[EN] How-to tag songs: some essential guide-lines for netlabels owners

In the last 3-4 years I have downloaded, listened to, managed and collected several GBs of netlabel music [1] and, since I am a maniacally accurate person with a strong passion for the beauty in the order of things, I collected a really big experience about audio files tagging, stuff that the biggest number of netlabels apparently don’t care about.
For the non-techie people, when I talk about “tagging“, I refer to all those informations (artist name, song title, album title etc..) that can be embedded into the audio files (mp3 [2] or other formats). These infos are fundamental, because they are showed to us when we listen to the songs. A song in digital form without right tags is like a book without cover: we can read the contents, but we’ll never know who has wrote it, how’s titled, who published it etc. Simply odd and anti-aesthetic. I think that if you really love the music in digital format, you can’t live with wrong or absent tags.

I decided to write these brief and essential guide-lines for those netlabels owners who don’t have well understood the importance of tags, and unluckily they are many. Sure, you could keep sharing your songs in the following forms “Track01.mp3, Track02.mp3” etc or “tracktitle06.mp3”, “tracktitle03.mp3” etc, but the music you distribute, also if it’s free and of good quality, will be ever an incomplete product. But if you desire to improve your netlabel, please keep reading this post 🙂

My tricks are the following ones:

1.
Import all your releases into a multimedia player/manager that gives you a general view of your catalogue and some advanced administration capabilities too, so you will know (immediately and without mistakes!) what’s wrong before uploading your last release to your website. A netlabel is based on the concept of “release” and you have to always keep it clear on mind when you work on every album or ep made by a new artist. Every release, before being a single, an album or an ep, is a release, that means that it’s characterized by a chronological “release code“: this kind of code makes possible to your users to univocally identify every release.
You will better understand this concept when your catalogue will be bigger enough.
To accomplish this objective, you can use many software; the following ones are all good freeware/open source choices:

iTunes (Windows/Mac) [3]: it rarely crashes, very easy to use, it fully supports the “batch tagging” [4] and the lyrics/covers embedding features; it’s the best choice for netlabel that release only mp3 tracks; if you share music also/only in other formats (Ogg, FLAC), go ahead because iTunes doens’t support them.
MusikCube (Windows) [5], on the iTunes-clones bandwagon like every other music player/manager, but it’s faster with big libraries because of the SQLite backend instead of XML-based backend seen in iTunes; I suggest it if you have a slow machine or a big catalogue to manage or both; it supports many audio formats; it has a nice and useful “Auto-Capitalizing” function that can fix for you some tags (es. “ARTIST” to “Artist” with one click); musikCube can retrieve automatically tags from the filename (using a custom mask).
Amarok (Linux): it supports several audio formats, but only if you download some thirdy-part codecs before, Linux-style; it has a shitty cover support and it doesn’t support the batch tagging, so it will make tedious also tagging just 2-3 albums; use Amarok only if you have anything better to use.
…..and many more, such as: Rhythmbox (Linux), Listen (Linux), Songbird (Windows/Mac/Linux) etc.

In  emergency conditions, you can use also the “View Details” function inside Windows XP, but it works only with mp3s saved in the same folder and on a hard disk (no optical medias).

2.
Use the following tagging scheme for the “Album” tag:  “[release_code] TitoloAlbum” (ex. “[THN118] Thinner Compilation Vol 223” ), so, sorting all the releases by “Album” tag, your player will sort them alphabetically for netlabel (ex. [APL022], [ES030], [THN087]..) and chronologically for release (es. [THN001], [THN002]…). And last but no least, the listener will get the exact idea of what kind of release he/she’s listening to. If you tag your relases just with Album title, you will create a bunch of albums without anything that link’em each others, and this is not what netlabels stand for. Netlabels collect albums and link’em under the concept of “release”. A release is not just an album, but it’s an album with a release code between other albums with release codes. Do you see the difference? 🙂

some_releases_sorted_by_album.png

The users of those players/managers will appreciate very much this approach.

3.
Be precise both with tags and filenames. Tags infos must be an “extended versions” of the songs filenames.
For experience, I can say for sure, that the most effective renaming scheme is the following one:

[releasecode]_tracknumber_artist_-_trackname.mp3

(ex. [THN030]_MrOighto_-_03_-_FatBit.mp3). Be free to use spaces instead of “_” (underscores), but don’t use “(” and “)” instead of “[” and  “]”, because the curved parehteses are commonly used for remixes (ex. “Micheal Balls – Penis (Vagina DeepHouse remix)”).
This scheme is the best one, because make the user free to put all the songs in the same folder without creating a caotic condition made of random songs sorted in random order. So he/she can save with tranquillity all the songs into the same folder (ex. “Music/Thinner”) without spreading them in subfolders (ex. “Music/Thinner/THN001”, “Music/Thinner/THN002” etc). Cool, uhuh? 😀

Using the following and common scheme:

[releasecode]_artist_-_tracknumber_-_trackname.mp3

we’ll get greatly sorted releases in the case of albums/EPs by the same artist, but shitty sorted releases in the case of compilations, because every OS will sort them for artist (wrong!) instead of tracknumber (right!): you could delete the artistname from the scheme without any problem, but I suggest to keep it there, so users can search for artists names using the every OS built-in search function.
Current OSes don’t search inside tags, so the first filename renaming process is the way to go.

There are nice softwares able to batch-rename your files starting from the tags and a renaming-scheme you set once a time.
I suggest to install and use one of these software, because they really semplify your work.
The ones I suggest you are the following freewares:
TagScanner (Windows) [6]: it renames mp3 and ogg files in a perfect way, and it has many other functions: a must have!
Tritag (Mac) [7]: this is not great like TagScanner but it represents the best freeware software of this kind available for Mac OS X; it renames only mp3s.

Happy tagging 🙂

Links:
[1] If you want to know the exact number of GBs, look at: “eldino’s Netlabel Music Meter” (https://eldino.wordpress.com/my-netlabel-music-meter/).
[2] Mp3 tags are technically called “ID3 Tags”: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/ID3_tag
[3] iTunes: http://www.apple.com/it/itunes/
[4] The “batch tagging” is an useful function that permits you to select all the songs of an album and to digit the artist name, the album title etc just one time and save them to all the files. Fundamental.
[5] musikCube: http://www.musikcube.com/page/main
[6] Tagscanner : http://www.xdlab.ru/en/index.htm
[7] Tritag: http://www.feedface.com/software/tritag.html

[eldino]

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4 Responses to [EN] How-to tag songs: some essential guide-lines for netlabels owners

  1. Wesley Jacobs ha detto:

    Hello,

    I’m passionate about keeping my music organised too. So I downloaded Tritag to correct wrong ID3 tags, but somehow it doesn’t seem to work. I drag’n’drop my mp3s, change the information, apply and it doesn’t seem to save the changed data.

    It looks so simple, but what do I do wrong? Can you help me?

    With kind regards,

    Wesley.

  2. eldino ha detto:

    Hi Wesley,
    you need to set the correct “Mode” (Tritag window, top-left corner).. Personally I use “Table -> ID3 Tag & Filename”, that add the tags you set and rename the files accordingly following the scheme you define in the Filename Pattern field (my scheme is: %n %a – %s, that will give u files renamed like this: 01 Bon Jovi – Suck My Ass.mp3). You can, obviously, set the schemes u like more using the Patter Builder.

    If you have more questions, don’t hexitate to contact me 🙂 Im a Tritag addict hehe 🙂
    Regards

  3. great tips. I never really thought much about tagging.

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