Why you should set the ID3 tags on your downloadable MP3’s before you release them

by AlanRowoth on September 11, 2016


You know how you buy a CD and you come home and pop it into your computer and it recognizes what CD it is before you download it into iTunes (or whatever MP3 player you may use)? That MusicID information is called MetaData and it comes from an online database run by Gracenote.

It didn’t get there automatically. Somebody had to type that data in and send it Gracenote. YOU should be that person. If you leave it to somebody else, they will mangle the data, misspell and misattribute. You should generate and submit this information as soon as the CD is mastered as it can take some time to get into the database.

If you don’t take control of that data, all sorts of bad things can happen. Illegal characters, like apostrophe’s get lost from Title tags generated automatically from file names. Other special characters may get lost. Meta tags supported by iTunes include Title, Album Title, Artist, Album Artist, Composer, Year, Track Number, Genre, and even more esoteric stuff like BPM (Beats per Minute), an essential value used by music supervisors and film editors to match up songs with the tempo of edited video content. Song lyrics and album art can be bundled into the MetaData. There is also a large comments field which can be used to embed your website and social media links, sideman data, etc. I have been unable to determine from online documents if all of these tags are supported by MusicID, but they are all supported by iTunes. It takes just a few minutes to cover them and you are nuts not to.

All this is even More Important if you are preparing files for digital download. Don’t ship your MP3 files off to iTunes or anyone else with incomplete ID3 tags. If you do a Google search on ID3 tag editors, you will get a ton of listings for free and paid programs. I have tried half a dozen of them and I liked iTunes the best. (plus it is most likely the program people will be using to read your tags.) But, if you are an AppleBasher, please feel free to use any editor you like. Once you have entered this data and saved it (iTunes saves it automatically) it becomes part of the individual MP3 files and travels with them wherever they go.

Many other multimedia file types also support MetaData. If you are working with nonstandard file types, check to see if you can’t tag your data in those files as well.

I wasn’t prepared to do a big tutorial on this. I was just amazed when a close friend of mine recently released a record with no tags (even after I had sent them a detailed email as to why tagging is so important.) And then they wondered why their artist name and album title didn’t show up and the song titles looked funny. Don’t think it doesn’t matter. This stuff matters.

And now I go back to preparing for the upcoming NERFA conference.

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