Organising Your Music

Organising Your Music 01

It’s important to keep your music organised because when it grows (and once you start collecting music on your computer, and especially if you get an iPod to feed, it will grow alarmingly) it will become inefficient to find items. Tagging is vitally important. Here are some quick tips off the top of my head.

Number one consideration is to optimise the organisation of your music for retrieval on an iPod. This is a good rule even if you don’t have an iPod. An iPod has a limited number of options to find music, so this frame of mind will make a lean and clean library.

For categorisation purposes, there are only 2 types of title:

  1. Album: A long-player (“album”), single, EP or compilation, all songs of which have been released by a single artist.
  2. Compilation: A release consisting of songs by different artists. Do not confuse with a “single-artist compilation”, which is a release consisting of songs taken from different releases, but all attributed to the same artist.

CDDB is full of illiterate contributions. CDDB (the service that provides track listings for automatic tagging of CDs) is a great resource because it saves a lot of time but never, ever trust the information implicitly as a lot of the contributors are illiterate. Always refer to the back cover of your CD for correct spellings and sequence of tracks. Be especially careful with various-artists compilations, as you will find even more inaccuracies as these titles are more complicated to tag.

Disc 1/Disc 2: It irks me that CDDBers insist on specifying Album Title (Disc 1) and Album Title (Disc 2). This makes two albums on the iPod, which is usually unnecessary. Here are the rules:

  1. If an artist releases a double album, then all the discs comprise that album, e.g. Curve’s The Way of Curve double compilation is a single release comprising content that spans two discs. Therefore, it’s a single album. Use the Disc No. tags (Disc 1 of 2, Disc 2 of 2) to separate them, not the album name tag. Enter the album name for all tracks as The Way of Curve.
  2. If an artist puts in the effort to give the second disc a different name, e.g. Pet Shop Boys’ Fundamental limited edition contained a second remix disc that they named Fundamentalism, the first disc is treated as a single-disc album and the second disc is also considered a single-disc album, with the different name.

Compilation Flag: The compilation flag (checkbox) is used to collect all the songs on a various-artists compilation into a single folder on your computer. Without using this flag, the individual songs are filed under the artist names. This leads to unnecessary overheads in folder structure. The compilation flag also makes it easier to find songs in iTunes and especially on the iPod, as they will appear in the optional Compilations menu. Please note that compilations by a single artist should not be flagged as a compilation, as this only applies to various-artists compilations. This is a common mistake in CDDB tags.

Keep the number of artists down. Think of your scrolling thumb. If you are a careless tagger, you will find that you will have increased the number of artist names markedly, which makes a much longer list to scroll through on an iPod. It also means that if you wanted to listen to an album by a particular artist, then you will miss some of the songs because the artist name is a little different. Again, the rules:

  1. A guest artist is always listed in the track name, not the artist name. E.g. Delerium’s Karma, track Silence: Instead of naming the artist Delerium (Featuring Sarah McLachlan), name the track Silence (Feat. Sarah McLachlan) and the artist Delerium. This will group all the tracks as Delerium’s album but will retain the featured-artist information. Use the standardised abbreviation Feat., which shortens the track name.
  2. Various-artists compilations of remixed tracks can be a nightmare to figure out. Here’s the first one I cracked: Verve Remixed. It consists of tracks from different artists and each track potentially had 2 artists: the original and the remixer. Here’s how I figured it out: The senior data is the source, the original artist. That means the artist name is the original artist (e.g. Astrud Gilberto). The remixer (because they need credit and it’s good to know) is mentioned in the track name, e.g. Who Needs Forever? (Thievery Corporation Remix). I added Remix to indicate that they remixed it and were not contributors on the original recording.

Don’t be lazy. If you don’t have an internet connection when you rip a CD, tag the CD manually. If you click the CD in the source pane and Get Info, you can fill in most of the tags that apply to all the tracks such as artist name. Then you can tag the track names one at a time. It doesn’t take as long as you think. Don’t rip an untagged album as you will not remember the names and you’ll end up with unorganisable music. A bonus to correctly tagging a CD prior to ripping: if you subsequently insert that CD, iTunes will remember the tags and will not have to consult CDDB.

I’ll pepper the blog with the occasional rule deluge like this. I hope you study what I’m saying here. I’ve had to organise tens of thousands of tracks, not only my own but also a number of friends’, so I know what I’m saying. Even if I say something you don’t agree with, I hope at least that you understand that there is a certain finesse required to make sense of this subject. Music is art and in a sense, violates order. It has been one of my greatest challenges to bring order to something that often defies it.


3 Responses to Organising Your Music

  1. […] is to move the featured artists into the song tile and make all the Artist tags Lauryn Hill. I wrote a post on this ages ago, which goes into it in some depth. […]

  2. […] artwork. The Mixed Tapes are the worst, because the album tag is different for every song and the compilation flag is not used. I like fixing these tags, however, and this, in combination with my dissemination of […]

  3. Eric says:

    Great job! One of the best ipod tagging guides I’ve encountered! Thanks.

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