Tuesday, September 26, 2006

cleaning up mp3 tags

Mp3s are great – managing mp3 tags is not so great. For albums you rip with software like iTunes or Exact Audio Copy, the process is straightforward. Insert CD, have your program lookup the disc using the commercial Gracenote or the open freedb and rip away. However, for mp3s acquired by other means (podcasts, music blogs, bands’ websites, etc.) the process of adding or cleaning ID 3 tags is more complicated. In these cases I have found two tools for the PC to be indespensible: MotoTag and Mp3/Tag Studio.

MotoTag is a simple and free program for making sure your albums have correct tags and consistent file names. A nice feature is that it is automated but it allows for manual adjustments as well.

To use MotoTag, navigate to a directory containing an album you would like to review and hit the Find Disc button. It looks up the album in the large Gracenote database, offers you a choice if there are multiple results and then matches your songs with the official information for that release. If the match is perfect, one click gets you updated tags and a second renames the files to your specifications. I like Artist – Track – Song for artist albums. If the match is not perfect (or if no match is found), MotoTag lets you edit song tags individually or in groups. download

Mp3/Tag Studio is the Swiss Army knife of tag editors. It has too many features to list, but the ones I use on a regular basis are:

Case fix tags – you can specify all lower, all upper and any combination in between
Case fix file names – as above, with lots of special case handling
Mass set tags – applies a tag or tags to all files in a directory. This is useful for adding year or genre
Mass clean-up tags – strips files in a directory of the selected tags. I use artist, album, track, genre and year and am not interested in other fields, so this is a great way to clear them
Rename from tags – if your tags are correct why not beautify your file names too
Tag from file name – perhaps you have files where the ID 3 fields are empty but the name has the correct artist and song information. This is the fastest way to add tags

With Mp3/Tag Studio you can also browse tags to edit them by hand. All operations have a preview option and an undo button, two very valuable options. Additionally, all of the directory level operations can act recursively over sub-directories.

Mp3/Tag Studio is lightning fast (bulk actions complete on thousands of files in the time it takes iTunes to work on tens) and the price is right. It is free for a version with a small banner ad and $19 for a perpetual license. I have used it for years and am a big fan. download