tag system for organising music?
April 3, 2005 3:55 PM   Subscribe

I love tags. We all love tags. They're the greatest invention ever. But is there software that can help me organize my music collection using tags? (No, not the ID3 variety)

I'm looking for something that lets me associate multiple tags to a song, like you would on Flickr or, or even Metafilter. "funk US 105bpm 1976 loud sexy GeorgeClinton" Thus making it easy for me to very quickly find all the funk songs in my collections, or all the sexy songs recorded in 1976. I really just need to be able to find the songs so I can drag+drop them into my favourite player, but if the software has a player (or particularly, cross-fading mixer) built in that's a bonus. My collection is mostly in mp3, but something that supports multiple formats (oggs, in particular) would be perfect.

As you can imagine, searching for "tag software mp3" didn't find me anything - just loads of ID3 editing programs.
posted by Jimbob to Technology (14 answers total)
Response by poster: Oh yeah. Windows XP.
posted by Jimbob at 3:58 PM on April 3, 2005

Just to clarify, what's wrong with using ID3 tags?

Anyway, without that clarification in mind, I hope the following is useful! If you're using iTunes, there's a "grouping" tag you can use for exactly this sort of thing. I fill in mine with relevant metadata like "jump blues," "proto rock," "garage," "psychedelic," etc. iTunes will also try to help with autocompleting phrases for you. This is helpful about half the time (when I'm not trying to string a number of tags together.)

Any information that requires a full phrase or sentence I usually just plug into the comments field instead.

Also, there's at least one plug-in for iTunes that'll allow you to play ogg vorbis files, but I have no idea if you can edit them as well. I would expect it to, but am not in a position to confirm that.

Oh, and BPM is its own field, if you wanted to use it seperately. The find function in iTunes allows you to match on the full record or just one of several parts (artist, title, album, etc.)
posted by kimota at 4:08 PM on April 3, 2005

Best answer: Might find some answers from this question.
posted by Galvatron at 4:12 PM on April 3, 2005

Best answer: Jimbob, this is what ID3 (and Ogg) tags are for. It's just that ID3 tags have multiple categories of tags, to allow for fields for commonly separated tags like Artist and Album Title, as opposed to just completely freeform tags like you see here or on flickr.

For the sake of your example, you'd set up the ID3 tag you specified as:

Artist: Parliament
Album: Mothership Connection
Name: Give Up the Funk
Composer: George Clinton (or GeorgeClinton)
Year: 1976
BPM: 105
Genre: loud sexy funk

There isn't a space for country of origin in ID3, but you could add the country to the grouping or comments fields, which you could also use as a free-form anything-goes tag fields for things that don't conform to the other fields. However, by sticking as closely as possibly to the existing fields, you can make sure various music programs or devices can index your tags "out of the box" when you move your music around.

If you're running iTunes, you can then very quickly find all of the funk songs in your collection by doing a Smart Playlist of all songs containing the genre funk. Similarly, you could create Smart Playlists with increasingly granular searches (genre contains sexy AND genre contains loud AND bpm from 100 to 120 -- etc). There are similar functions in many MP3/Ogg jukeboxes.
posted by eschatfische at 4:14 PM on April 3, 2005

Response by poster: The problem I'm having is having to fit things into those existing fields, and the software I've tried (Winamp's Media Library, for instance) doesn't seem to search in the "Comments" field at all.

I am loath to try ITunes as a solution because (a) I really like Winamp. (b) I want to use this to find songs to drag into other software, like Traktor player and CoolEdit, rather than just to listen to the song straight off (c) last times I tried ITunes, it was a complete pain in the ass. Admittedly, that was a quite early version.

But if ITunes is really that good, and can search in the Comments field, I guess I'll have to give it a go. Thanks to the link to that other thread too, Galvatron - "Mp3rat" looks like it can handle "keywords" quite well. I'll try it and see if it lets me drag songs to other applications.
posted by Jimbob at 4:23 PM on April 3, 2005

iTunes only searches visible columns, so you'd need to turn on Grouping in the View Options dialog. You can also drag songs out of iTunes and it works just like you were dragging the actual file (on A Mac at least).

