I love music. It takes up a large portion of my life and I don’t exaggerate when I say that I couldn’t cope without it. And since I also love technology and have been an avid Internet user for about 13 years now – it makes sense that I have a LOT of digital music 🙂
The problem is that I never really kept it under control. There are MP3 files, OGG files, WAV files, WMA files and AAC files all spread out over 5 computers, hundreds of CD and DVD backups, my external hard drives and two iPods. Most of the files don’t have proper tags. There are plenty of “Unknown Title by Unknown Artist” songs or something equally vague.The files that do have some correct title and artist information often don’t have the album cover images embedded – which doesn’t fully utilise the beautiful interface on my iPod or other music programs.
Now, on top of this, I also own plenty of CDs that (believe it or not) haven’t yet been converted to digital format. I also have a small collection of vinyls and cassete tapes that I’d like to convert so I can enjoy them more often. Finally, since starting RADIO TOKYO, I really need to make my music collection as searchable, accessible and fully annotated as possible, so Ican prepare for the show quickly.
My music collection needs help! I’m not entirely sure how to go about cleaning it up, though. There are plenty of tagging programs out there, but not many of them are entirely accurate (especially with my Japanese CDs). There are others that can only tag newly-ripped music, not files that were already created. I’m fairly particular and will put a huge amount of attention to getting the details correct (heh, so why did I let my music collection get so unruly? I’ll put it down to sheer size and momentum of growth), so I don’t think I can accept the standard tagging programs.
I’m a member of the MusicBrainz community (username MagdaStremeski) which is an open source database of music metadata. It relies on community members to create and update the records of music releases. Anyone can change the data but every change requires some ‘cool-down’ time, where other community members can query or vote for the changes. This means that changes made are -for the most part- very accurate. It’s an excellent open source project and it’s free.
So I’m sure that part of my solution will be the MusicBrainz tagging program, because I can always change the tags if I find a mistake, or create the release in MB if it isn’t already there. For the most part though, i think that even my Japanese music collection will be serviced quite well.
But I’m not sure that MusicBrainz will be enough. There are many ‘Unknown Title” tracks in my collection – and quite often they’ve stayed that way because I really don’t know what the title is! There are a few music fingerprinting services out there – MusicIP is one that has partnered with MusicBrainz, so hopefully the services I can get will be integrated. Hopefully MusicIP can scan my collection and fill in the blanks.
I also need something that will rip the CDs I have and covert them. Yet another set of programs to investigate! But what format should I rip them to? iTunes uses AAC, which probably is a better quality format than MP3 but is really only useful in Apple products. OGG and FLAC compressions are higher quality still AND they’re open source.
But…hard drive space is growing bigger and cheaper every day. And I’ve done a little research on the various MP3 codecs – it doesn’t have to be a poorer quality sound. MP3 files are also accepted by my home and car stereo systems.
So perhaps I’ll re-rip all my CDs into high-quality Mp3s with a WAV backup, in case FLAC becomes more widespread. I’ll have to see what can be done about the AAC or originally low-quality MP3 files and what I can do with them.
I feel like I have all the pieces available to me for cleaning up and organising my music collection. I just have to have a closer look at processes and make sure that whatever method I use will give me my end goals without too much rework (especially manual rework).
If you have any suggestions for music ripping/identification/tagging programs, then please comment below!