Genre can be a tricky piece of metadata to populate accurately.
All MP3 files have a metadata tag known as Genre. The genre is the type or category of music for the song in question. Is it rock or country, classical or blues? Unless you keep it very simple, populating the genre of your computerized music can become a big hassle.
Now, if you’ve been reading this series, you know that when it comes to music, I rarely keep things simple. So my MP3 files are tagged with all sorts of genres. I’m constantly trying to clean them up, with varying degrees of success.
Backing up a bit, remember that I have a Filemaker database of all my CDs and albums. I did not originally have a genre field in that database. When I started, back in the early 1980’s, I decided that it would be too complicated for me to assign a single genre to every disc I owned. As I struggle with this field in my MP3 files today, I realize just how prescient I was back then! But I gave in and added one – and then meticulously, record by record, CD by CD, added a genre to each recording. I’m sure, though, that I’d recoil in horror if I ever actually looked at a list of the genres that I created.
So, what advice can I give you about genres? Either stick to a small, simple list of genres without breaking them into a myriad of categories. You know, like using “Rock” to cover Aerosmith (hard rock), Black Sabbath (heavy metal), Kid Rock (hip hop/rock), Sex Pistols (punk), Nirvana (grunge), and Sweet (glam).
Or, if you decide you want more specific genres, be sure to create a domain list and stick to it. Might I suggest the following:
- Easy Listening
- Rock & Roll
- Heavy Metal
- New Wave
- Power Pop
- Hip Hop
- Musical (or Broadway)
- Pop Vocal
Of course, your list might vary. The important point is to create a specific domain and then use only those genres, adding to the list only rarely. If you don’t stick to the domain you will wind up with all kinds of weird genres. Here are a few that existed in my MP3s until I cleaned them up: Hair Metal, Showtunes, Oldies, Jungle, Indie, Experimental, Euro Pop, and Choral Pop (well, what else would you call the Polyphonic Spree?).
I also have a bunch of hyphenated genres that I may or may not clean up some day. Things like Alt-Pop, Alt-Country, Dance-Pop, etc. Although it may be better for searching if I just listed multiple genres separated by commas instead of all the hyphenating, some of those hyphenated genres are quite useful. For example, Alt-Country vs. “Alternative, Country” — personally, I kinda like Alt-Country as a specific genre.
You might wonder about some of the genres I list in my domain. How about Pop Vocal? I use that for artists like Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, and the like. I could have used Easy Listening, but I wanted to distinguish these artists from the typical easy listening fare (you know, artists like Barry Manilow, Air Supply, and The Carpenters).
And some folks might quibble with having both Soul and R&B. After struggling with this distinction for a bit, I tend to agree. But I would list Ray Charles, Al Green, and Marvin Gaye as soul; Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and LaBelle as R&B. But in trying to come up with solid examples here I wound up with a whole bunch of artists that I could not reasonably defend as being one or the other (or even, perhaps, bordering on disco), such as Kool & The Gang (disco or R&B?), Otis Redding (R&B or soul?), and The Pointer Sisters (R&B or pop)? Actually, I’m thinking seriously about eliminating the Soul genre soon.
But that’ll take a lot of clean-up time. I have over a terabyte of music on my PC. And any time you monkey around with the metadata and its definition it means you will have work to do to synchronize the metadata with the data — which is sort of the whole point of this series of postings.
I bet you wondered if I was ever going to come to a point, didn’t you?