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Saturday 23 November 2013

From Music Players to Automated Tagging

A new version of SongKong has been released today with improvements in all areas, and I thought it  would be worth giving a historical background of music tagging and its development as I see it.

First we had the Musicplayer just for playing CD's on your computer. Then as MP3 became popular and users started ripping their CD's as files on their computer music players such as Winamp became popular. Originally no meta data could be stored in MP3s at all but it quickly became apparent that as users could store files on their computer they need to store information about the files, and just using the file name was not sufficient.

So ID3v11 was added, but this was very limiting and so a new system ID3v2 was developed that was much more powerful. Music playing software added functionality to allow this information to be added but music players tend to work one file at a time, and this wasn't a very efficient way to add meta data, new software was required the Tagger !

I don't know what the first tagger was but there were plenty of mp3 taggers with very similar names that worked in a very similar way, they allow you to modify multiple fields and were just that bit more efficient than stand alone Music players.

Around this time the iPod and iTunes was born, this massively increased the amount of digital music people were storing on their computers.

We also had new formats such as wma, ogg vorbis and mp4, so now we needed taggers that could edit multiple formats in a way that hid the differences.

As people got serious about listening to digitised music lossless formats  became more important such as Apple Lossless and Flac.

As peoples collections got larger modifying all their metadata by hand became unsustainable, but help was on hand in the guise of online Music databases. The first one was freecdb that could tag your music if you had the original CD by looking up a digital fingerprint but this wasn't much good for songs that you already had on your computer.

But then new databases such as Discogs and MusicBrainz were created and these allowed Automated Taggers that could lookup information for songs and get meta data for those songs without needing the original CD if they just had some meta data.

Then with audio fingerprinting it was possible to lookup songs without any meta data at all as long as the song is already in the database.

Most taggers were cautious in making full use of this and provided options from online databases but user made the final decision about the best match but some such as Jaikoz made the choice for the user, although the user could adjust the criteria used to pick the best match.

But Jaikoz still provides manual tagging together with automated tagging, it provides the user with the tools to do what they want, but with so much choice it can be difficult to be consistent, and time consuming.

Now as the online databases have got larger and more accurate, users music collections have got larger, and users time has got ever more limited we see the emergence of the Fully Automated Tagger or Rules Based Tagger.

The idea is that rules define how you want your music collection to be organized, then the rules can be applied to your whole music collection without any manual editing required giving a totally consistent music collection. You can change the rule and then reapply to the whole collection to maintain a consistent music collection. This the premise of SongKong and in my next post I'll explain how SongKong attempts to reach that wholly grail of a totally consistent music collection we are not quite there yet, but getting closer.

Friday 22 November 2013

Using Jaikoz to modify the Release Time field on iTunes

iTunes has a Release Date field but you cannot actually edit the field in iTunes, at least not for music files,there is also a Year field and this is editable but sometimes it would be useful to use both.

In Jaikoz the Year field is clearly displayed in the default configuration but for mp3s the Release Date field is also available. By using View/Show ID3 and selecting the ID3 Edit tab you can see the Release Time (TDRL) field and if you enter a value in here and save changes the change is reflected in iTunes Release Date field.

Behind the scenes Release Time use the ID3v24 frame TDRL, whereas Year uses TDRC.
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