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Recommendations For Tagging iTunes 11 Music (Popular)

Article ID = 53
Article Title = Recommendations For Tagging iTunes 11 Music (Popular)
Article Author(s) = Graham Needham (BH)
Article Created On = 19th October 2011
Article Last Updated = 1st July 2015
Article URL =

Article Brief Description:
Recommendations and instructions for correctly tagging iTunes popular music with iTunes 11 or earlier

Recommendations For Tagging iTunes Music (Popular - iTunes 11 Or Earlier)

If you are using iTunes 12 or later you should use this article instead.

If you are looking for recommendations on tagging classical music see this article.
  1. Make sure you are running iTunes version 9.1 or later. Open iTunes and go to the iTunes menu > About iTunes to check.
  2. It is recommended to let iTunes do the organising of your media files so go to iTunes' Preferences > Advanced and make sure "Keep iTunes Media folder organised" and "Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library" are both ticked. Now you are ready to set the iTunes window up to start tagging correctly. You can always adjust the view options to your personal preference after the tagging is complete.
  3. NOTE: If your music is on all different storage devices and you want it all in one place Select All your music in the iTunes window, Right (Control) click on any track and select "Consolidate Files…" from the contextual menu.
  4. In iTunes select "Music" under 'Library' in the list on the left (in iTunes 11 go to View menu > Show Sidebar to see this list or select Music from the pop-up menu in the top left of the iTunes window).
  5. Go to View menu > Column Browser and select Hide Column Browser if the Column Browser is visible.
  6. In iTunes 10.7 or earlier go to the View menu and make sure "as Album list" is selected/ticked.
  7. Go to the View menu > View Options… and make sure only the following are ticked:
    • Artist
    • Disc Number
    • Genre
    • Time
    • Track Number
    • Year
  8. iTunes should now be displaying all your music in a nice big list so open the iTunes window up as large as possible (click and drag the bottom right hand corner as desired).
  9. NOTE: You can order the columns left to right as required simply by clicking and dragging on the heading of the column to the desired position. You can also expand or make the column width smaller by clicking and dragging on the right hand side of the column heading as desired.
  10. Click to select any track in the main list at the bottom.
  11. Go to the Edit menu > Select All.
  12. Right (Control) click on any track and select "Convert ID3 Tags…" from the contextual menu. Tick "ID3 Tag Version" and select "v2.4" from the pop-up menu. Click OK. If you have a lot of tracks this may take some time.
  13. NOTE: This converts the ID3 tag on any MP3 files you have to version 2.4. This allows the use of special tags like the "sorting" fields on them. However, some MP3 players e.g. non-Apple streaming devices, car MP3 players may require an older version of the ID3 tag so if you have such equipment check which ID3 tag version they support.
  14. Now you should check for duplicates: select "Display Duplicates" from the File menu (View menu in iTunes 11). It is best to sort the list by track name so click on the "Name" column heading. Work you way through the list identifying and deleting any duplicates as required (files will be moved to Trash so you can always add them back if you make a mistake). Pay special attention to album names, track versions (remixes) and track times. You can also select a single track in the list and go to File menu > Get Info > Summary tab to check information such as Bit Rate and file "Format" if required.
  15. NOTE: The Duplicates list/window does not always update live - if it doesn't you can get back to the main library list by clicking the "Display All" button at the bottom and then select "Display Duplicates" from the File/View menu again.
