Thursday, April 26, 2012

The devil is in the ID3 detail

Hot on the heels of last weeks somewhat 'controversial' post about getting your online brand sorted and driving sales,  I thought I'd tackle another hot topic of mine head on and see who else I can annoy!

Each week I listen my way through a stack of new music (and I wouldn't have it any other way, before I get a load of messages about moaning from a privileged place). Being the organised type I am (at some things at least), and needing to be time efficient as I go about my day-job and balance family needs with producing UM week in week out, I often find my Saturday morning second listen and processing time taking way too long because folks just don't set up their ID tags right. Shame on you. That means, I have to sort out artist names, track titles, catalogue numbers, genres, album names, year, artwork, remove under scores between every work and decipher random symbols and number and more.

Now, before we go any further I'm not saying my way is the only way. I'm not singling anyone out here, just using examples from this week to show you how, if you're bothered, you can make the lives of those receiving your tunes (that includes me I hope) so much better and get them playing them to their audiences sooner!

What kind of things am I talking about?
As you can see I'm probably a bit anal about things, but doing the weekly mix has meant I need to be able to get the info together quickly, accesses it as I mix and make life making tracklistings and my monthly RA chart as easy and exact as possible. As I go, I create folders for each promo, with the main info in the name and grab the cover artwork too, resizing it as I go - I'm old enough to be of the era that was used to looking at the sleeve in your record bag and remembering what the track sounded like, so seeing the sleeve in the digital world is vital to me. It's always disappointing when there's no artwork or the size of shot used is pretty small (under 300x300 pixels isn't much use to me at least). The more organised the download link the better, Kahua, 8dpromo, Dirtcrew, Alma Soul Music and others spring to mind of people doing it well and everyone is sure to have their favourites.

Once I sit down to run through the chosen promo's I drop them straight into iTunes (only finally selected tunes make it into my Traktor library). I then re-listen to the tracks I've checked throughout the week, weed out the ones that don't sound right this time to the final tracks for the forthcoming shows. Time after time have to sort out all the info and artwork. This example from the excellent Mobilee Records is typical of the sort of file conventions most people getting promo's will be used to seeing.

Which once dropped into iTunes ends up looking like this.

Or like these examples from other labels this week.

Here's a great example of what's (in my view) great practice and makes my life so easy. While it's not exactly how I end up setting my library up, all the info is there for me to quickly cut and paste into the right place and the sleeve artwork is already enclosed in each file.

And here's how Oh So Coy make life easy with their track naming - so much easier to extract the info I need from this rather than the first folder example use above. If anything it could use less hyphens and underscores using the capital letters to break up the words within areas (eg. OSCR035_NicolasBassi_NzlihgoYo_TheRemixes_RobertRiveraRemix.mp3).

How do some people get it right then? One way, and one I use is by using ID Tagging software. I'm no expert in what software other people use, but I do know lots of people that use iTunes - bad news is iTunes is not a proper ID3 Tagging programme and shouldn't be relied upon, especially OS system to OS system. Get yourself over to pa-software (here - and download their ID3 Editor - it's a straight forward, no nonsense editor and covers bother ID3 v2 and v1 tags in one interface. The purchased version allows you to do more so worth the cash.

It allows you to add all sorts of good info depending on what level of nerd-ness you want to go to, bpm, URLs, publishing info and more. You can work with files individually or as a group, but as you can see below by opening our example track the artwork was already embedded which is great, but the track info needs just a little tweak.

There's an extended tab within the editor, offering a more detail, but the key one for me, and especially if you're importing into Traktor is the 'Publisher' field. Add the label in here and it's populated once you fire up Traktor.

Worth noting here that adding '&' signs or other special characters can lead to all sorts of issues when moving files around - most people will have at one time or another had a file name something like this.

Off at a tangent here, but it's all part of my routine. Once I've got all the tracks I want sorted and in good shape I drop them into Mixed In Key. Some people might think it's a cheats way of building a set and having been a vinyl junkie for many years I can see their point, but with the amount of music coming into UM HQ and only getting a couple of chances to hear the new tunes, and then one go to mix it, knowing what key each tune is and it's bpm comes in handy and allows me to shape a set in rough before I've even started recording.

For anyone that's not already onto Mixed In Key head (here - The software detects the key the track is played in using it's own harmonic wheel and assigns it a number/letter value. The irony of them having Guetta on the homepage won't be lost on most - and lets be honest from the YouTube videos I've seen he needs the help more than I do (and that's saying something). That information is then populated back to the original track source - so whether you've dropped it in from iTunes or Traktor is adds the data to the file info.

Mixed In Key can also help the quality of the recording but highlighting those that need adjusting and whilst Traktor can equalise out track volumes as a default, my final piece of kit irons out any odd clipped peaks or booming mastering.

Platinum Notes, made by the same folks as Mixed In Key, can correct pitch too, which is all good an well if you're that tuned into that kind of thing (I'm not that musical so can't speak much about it) - I actually like to run each weeks new mix through it once recorded to get the volume level consistent with the previous weeks - no one likes to be listening to one track at a perfect volume then bam, it's shaking your fillings and waking the baby!

The end results look like this in iTunes - with both a harmonic value and bpm showing on each track - I have that set to be on the comments, but I think you can define where it populates for yourself. Which means when I import the crate into Tracktor I'm all set to go…

1 comment:

  1. Hello Mr OCD!! But we're clearly alike so I salute you!