Sunday, October 5, 2008

Tux Geek: Fix Your Music Library: Song Names, Album Art, Automatically

This article was written by Stefan Neagu from the Tux Geek Blog, a How-To Geek Blog focused on network security, linux and other issues regarding the tech world.

With every new version of media players, we get new beautiful album art views, recommendations and all kinds of sorting by genre, year, composer. These are all based on correct information stored in the songs 'tags'.


If you're like me and you download music from all over the place, rip CD's, swap songs with buddies, your library probably won't look this one, organized and sexy.


Information about your music is stored with your songs in ID3 tags. Manually editing these for an album works, but try editing a 12000 song library. This is where MusicBrainz and FixTunes come to the rescue.

You're in luck, because I'm going to show you how to fix those pesky details.

For all fairness and justice, I choose both a free open source solution and a closed source, commercial one. I personally use both of them and find them complementary to each other.

MusicBrainz (Windows, Linux, Mac)


MusicBrainz is an project that aims to create an open content music database similar to CDDB, but more comprehensive. The database is user-maintained, meaning you can help out if something isn’t correct, and it’s licensed under Public Domain/Creative Commons.

MusicBrainz captures information about artists, their recorded works, and the relationships between them. Recorded works entries capture at a minimum the album title, track titles, and the length of each track. These entries are maintained according to a common style guide. Recorded works can additionally store information about the release date and country, the CD disc ID, an acoustic fingerprint for each track and have an optional free-form text field or annotation attached to them. As of Dec 31, 2007, MusicBrainz contained information about 350,718 artists, 534,986 releases, and 6.3 million tracks.

In order to use it you need to download a small application that interfaces between your library and the MusicBrainz database. It’s available from Screenshots are for the Windows version, but the other versions are equally easy to use.


It’s a simple process:

  • Select the song or album from the right panel and click Lookup. Possible albums and the correct metadata will appear on the right.
  • Sometimes using the lookup button might not turn up any results. The Scan button, creates a fingerprint of the song, without using the previous metadata, and manages to find the information.
  • Just right click and click Save to write the correct information to your song/album.
  • The Cluster button will organize your songs in albums for easy access.

The only caveat of MusicBrainz is that it doesn’t pull down album art; FixTunes does that automatically. Free solutions are:

[Edit: "MusicBrainz *DOES* pull in album art automatically, you just need to enable the plugin in the newer versions of Picard. The only problem is that not all the albums have art, although most do."]


FixTunes (Windows, Mac)

FixTunes is a shareware and after the free trial(50 corrected songs) costs 24,95$. However, it has a complete approach, covering everything including album art. In my case, the results we’re pretty good, but users are complaining about crashes, poor support staff and some tags stored in Chinese.

The main design fault in FixTunes is the lack of a fingerprinting technology, songs named ‘Track 1’ cannot be automatically detected and fixed.

There are two versions of this app – one created especially for iTunes, with a minimalistic approach, and one that works with any library.



Using the app is trivial, the wizard walks through finding the music library and settings, like integration with iTunes. Fixing songs is a three step process: submit your song names to the server, look to see if the corrections are appropriate, and, based on similarity percentage click on Fix.


You can get FixTunes from here.

A quick note to Windows users – Windows Media Player has similar functionality integrated. However, it doesn’t apply the new information to the songs, it just modifies the entries in the music database to reflect the new information - until you click "Apply Media Information Changes" in the library drop down menu.

image image


If you want a quick ‘click and fix’ experience with pretty good results with no effort on your part – FixTunes is your choice. If you’re willing to put a little time you can save those 25$ and buy yourself some nice indie rock.

MusicBrainz is a great initiative, and I strongly recommend you create an account and help out submit some of those obscure artists you’re listening to.

What about you? What do you use to edit metadata on your songs? Tell us in the comments.

Stefan Neagu is the author of the Tux Geek Blog where he discusses network security, linux and other issues regarding the tech world. He's a student, an amateur C# programmer and photoshopper.

Copyright © All Rights Reserved.

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