29 November 2008

ID3 Tags - The Bane of the Perfectionist Mind

When it comes to ID3 tags, I'm a real perfectionist. It's a curse. I have to get them just right or I can't even listen to the tracks. Decent ID3 are necessary for many reason. The way modern players like iTunes sort music really requires accurate tags. As do services like Last.fm, where particularly the artist tag is crucial.

So here are a few of the hardest things about tagging tracks:

1. For artist tags, should you give priority to composer or performer? This applies particularly to soundtrack albums, which often include a song or few, composed by one person, the overall composer for the work, but sung by one or more singers.

2. A related issue is guest artists singing duets on albums by another artist. How to tag them? Guests should be credited, but then Last.fm won't count the track towards the main artist's play times. That's probably not so crucial, but of course there's the question of how to format the attribution. Consistency is nice.

3. Genre is often a very difficult question. So many albums just don't neatly fit into a particular genre. Particularly difficult is the distinction between rock, hard rock and heavy metal. Take some albums by Queen, Jethro Tull or Alice Cooper, for instance, which can contain elements of all these. I'd prefer to tag genre for entire albums, however, rather than single tracks, as I like to take the album as a complete entity.

4. Capitalisation. Some people spell articles and prepositions and other small words in lower case. Many don't. There are no real rules for it, each publisher can have their own guidelines. But I like consistency.

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