How can I make changes to ID3 track tag metadata with iTunes 4.7 on WinXP and have those changes stick?
December 30, 2004 8:48 AM   Subscribe

How can I make changes to ID3 track tag metadata with iTunes 4.7 on WinXP and have those changes stick? [mi]

I have a large and heterogenous collection of MP3/AAC files. They've been ripped from CDs at various times with all sorts of programs. Especially with the classical CDs, I've had to do extensive surgery on the track tags, which I've usually done with whatever program I used to rip them. But I've had some annoying problems with tags reverting back to old, uncorrected values.

I use iTunes 4.7 for Windows XP (in the past, I've used earlier iTunes versions, MusicMatch, Windows Media Player, and probably some other stuff) and in particular, I've noticed that sometimes when I go to play a track, it will disappear as I click on it. It will then have reappeared under some other artist or genre (the fields I most frequently change). Invariably, that other artist/genre is the one that the track formerly had, and that I thought I had "fixed."

I'm pretty sure that the problem is that the iTunes database and the actual metadata stored with the files gets out of sync and that iTunes decides that the files are authoritative. This would be okay, if iTunes bothered to update the files whenever I changed tag info using it. But no, it likes both to leave the files untouched and then, at some later point, to overwrite the changes I was trying to make because the files say different. What's worse, if I go in through, say, Windows to change the tags on the files directly, iTunes is no longer willing to play them -- it just skips the track when it comes up on a playlist.

How can I fix my tags and have the changes stick?
posted by grimmelm to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
 
Use a dedicated tagging program such as Tag&Rename.
posted by Jairus at 8:53 AM on December 30, 2004


/me seconds Tag&Rename
posted by neilkod at 9:24 AM on December 30, 2004


Tag&Rename seems to be a decent program . . . but is there a way to make iTunes pick up its changes en masse?
posted by grimmelm at 9:39 AM on December 30, 2004


I second the question.

I use iTunes for music playing and iPod integration, and Traktor for DJing using mp3s. Using Traktor causes files to become somewhat changed (it writes additional ID3 fields). The changes made do not reflect in iTunes, and so far the only way I know to update iTunes is to clear out the entire contents and reload the entire library (which, at 50 GB, takes a little while). I'm also concerned that if I clear out the library and reload the files, all the files will be seen as new, not just the ones changed in Traktor, and therefore the iPod will try to reload all files, which takes over 2 hours. Is there any way to get iTunes to recognize changes without reloading the entire library each time?
posted by Bugbread at 10:31 AM on December 30, 2004


Do you have iTunes set to "Copy files to iTunes folder" on importing? If so, it may be that there are 2 copies of the file, and the old copy is being read when you go to play it.
posted by cillit bang at 11:19 AM on December 30, 2004


cillit bang: Do you have iTunes set to "Copy files to iTunes folder" on importing? If so, it may be that there are 2 copies of the file, and the old copy is being read when you go to play it.

No.
posted by grimmelm at 11:25 AM on December 30, 2004


/me thirds Tag&Rename. It's the only way.

iTunes does make changes to metadata, but it doesn't do a very good job of distinguishing between v1 and v2 tags. That's probably why you're finding that your changes 'won't stick'.
posted by ascullion at 11:42 AM on December 30, 2004


Is there a good Mac OS X Tag&Rename equivalent?
posted by Utilitaritron at 11:58 AM on December 30, 2004


ascullion: iTunes does make changes to metadata, but it doesn't do a very good job of distinguishing between v1 and v2 tags. That's probably why you're finding that your changes 'won't stick'.

At one point along the way I had iTunes upgrade all the tags to v2.4. That undid lots of changes. But I think that even with the upgrade, changes made in the iTunes library still don't show up in the files themselves.
posted by grimmelm at 12:12 PM on December 30, 2004


Apologies for perhaps adding more noise than signal but, I too am unclear just when iTunes modifies the ID3's directly and when it doesn't. I imagine if a file is read-only that it'll store the metadata in just the iTunes xml file. It is clear, however, that many times it stores the information in both ID3 tags and the xml library file.

I guess I'm asking the same question but perhaps hoping someone can provide a source with detailed mechanics info on the process iTunes goes through in doing this stuff.
posted by basicchannel at 12:15 PM on December 30, 2004


Utilitaritron:

I like TriTag for ID3 tagging in OS X.
posted by basicchannel at 12:17 PM on December 30, 2004


I used to have the same problem - it might be to do with iTunes taking the v1 tag over the v2 tag (the file can have both) but I'm not sure. This problem used to plague me too - but I killed it - I blew out the v1 tags (or copied the v2 info over them) using external tagging s/ware, deleted the entries from iTunes, and re-added them. Took ages, and I lost the iTunes specific metadata in the process (playcount etc)

To save time and effort if I were you I'd try it on a single file to make sure it works with your version of iTunes (mine was earlier).

While we're on the subject of tagging - I know 'genre' classification is a highly subjective art, and that its impossible to definitively pin a genre on a track or album - let alone an entire artist - but I have some 12,000 mp3 files - all beautifully tagged with track #, artist, album, title - but the genre is - crap - I mean just random gibberish in most cases (since when have the Sex Pistols sung the Blues?). The music ranges from classical to death metal to electronica to experimental - its a pretty eclectic collection. I know that a bunch of companies have invested a lot of time and effort building 'genre heirarchies' - Amazon, MP3.com etc - and assigning albums to them for the purpose of browsing - and I'm wondering if there's any software/database out there (akin to CDDB) that will take an existing, well tagged/named file and assign a genre - based on one of these commercial classifications? - even at the artist level? It would be far easier to retag a few albums that I disagreed with than to reclassify everything from scratch... Anyone have any pointers - my google-fu has consistently failed me...

(apologies for the potential derail - but its not worth a FPQ on its own)
posted by BadSeamus at 12:24 PM on December 30, 2004


BadSeamus, on OS X, MPFreaker has been semi-useful for me. It queries against a handful of different information sources to automatically fill various tags. Mostly I was trying to address my compulsion to get accurate track numbers for my music files of dubious provenance (it drives me crazy to see those blank spaces!).

I never specifically used it for assigning genre, but I suspect it'd be better at that than it was at the track numbers. You can download and use it (3 songs at a time) to see if it's worth paying for. I haven't used it in several months and don't have it handy, but I think it took some playing with before I got the hang of how it worked, but it wasn't anything too complicated.
posted by kimota at 8:02 PM on December 31, 2004


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