How to Manage your MP3 Files and Tags

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Monit wrote: “This is a Top 5 list on how to fix up a messy music library. Maybe it’s just the organization freak in me, but I can’t stand it when I see a bunch of music files with missing or inaccurate tags that are tossed all over the place. Personally, all of my songs are MP3s, but some of these programs will work with other formats as well.”

  • Fix Those Tags This is probably the most useful thing you can do for a messy music library. Having inaccurate or missing ID3 tag info makes it difficult to find your music on your computer, and especially on portable devices. This is the case when dealing with large libraries. A great program that I use is MP3Tag. It processes information very quickly, and has a bunch of small tools to fix file tags. When you first start the program, you can use the “Filename to Tag” feature, which automatically grabs information from the filename and throws it into the Artist and Title tags. Once this is done, the rest is pretty simple. You can either manually enter the rest of the tags, or let a program such as Music Brainz or Windows Media Player (Options>Libray>Retrieve Additional Info from the Internet) fill in the proper Album, Year, Track, Genre and Composer fields. MusicBrainz is available for the Mac, and I hear EasyTag is another great tag fixer.
  • Normalize the Volume How many times have you been listening to a song at full blast because it was really quiet, only to have your ears shattered to pieces when the next track is cued up? To avoid this, use a program like MP3Gain to normalize the volume of your songs. Keep in mind that some artists like to have certain songs on their albums louder than others, so consider using Album Gain to hold those differences, while still keeping the volume of all tracks around the same. If you don`t really share your music, pick a volume that you’re comfortable with. MP3Gain defaults to 89 decibles, but I prefer my music to be normalized at 92db because they still don’t clip from distortion, and they’re closer to the 95db most retails CDs are recorded at (plus your friends will probably be less annoyed if you decide to share some songs).
  • Add album art Most modern Operating Systems and MP3 players have the ability to view album art. This makes finding your music very easy, and you’ll just enjoy your music a lot more. iTunes and Windows Media Player can both add album art to tracks automatically. Personally, I just go on Amazon, and use the high resolution album art they supply.
  • Store the files properly Be sure to store your music in some sort of organized folder structure. As your library grows, you’ll thank yourself later. Personally, I have all my music stored in my music folder (surprising?). I then have about 5 different genre folders where I store my music. As far as file naming goes, I stick to the standard “Artist – Title.mp3″ that most people use. I already have track numbers stored in the files, and let my media players handle that.
  • Fix Up Files as you download them Once you’ve fixed up your library (which may take a few days), keep your music organized as you buy or download it. The nice thing about buying your music online is the fact that it’s already properly tagged. That`s not a huge issue though, as it’s very easy to fix up songs if they’re on CD or from a music blog. This step is really important as it’s much easier to fix 4 or 5 tracks at once, compared to a couple hundred.

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