  16. In preparation for tagging it is best to sort the list so click on the column heading you want to sort the list by e.g. clicking on the Album column heading so that it states "Album by Artist"
  17. This is start of the long, hard part. For each track select it and go to File menu > Get Info > Info tab to make sure the following fields are correct:
    • Name - including correct capitalisation, spelling, remix/version, live/remastered, etc
    • Artist
    • Year
    • Album
    NOTE: You can select multiple tracks at once to set the same information e.g. Artist, Year, Album on all the selected tracks at once if required.
  18. You can make sure the following fields are correct for all tracks in an "album". The best way to do this is to select all the tracks in the album - that you want in the album - and go to File menu > Get Info > Info tab to make sure the following fields are correct for the album:
    • Artist
    • Album Artist - more on Album Artist below
    • Album
    • Disc Number
    • Genre
    • Under the "Sorting" tab: NOTE: The sort fields are used to sort names correctly e.g. David Bowie should be sorted under 'B' so David Bowie should be "Bowie, David" in the Sort Artist field.
    • Sort Artist
    • Sort Album Artist
    NOTE: If one of the above fields is empty when you select all the tracks in an album it means there is a difference in at least one of the tracks. If so, just enter the correct text in that field and it will populate for all the tracks you have selected. NOTE: When entering text in these fields iTunes will attempt to autofill the data based on what is already in the database. Be careful with this as it can lead to errors, capitalisation issues and more, all of which can affect your tagging efforts.
  19. Now that tracks are grouped correctly for a whole album you can check the track and disc numbers and set as required.
  20. NOTE: Disc number becomes irrelevant if the album title is different for different discs - this is very common with the CDDB data e.g. disc one imports in with album title "XXX [Disc 1]", disc two with "XXX [Disc 2]" - if this happens your disc numbering and sorting is screwed unless you group them together by setting a common value for the "Sort Album" field.
  21. Then, for all the tracks in each album select them all, then go to File menu > Get Info > Options tab and also check:
    • the "Compilation" Yes/No tag is set correctly - more on Compilations below.
    • the "Gapless album" Yes/No tag is set correctly.
  22. At this point you can do some tidying up and catch any tracks not quite correctly tagged. Go to the View menu and select "as List".
  23. Set the primary sort column as "Album by Artist" by clicking on the Artist column heading until "Album by Artist" is set.
  24. Now scroll through all the tracks top to bottom and tag any incorrect Artist/Album.
  25. Go to the View menu and select "as Album List".
  26. Go to the View menu > Column Browser and select Show Column Browser if the Column Browser is hidden.
  27. Go to the View menu > Column Browser and make sure the following are ticked:
    • Genres
    • Artists
    • Albums
    • Group Compilations
    • Use Album Artists
  28. Now scroll through each of the Genres, Artists and Albums Column Browser lists and tag any incorrect items - check especially for spelling errors, Artists not sorted correctly and multiple listings for the same album all of which will reveal incorrect tags.
  29. Finally, if required, you should tag the Year field correctly.
  30. NOTE: Tagging the year field correctly is especially useful for Smart Playlists and/or music videos. If the year is tagged correctly it is very easy to create an 80s music video Smart Playlist i.e. 'Media Kind' | 'is' | 'Music Video' add an additional rule ('+' button) 'Year' | 'is in the range' | '1980' to '1989' and voilà (you can even rename it as such in the Playlist list on the left).
  31. You should be pretty much all tagged correctly now so you can adjust the viewing preferences back to how you personally require them - just remember to tag any new music that you add to the library as you add it!

