as PNG, to avoid encoding artifacts that can occur in lossy formats such as JPEG.

For both changes a word of caution: some music players don't show artwork over certain resolutions, and some music players don't support PNG format images. The safest route is generally to keep the resolution under 1024x1024 and to allow JPEGs, but be judicious in which ones you import.

You can use bliss to upgrade your images to a higher resolution and also transcode to PNG if you're feeling brave!

Project #2: Whittle down those genres

Digital music collectors often collect music from various sources, both ripping from CD or other media and downloading from different online sources.

The music that is gleaned is typically tagged with genre. This happens either courtesy of a CD ripper, or the online store from which you purchased the music. The trouble is that the genre that the music is classified under is typically highly variable, and such a wide variety of genres entering your music collection makes it difficult to use genre as a basis for queueing or playback.

Here we see an example of The Three Cs. First, completeness. We typically want genre to be included because for many it is a useful way of finding music to play.

The next consideration is correctness. This is normally more of a problem when ripping CDs, when online databases such as FreeDB get the genre wrong, or totally nonsensical, because it's a crowd-sourced database.

Finally, consistency. Great, so your new album is correctly tagged as Mongolian throat singing, but how many other throat singing albums do you have? If the answer is low, having multiple, fine grained genres can make your music library hard to navigate because there are just so many genres to choose from.

If you consider the music in your collection forming a tree of genres you can work out a balanced genre tree to allow your more populated genres have more specific entries, and your less-so genres have broader, more general genre tags.

Then, the bliss genre consolidation rule can identify those albums in genres you want to consolidate and suggest changes to achieve a leaner, more useful genre list.

Project #3: Fix artist aliases

Another common cause of problems is where music is imported to libraries with varying artist names. These can take multiple forms: misspellings, incorrect capitalisation, and sometimes incorrect alias names.

Misspellings and inconsistent capitalisation are often the most grating problems because they are often all-too obvious - by virtue of alphabetic ordering, the different spellings appear together in an artist list.

But aliases do also crop up. I see these in two ways. The first is where someone has at some stage decided to enter a temporary alias for the musical artist, when the alias was only a temporary name and the artist for a given release should still be the actual real-life human name; think Ziggy Stardust. These uses of alias are plain wrong; the release artist should be David Bowie.

But they also crop up where an artist issues releases under an alias name. A common perpetrator (!) of this is Aphex Twin who, according to MusicBrainz, has performed as no fewer than thirteen other names, issuing releases as most of them. Choosing to consolidate these to a "master artist" is more contentious, but understandable to some people's use of their music library.

A bit like a genre list, an artist list gets less useful when it has too many items, so consolidating it is a good idea. bliss's canonical artist rule can help refine your list of artists to something more manageable.

So get out your feather duster, and make your music library more organized this spring!

Thanks to braddalad123 for the image above.
tags: organization

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.