How to master your music metadata (Part 1) – TechHive

While streaming is quickly becoming the most popular way to enjoy music, many of us prefer to own our favorite tunes, rather than lease them. Purchasing and ripping CDs, or buying digital tracks to download, remains the best way to build large digital music collections that you can listen to anytime, anywhere, on almost any device, even if you don’t have an internet connection.

Most CD-ripping applications will automatically attach metadata—literally data that describes other data—to your tracks. Music metadata includes track names, album and artist details, and other information that help you navigate your music library. Some apps will add artwork and even lyrics, too.

If you purchase and download music—whether it be from Amazon, iTunes, or a boutique outlet like 7Digital that sells high-resolution audio tracks, including MQA files—you’ll find that most distribute tagged files.

If you’re like most people, however, you probably own some obscure tracks that never quite made the music database services from which these apps pull their metadata. Maybe you have a collection of tracks you ripped many years ago, when these services weren’t available, or maybe they’re your own works. Either way, I’ll bet you have more than a few tracks that pop up in your music player as “Unknown Track” by “Unnamed Artist.”

MusicBrainz Picard_1 Terry Walsh/TechHive

Mislabeled tracks can be a pain to manage.

If you’re as geeky about music as I am, you’ll find unlabeled or mislabeled tracks really aggravating. The answer is metadata management—the ability to add, edit, change, and delete the metadata stored with audio files. You could try listening to every mislabeled track, figure out exactly what obscure remix it is, look up the official track listing, and then use a tag-editing app to update each file. But that’s going to take a lot of time. Allow me to show you a smarter approach.

What if there was an app that could “listen” to a selection tracks in your media library, compare the results to a worldwide music database, then automatically retrieve detailed track, album and artist information for you? What if it could also update tags and file names for you, and then relocate the files to an appropriate location in your music collection?

Introducing MusicBrainz Picard

Say hello to MusicBrainz Picard, my go-to app for music metadata management. It does everything I mentioned above and is completely free to download and use on Windows, MacOS, and Linux. Picard is a front-end to the MusicBrainz database (http://MusicBrainz.org/), a crowdsourced encyclopedia that collects music metadata and distributes it to the public under an open license.

MusicBrainz Picard_2 Terry Walsh/TechHive

MusicBrainz Picard is the answer to metadata misery.

Picard cleverly “listens” to your music courtesy of an associated service, AcoustID, which is used to analyze and identify tracks via a unique audio “fingerprint.” Right now, there are almost 34 million fingerprints in the AcoustID database, with between 15- to 20 thousand new entries generated each day. Again, the service is completely free to use, hosting around five million searches per day.

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