This is not Nam'. This is tagging. There are rules.


'Has the whole world gone crazy? Am I the only one around here who gives a shit about the rules?'

This post is about Rule-based music library management, term coined by Dan Gravell, who’ve put it at the heart of his automatic tagging software bliss. I’ll adress the topic of bliss features in a later post, to focus today on the concept of rules and how I use them in my tagging routine.

Rules really tie your library together

Digital music is like plasticine : bulk raw data crying out for structure.
Just stacking it up before playing with it will invariably result in an undescriptable mess with no hope to find your way through.

Stand back, have a global view of the collection you’re building. Is it tuneful or conflicted ?

Bring harmony to your library : avoid genres fragmentation, names mispelling, get rid of inconsistencies (‘feat’ vs ‘ft’ anyone?)… Shape it.
Entering well-thought metadata information contributes heavily to this shaping as it enables efficient browsing based on tracks descriptive attributes (genre, release year, etc). File-naming conventions and storage of albums related files (as opposed to embedded album metadata) are other aspects to consider when sculpting your library.

In a rule-oriented library management system, you strive for musical data consistency, by applying the same set of rules to all the elements that compose your library.

Those are my f*cking rules !

  1. Must-have tags
    Following tags cannot be left blank : Artist, Album Artist,Title, Album, Genre, Year, Replaygain.
  2. Various artists corner case #1
    Album Artist is set to ‘Various Artists’ for compilations, unless something else makes sense (eg DJ or producer name).
  3. No genres galore
    Minimum number of tracks required for creating a new Genre category is 50.
  4. Cover art for desktop
    A high resolution of front album cover is saved in album folder under the name cover_hd.jpg.
  5. Cover art for mobile
    A lower resolution (~400x400, ~40kb) of cover_hd.jpg is embedded into tags.
  6. File-naming pattern
    Default naming pattern is Artist-Album-Year/track_number-title.mp3
  7. Various artists corner case #2
    Artists names must figure in tracks paths for compilations : VA-Album-Year/track_number-artist-title.mp3
  8. Ratings
    Ratings are stored in Grouping tag using a 5 star scale (see Resilient ID3 embedded ratings).

I didn’t come up straight off with that list , as it’s rather the result of an incremental process spanning over years.
Some rules arised belatedly and I’m still sweating today to make my oldest tracks abide by them (blasted #8 and its stupid stars! I knew I should have gone with the ‘Mark it zero!’ approach ;).
Yet, most of my rules can be applied somewhat automatically by software means…

So stay tuned to learn what tools I use to ease the process!