Friday, February 03, 2006

Dissatisfied with iTunes & MP3 Tagging

I am dissatisfied with my current scheme and taxonomy for cataloging MP3s (vis-a-vis iTunes). I am probably just doing it wrong, or unaware of folksonomic applications to iTunes and MP3 ID tags.

First, the quirks:

* iTunes's default category for Alternative is "Alternative & Punk." Not sure why "& Punk" is part of that equation. It annoys me. I am forced to delete it.

* Same thing with Electronic and "Electronica/Dance." (More on the Alternative and Electronic genres later.)

* When listening to a shared iTunes Library, there needs to be a checkbox to label or otherwise skip purchased music that requires authorization. It's very jarring otherwise.

* Speaking of jarring, can someone please write a program (or tell me about one) that shuffles music with an eye towards matching beats (with an acceptable plus/minus factor)? It's irritating to be listening to KMFDM or something of that ilk, then having it switch to something really downtempo.

There's no reason why this couldn't work across genres; a hard-rock piece might be followed by an uptempo classical piece.

Next, the more fundamental questions:

* Both my Alternative and Electronic categories are so big and inclusive as to be practically useless. So to with Rock; less so with Pop.

With Electronic, it's easier to subdivide, but honestly, I've read Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music -- which I find simultaneously fascinating and tedious -- and while the distinctions between the subgenres are probably useful to some, I am simply not that interested, possibly because I don't have Asperger's Syndrome.

Also, when you're using subgenres, it introduces another problem in that you can get so granular, that it becomes similarly useless.

* Mixed genre albums are similarly troublesome. For example, I will typically label Fountains of Wayne as "Pop," which is usually fine, until you get to "Hung Up on You," which is done country style. Yet genre tagging at the song-level is 8-12 times more annoying than tagging at the album-level.

* Classical music: I have no illusions -- I don't know that much about classical music. I get a lot more value from knowing the composer than I do from the performer or conductor. But in seems that most playlists and MP3 player displays are optimized for artist, album, and track name -- composer and performer don't really fit neatly into that. So what's the best naming convention to accomodate that?


Anonymous said...

For classical music, I advise this:
1) Put the composer's name under Artist
2) Put the name of the Orchestra/conductor under "Album Artist" (new to iTunes 7).
3) Keep genre as classical
4) put the sub-genre (symphonic, concerto, opera) under the "Grouping" field.

Anonymous said...

I put country of origin as the genre, and let people with Asperger's Syndrome worry about genre pendanticism, letting them validate their personalities that way. For subgenre I'd put the city if I know it.

For traditional european music I put performer and orchestra/ensemble as part of the album title, as it would be in the Schwann catalog. My naming convention is [Overall title], ["nickname"], [Catalog]: [Movement]. [Tempo]. e.g. Piano Concerto No XXX, "Majestic" K. 503: I. Allegro. (Just made that one up.)

I have never found a piece I couldn't fit in this manner.

Dan Gravell said...

Ha! Totally agree with this. I write mp3 tagging software which works in a different way, "bliss". bliss organises your music library by rules. Rules are better for large libraries because they ‘scale’ better (you set them once) and they allow control over intra-library consistency.

It's the consistency that's important. For instance, with the genre example bliss would try to keep your albums within a defined set of genres, using a genre tree to lookup alternatives when your current genres are too specific.

It can also find album art and organise music file paths. I wondered what you, @joelogon, thought, and if you could write a review?

Joelogon said...

Dan -- sounds interesting. Theoretically, I should care, though right now, I can't even optimize the icons on my Android phone's home screen, so looking at new music taxonomy/tagging schemes is a bit out of scope right now.

-- Joe