NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, July 2009
MP3 Tag - A Useful Utility
By Phil Sorrentino, President,
Sarasota Personal Computer Users Group, Inc., Florida

president (at) spcug.org (click to email author)

This article has been obtained from APCUG with the author’s permission for publication by APCUG member groups; all other uses require the permission of the author (see e-mail address above).

As I have said in the past, “Utilities are usually small programs that are intended to do a specific task or a small range of tasks.” And I have also directed you to the SPCUG Monitor Computer Buffet, where you can learn about various free utilities (and even find a website from where you can download the utility). However, keep in mind that when you download something from the internet, you could get something you were not expecting; so be very careful. With that said, I’d like to discuss a free utility that allows you to modify the MP3 Tag information that is used by MP3 players like Windows Media Player or iTunes.

The reason you might want to use an MP3 Tag utility is because these types of media players depend on the Tag information to organize the tunes they find in your music folders. If the Tag information is not what you expect, the tune will be put in a location that might make it difficult for you to find. It doesn’t matter what the file name is, the tune will be put in a sequence depending on the Tag information, only. Is it “The Beatles”, or “Beatles”, “The Kingston Trio”, or “Kingston Trio”? When I put all my tunes together, I found both versions of artist names. Also, sometimes the tune comes from a compilation of artists. In this case it probably goes into the “Various Artists” category, instead of the “artist’s name” category.

MP3Tag is a free metadata editor that supports the MP3 audio format as well as many other formats such as AAC, FLAC, MPC, OGG, MP4, WMA, and others. It runs under Microsoft Windows XP and Vista (and probably Windows 7). MP3Tag allows the user to modify the ID3 tag data that is created along with the MP3 file when a tune is initially created, or ripped from a CD. It allows information such as the title, artist, album, track number, or other information about the audio portion of the file to be stored in the file itself. By the way, there are many MP3 Tagging utilities available, just Google MP3 Tag and you’ll see all the possibilities.

This may be too much detail, but there are two unrelated versions of ID3: ID3v1 and ID3v2. (If this is too much detail, skip this paragraph entirely.) ID3v1 was the original attempt at capturing data about the tune. ID3v2 followed shortly after and is very different from the v1 version. ID3v2 is fairly complex, but suffice it to say that it includes all of the pertinent information, and then some, relating to the specific tune. ID3v2 has been modified and improved over the past few years and is currently at ID3v2.4. For those of you who asked “What the heck is metadata?, here is a brief discussion that comes from Wikipedia. Metadata (or sometimes metainformation) is “data about other data”, of any sort in any media. An item of metadata may describe an individual datum, or content item, or a collection of data including multiple content items and hierarchical levels. In data processing, metadata provides information about, or documentation of, other data managed within an application or environment. This commonly defines the structure or schema of the primary data. For example, metadata would document data about data elements or attributes, (name, size, data type, etc.) and data about records or data structures (length, fields, columns, etc.) and data about data (where it is located, how it is associated, ownership, etc.). Metadata may include descriptive information about the context, quality and condition, or characteristics of the data. And there you have a description of metadata.

MP3Tag is very easy to use. First, I have created a folder called “FixThese” in my “MP3Music” folder, where I put any tunes that I think need to have their ID3 tags modified. Then I setup MP3Tag to use this folder. This way, I do my work in a specific folder so I don’t upset anything in the folders that contain all my music. Also, it is easier to work with a folder that has a handful of files rather than thousands of tune files. (The folder to be used is setup by clicking “File” and then selecting “Change Directory”, then navigating to the directory of your choice, “D:\MP3Music\FixThese” in this case.)

The MP3Tag window has two panes. The right-hand pane shows the files in the designated folder. The left-hand pane shows each of the specific ID3 data items that can be modified. (By the way, default values can be setup for each of these items, but I have left the default to “keep”, so that I preserve the values when a tune is selected. These default values can be setup in the Tools-Options-Tag Panel window.) When you select a tune in the right-hand pane, the appropriate values show up in the ID3 tag items on the left. Once the tune selection is made, the values on the left can be changed to your desired values. In the example shown above, the tune “Ventures – Hawaii Five-O.mp3” has been selected. The Title is “Hawaii Five-O – The Ventures” which is the file name. The title of the tune should be only “Hawaii Five-O”, so I would change the title to be such. The Artist: name is “Various – Adult” which I would want to change to “Ventures”, or possibly “The Ventures” if that is how you are referring to this artist. Other information such as Album, Year, and Track may be correct as indicated and will probably be left alone. Genre is an item that is not as well defined as the other tags and therefore I have found it to be less useful. Genre has some general meaning but the meanings may vary a lot from person to person. There are some fairly specific meanings for genre such as “Rock & Roll”, “Country”, “Classical”, but many other meanings are in the grey areas such as “Popular” and “Easy Listening”. If you want to employ this tag to any degree of usefulness, you’ll have to make your own definitions and then categorize all your tunes according to these definitions. Otherwise, you’ll get whatever the recording studio used for their definitions of genres. After you are satisfied with the changes you have made, click “File” and then select “Save tag” or just click on the icon that looks like a floppy disk, to save the tag information with the tune.

MP3Tag is a useful utility if you are accumulating a large music collection and you have some specific ideas about how you would like the tunes to be organized. MP3Tag has a lot of additional features. I have described the ones that, I feel, are basic to organizing a music collection. Music collections have a way of growing in all directions and using an MP3 Tag utility is a way of controlling that growth.

Click here to return to top