(you'll probably want to turn off "Copy songs to iTunes folder" in the prefs too)
posted by cillit bang at 4:32 PM on April 3, 2005

Response by poster: Okay, Mp3Rat seems to do exactly what I want, so thanks to eschatfische for encouraging me to return to ID3 tags, and thanks to Galveston for the previous thread.
posted by Jimbob at 4:43 PM on April 3, 2005

Winamp can do it (search comment field for tags), if you use the media library ("smart view", press insert while on library screen). Long winded comment written too long ago follows.

Grouping is really made for classical music & etc that needs more than this purpose. It also doesn't allow for multiple "tags" either (what if you want "light", "blues" and "eastern"?)

Another way to do it is to this would be filling the comments field with your tags, separated by spaces. Then make a smart playlist in iTunes with multiple "Comment contains x" to find tag intersections or unions ("any of the following conditions").

I'm sure Smart Playlists has already mentioned this at some point. Check them out.

Playing ogg in iTunes requires a quicktime component, available here. A component is available for windows and OS9/X. Unfortunately, the windows one is older and really inadequate.

You could do pretty much the same thing with my preferred windows audio player, Foobar2000. Edit the comment field in the same way and use the extended playlist generator plugin to make playlists from the tags you want (make sure to enable the database first!). Example: "comment HAS light AND comment HAS blues". This is not as slick as the iTunes solution and requires manual refreshing, but Foobar2000 plays everything and has an incredible community with a lot of plugin makers. (for an interesting and risky example, checkout foo_playlist_tree which I found while writing this post)

Yet another option would be to use the excellent iTunes clone (and windows-styled) Musik Cube. It plays ogg and does smart playlists, but it unfortunently it doesn't currently allow making playlists based on the comment field (it does allow genre if you want to mess that field up).

I would go with foobar2000, but it might be too heavy (preferences wise) for you. Winamp can do pretty much the same thing as iTunes with its media library, but I didn't notice it until now ("smart view").
posted by easyasy3k at 5:04 PM on April 3, 2005

If you like mp3rat's features, try WxMusik. If you're handy with SQL, you can write custom searches of varying complexity.
posted by boo_radley at 5:16 PM on April 3, 2005

In the Winamp ML, make "Smart Views" or type right into the search field:

?genre has "funk" and comment has "sexy"
posted by muckster at 11:07 PM on April 3, 2005

I just tried the Musik Cube a couple of days ago, and it is very cool indeed, at least for organizing and manual tag cleanup.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:15 AM on April 4, 2005

I haven't tried it myself, but if iTunes is your bag (and you use Mac OS X) TuneTags looks interesting.
posted by raster at 9:45 AM on April 4, 2005

I use MusicMagic - analyzes your MP3 files, and allows you to generate playlists based on genre, artist, song type, bpm, etc etc. Pretty cool.
posted by noahv at 4:50 PM on April 5, 2005

(here's one for the googlers)

To follow up on kimota's comment, the way most people who use the "Grouping" category is for subgenre. So you might have all of your Rock music tagged using only the genre rock--- nice and general. And then you have a grouping for metal, punk, classic rock, etc. This is what I do, because I consider most things like "Alternative" or "Death Metal" to be either to broad or too narrow to be useful as a genre.

The grouping tag, though, is not intended for this. Its purpose is for within-album groupings. E.g. an album with three concerti might have 1 grouping per concerto. So don't be surprised, if you use grouping in this way, for it to break in the future.

The problem with assigning multiple genres the way tags work today-- something like "Soul Funk R&B" in one tag-- is that the song isn't categorized once under Soul, and also under Funk and R&B, so that you would find it simply by browsing under that tag, style. Rather, you end up creating a new genre called "Soul Funk R&B". So you have to create a smart playlist to scan contents of genre tags, instead of being able to simply browse by genre.

Oh, and I use iTunes and lots of custom data-wrangling Applescripts from Doug's Applescripts for iTunes. iTunes is the most powerful, and if you have a Mac and can benefit from Applescript, the most flexible. Any time anyone has ever moaned to me that they wished that iTunes was able to do something, it has turned out that it already could, they just hadn't looked around.
posted by yesno at 5:28 PM on April 12, 2005

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