Album Artist and Compilations Notes

The Artist/Sort Artist, Album Artist/Sort Album Artist and Compilation tag can all influence sorting.
  • Artist/Sort Artist - This should be the artist name relevant to the individual track e.g. "DJ Shadow" or "DJ Shadow featuring Little Dragon".
  • NOTE: You might want to standardise on one type of "featuring" term e.g. "feat.", "featuring", "with", etc this makes it easier when using rules in Smart Playlists.
  • Album Artist/Sort Album Artist - This should be the artist name relevant to the whole album e.g. "DJ Shadow" but individual tracks may be "DJ Shadow featuring XXX". Or a best of compilation for one artist e.g. Alison Moyet whereupon a couple of tracks are by "Yazoo" (Yaz in the USA) - some people might prefer to use the Compilation tag for the latter type of album. If all the tracks in the album have the same Artist then there is no need to use the Album Artist field and it can be cleared.
  • Compilation tag - This should only be used when pretty much all the tracks on the album are by different artists. e.g. a "Now That's What I Call Music" series album. The Compilation tag should not be used for a single artist's "best of" or "singles" collection unless the collection has tracks by that artist under several different names - in which case it is okay or you can use the Album Artist/Sort Album Artist field instead.

Sort Order Notes

iTunes 9.1 or later is required to be able to use sort fields and orders properly.
  • The primary sort order is different and remembered for each library and playlist view.
  • The primary sort order is selected in "list" view using the tabs along the top of the list. If you switch to "Grid" view or "Cover Flow" view after you have set the primary sort order this will affect the sort order of what you are viewing.
  • Primary sort order for "albums" can be changed to different things by clicking on it again and again or using the pop-up menu e.g. Album, Album by Artist, Album by Year - this obviously can affect the view/sort order if that data is not correct in your tags.
  • If you use "Groupings" or the "Album Artist" fields (see above) this can affect the sort/view order of tracks. Make sure these are set correctly (or empty) for all tracks in an album. Hence in version 9.1 or later of iTunes you now have many options on the View menu > Column Browser sub-menu - make sure "Group Compilations" and "Use Album Artists" are both ticked!

Music Videos

If you are have music videos in your iTunes library check the following:
  1. When you add music videos to the iTunes library they may come in as a "Film" type i.e. under Library > Film on the left (and then "Home Videos" along the top in iTunes 11) so in the iTunes library window select the video(s) and go to the File menu > Get Info > Options tab and set the 'Media Kind' to "Music Video".
  2. Tag music videos in the same way you tag music although you might want to tag "album" names differently e.g. Depeche Mode - "The Singles" you might want to tag the videos with the "album" tag of "The Singles [Video]" to separate them from the audio tracks.
  3. Under File menu > Get Info > Options tab there are two additional tags useful for music videos:
    • Remember playback position - this is useful to set to "Yes" if it's a long video such as a live music concert (that isn't split into individual tracks/chapters) otherwise set it to "No".
    • Skip when shuffling - this is also useful to set to "Yes" if it's a long video such as a live music concert otherwise you could be shuffling music videos e.g. the 80s music video Smart Playlist referenced above, and suddenly get a two hour concert in the mix. So if it's a single music video set this to "No".
  4. If you tag all your music videos as recommended above it's very easy to create (party) playlists that are extremely useful to stream to something like your Apple TV and its attached big screen!

Album Artwork

If you would like to set artwork correctly for your iTunes music see this article.

Additional Notes

Here we provide some additional notes for tagging tracks. They are optional and you do not have to follow them if you don't want to or you don't agree with them but we have found them to be useful:
  • It is worth starting off by tagging only a few albums e.g. 10-20 to start with and see if you can get along with that particular method by trying it out not only on you computer but on other devices like your iPod/iPhone/iPad and/or Apple TV.
  • For consistency all track Names and Artists should be capitalised i.e. every word has the first letter capitalised.
  • If you have Albums with the same name from two different Artists append the Artist name after the Album title in curly brackets e.g. "Brotherhood {New Order}" and "Brotherhood {The Chemical Brothers}".
  • If you have special editions of Albums append what the version is after the Album title in square brackets e.g. " [2011 Deluxe Remastered Edition]".
  • If the tracks are a single rather than an Album append ' [Single]' to the Album (sic) title. If you have multiple versions of the single identify them in a similar way e.g. " [Digital Single - iTunes]", " [UK Promo CD Single]" or " [USA Promo Single]"
  • Prefix film soundtrack Album titles with 'OST' e.g. "OST Casino Royale (2006) [Deluxe Edition]".
  • Prefix TV series soundtrack Album titles with 'OTVS' e.g. "OTVS Millennium Volume 2".
  • Track Names with remixes should have the remix title in standard brackets appended e.g. " (12" Extended Remix)".
  • Track Names should not have additional information such as '(Bonus Track)' or '(Previously Unreleased)' appended to them - that is what the 'Comments' field is for.
  • Generally, you don't need to append things like ' (2011 Digital Remaster)' to a track Name as you can use the 'Album' field (see above) or use the 'Comments' field.
  • If a track is a live recording don't just append ' (Live)' to the track Name, put the full information e.g. " (Live At Hammersmith Apollo, London 21/10/2011)" - that way if you have multiple live recordings of the same track you can identify what is what.
  • Once you have decided on a particular tagging method try to stick to it especially when importing new music.

Article Keywords: iTunes 9 10 11 tag tags tagging ID3 mp3 sort sorting album artist genre pop popular music

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