Listening to music is a pretty important part of anyone’s life. With the advent of even more features in media players to recommend music, create playlists, and display large, beautiful album art – everyone wants their collection to be as beautiful as this one: artist names, tracks, year, genre and other tags. In this article we take a look at the best tools to fix music tags and organizing and “˜cleaning’ your songs.
TuneUp Companion has one major advantage over all the other solutions: it uses Gracenote CDDB database – which is considered to be one of the largest and most comprehensive out there.
TuneUp uses a technology similar to MusicBrainz, “˜FileID’ to fingerprint the song even without the proper filename – retrieving accurate metadata. Depending on the server-load, an album doesn’t take more than 15-30 seconds to fix. My experience with TuneUp was extremely positive – it only failed on an old classical compilation out of 253 albums.
In addition to fixing your music tags and songs, TuneUp also downloads high-resolution album art and integrates with YouTube to provide related videos to the song you’re listening; eBay and Amazon for merchandise and Ticketmaster/StubHub for concert tickets.
The “˜Never miss another show’ tab provides concert dates and prices for artists in your library, a very useful feature for any music fan.
It’s definitely the most comprehensive solution – and easy to use. TuneUp is available for Mac and Windows and works by interfacing with your iTunes Music Library. Even if you don’t use iTunes to manage your music day-to-day, you can download it, fix your music then import it in your preferred application.
MusicBrainz, a non-profit corporation, picks up where Gracenote left off, as an open-source, freely available database of CD information or metadata. Picard takes advantage of this database with an intuitive barebones interface and a similar fingerprinting technology that aims to match the tracks as best as possible from the acoustic scan rather than on file sizes or names. The Scan takes a little more time than TuneUp but not significantly.
Picard supports plugins – although I had a hard time finding any notable ones – and does automatically download and save album art if it’s in the database. However, don’t expect album art on anything other than popular titles.
At heart I am an open source fan – and I always try to use it when I have a choice. That being said, I encountered a bug that undermined the functionality of the program for some albums. For example a ‘Jet’ album, properly tagged, had tracks indentified from two separate albums with the same correct name. Saving the information would split the tracks into different folders appearing twice in iTunes. This happened multiple times for quite popular recordings from Coldplay and The Killers.
MusicBrainz is a very exciting project and definitely deserves a second chance from users after this weird bug is corrected. If you’re willing to spend some time manually assigning names for misbehaving albums, it’s a good application. You can get MusicBrainz for Linux, Mac and Windows.
Mp3Tag is free, although it’s not open source. It uses the FreeDB database as its primary solution which is noticeably lower quality than MusicBrainz, but it also integrates with the Amazon catalog, which is quite large and boasts largely high quality album art. It’s a bit of work to get everything right but it’s worth it considering the price – free.
A nice feature I found in Mp3Tag allows you to automatically rename the filenames according to tags, useful when browsing the library directly from the file system.
Unfortunately, Mp3Tag is only available for Windows.
iTunes Store File Validator
Skip past the messy interface and you’ve got a marvelous little tool with features like Reverse Scrobble to update the play count within iTunes from Last.fm, embed album art in songs, automatically clean empty folders, set EQ automatically based on genre, and more nifty actions.
Additionally it scans your library and assesses whether your songs are iTunes Store quality – checks for all the important indicators and then creates and easy to use report. Download it from here.
I also approached FixTunes, an application similar to TuneUp, that instead of using Gracenote, piggy backs on multiple free databases like freeDB, Amazon and MusicBrainz to create its own database and then charge for its software. The worst part is that it doesn’t seem to have a fingerprinting technology and instead relies on the tags you already have – which is inherently prone to mistakes. I dropped FixTunes from this article because numerous comments were unfavorable and I personally had my share of weird Chinese song titles, frequent crashes and fairly popular albums poorly recognized.
Using features from all the software above, you can manage to have a true collector quality music library: complete with correct metadata, album art and normalized filenames.
If you’ve got any suggestions for other great software that I missed – let me know in the comments; I’ll take a look at it and include it for the readers.