Be careful about automatically populating your metadata from online databases because the information is not consistent, nor is it always accurate…
In the first two installments of this series ( 1 , 2 ) we discussed how metadata can impact the usability and enjoyment of your iPod. Now it is not just metadata, but accurate metadata that truly unleashes the potential of these devices. Unfortunately, there are all sorts of barriers to accuracy.
Perhaps the biggest contributor to getting all that metadata into your iPod will be the online music database Gracenote. Most digital music software relies on the Gracenote database to automatically populate your musical metadata. If you are connected to the Internet when you pop a CD into your drive to rip the songs, you’ve probably used Gracenote (it used to be called CDDB).
And Gracenote is awesome for many reasons. Foremost among them, though, is that it automatically identifies the CD based on its content (and almost always gets it right). And then Gracenote automatically populates the artist, title, recording name, and other metadata fields so you don’t have to. Without this technology a lot of people would have multiple songs stored on their hard disks and iPods with titles like Track 1, Track 2, etc.
OK, sounds great right? So what is the problem? Well, if you are a stickler for accuracy, like me, Gracenote might at times annoy you (even though you’d never do without it). For example, one of the things I like is consistency. If I am ripping a double disk set (say, something like Van Morrison’s phenomenal live set, It’s Too Late To Stop Now ). The way I want the album/CD title to appear is “It’s Too Late To Stop Now (Disc 1)” and “It’s Too Late To Stop Now (Disc 2)”. Gracenote will not always be this consistent. Sometimes it will put the parenthetical subtitles in, sometimes it won’t (it depends on the actual album and what is stored for it). I also want to populate the MP3 metadata fields for Disc x of x, which again, is sometimes populated by Gracenote, but not always.
Where things can really gets inconsistent is box sets. Take something like Beg, Scream & Shout!: The Big Ol’ Box Of 60’s Soul. There are six discs in this box. But it also has a subtitle. So, making sure that we consistently label each of the six discs, as well as making sure that the subtitle is there (or not there) for all six discs, can be quite a chore. Of course, you may not care if things are quite that consistent, but I find it makes it easier to navigate through thousands of titles if they are.
By the way, Beg, Scream & Shout! is a great collection, but is a bit hard to find now-a-days. It was released in 1997 and the six CDs are disguised as full-size 45s, dropped into authentically designed sleeves, and packed into a replica of the old 7″ 45 carrying case we all had as kids (well, I did anyway). If you’re looking for a nice, broad R&B overview, then this box is not to be missed.
Sorry about that, but I sometimes have to comment on the discs I mention (I guess it is the repressed record reviewer inside of me struggling to get out). But back to metadata…
Of course, there are other metadata consistency issues you’ll likely struggle with. How about artist name? Do you want complete accuracy, or should we fudge things to make finding things easier? For example, do you have both Ben Folds and Ben Folds Five, or is everything Ben-related just under Ben Folds? This is probably a poor example because they’d sort right next to each other. How about Paul McCartney? Do we have Paul McCartney, Paul McCartney & Wings, and Wings all based on the actual artist name associated with the disc in question? Or do we just lump all Paul into one of these categories. I’d choose one, Paul McCartney, and be done with it. But that doesn’t mean Gracenote will ensure that consistency – you’ll have to do it.
That is just about enough for today’s blog… In the next installment I’ll talk a bit more about the metadata consistency and usability issues when dealing with Artist Name…