How to add artist information while burning a CD

Posted: July 5, 2013 in Helpful Tips, Music Business, News
Tags:

Metadata introduction and overview

Mar 22nd, 2010 by Mike Wells in Tutorials

Introduction:

Here are a few scenarios you are probably familiar with:

1)  You buy a CD, bring it home and pop it into your Mac. iTunes opens and shows you all the information about the album.  How did that happen?
2)  You take that CD to work and pop it into your PC. Windows Media player opens, but now the album info doesn’t show.  Why not?
3)  You take that CD into your car, and your fancy new car stereo shows the song titles scrolling by. There it is again.  How?
4)  You just finished creating a CD of your band’s music, but when you put that CD into any of the above methods no information shows up.  How do you get that type of info to appear for your band’s CD?

The information we’re referring to is called “Metadata” and this article will inform you as to the different types, and explain how to include metadata for your own release.

 

What are the different types of Metadata, and where does it reside?

Metadata can reside in a number of places, the most popular being:

1)  Within digital asset files (.mp3, etc.) as “tags”

Many digital file formats support a tagging structure known as ID3, which stores information to describe the file such as Artist Name, Track Title, and sometimes even Album Art. A tagger application is used to embed/edit this information within the files.  Many tagging applications are available as freeware or shareware on the Internet for both the Mac & PC platforms.

2)  On the Internet in “metdatabase” applications

Metadatabase applications are used by the majority of music software programs to provide these applications with information about a CD when that CD is inserted into a computer.  To best illustrate this let’s use an example:
iTunes uses a metadatabase provider called Gracenote with an application called CDDB (short for “Compact Disc Data Base”).  When you insert a CD into your computer and iTunes starts, the iTunes application sees the CD, and makes a request over the Internet to the CDDB application “asking” if it “knows” what CD has been inserted into the computer.  If the answer is yes, then CDDB returns information about the release (Artist Name, Track Titles, etc…) back to iTunes, and iTunes then displays this information in its main window.
In order for that answer to be “yes” when iTunes makes the initial request to CDDB, the information about the release must have been previously submitted to the CDDB application.

3)  Within a CD as “CD Text”

CD Text was created by Sony in the mid 90’s, and its support is spotty in the marketplace.  While Metadatabases and ID3 tags have gained more momentum in the last decade, it’s still good to know how CD Text works.  CD Text is the Artist Name, Release Title, and Track Titles of a CD, embedded into the CD itself usually during mastering.  The CD Text contained in the master is then replicated at the manufacturing plant when the CDs are pressed.  The caveat of CD Text is that the player must support it, by supporting the Sony license and technology to display it.  At this point, the main area where CD Text is used is in car stereo head units.

How can I embed/encode/submit metadata about my release to each of these methods?

1)  Embedding metadata into ID3 tags:

As mentioned above, there are many tagging applications available on the Internet to do just this.  If you plan on creating your own music-direct-download store, consider using a tagging application to add metadata to each of your files.  Two applications that are easy to use are MP3Tag (PC – http://www.mp3tag.de/en/) and Tag (Mac – http://www.sbooth.org/Tag/).  Both are freeware (and accept donations to assist support and future development).  With these applications, you are able to first create your digital assets (.mp3, .aac, etc.) and then view and tag them.
Some considerations to take into account with ID3 tags:  You will notice for each application that there are different levels of ID3 support, and with each come different options (Album art as a tag, etc.).
As of 2010 most devices support ID3v2, and as this latest rev supports the most robust tagging/metadata structure, you’ll have the richest user experience using ID3v2.

2)  Submitting metadata to metadatabases:

Currently there are 4 metadatabases in the market worth submitting your information to.  They are:

a)  Gracenote:The largest and most supported
b)  AMG:                       Used by Microsoft’s Windows Media Player application
c)  FreeDB:An open source metadatabase with a large grass-roots support behind it
d)  Musicbrainz:           Currently gaining momentum in the metadata marketplace

To have your release information included in each of these metadatabases, you must follow the guidelines supplied by each vendor.

For Gracenote and FreeDB, there are many free applications which will submit information to each metadatabase.  The Gracenote & FreeDB websites list applications per-platform which support metadata submission (see the bottom of this document for links to those app listings).

Musicbrainz uses a proprietary application you must apply for in order to generate what it calls “fingerprints”, and then a proprietary submission policy for adding those fingerprints into their metadatabase.  See http://www.musicbrainz.org for more information on how to apply.

Lastly, the AMG / All Music / All Media metadatabase uses a manual submission method where you must submit physical CDs for their review to be considered for the inclusion into their metadatabase, which will then result in the Windows Media Player application recognizing your CD.  For information and submission address info, see this webpage:
http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=32:amg/info_pages/a_product_submissions.html

3)  Adding CD Text to your release:

If you are having your release professionally mastered, consult with your mastering engineer about adding CD Text to your masters.  Chances are he or she will include CD Text in your masters for replication.  However, the effort to support CD Text does not stop with the creation of the masters.  To guarantee CD Text will appear in your manufactured release, you must also speak with the company manufacturing your CD, to see if it supports the replication of CD Text into the final product.  While most plants do support CD Text, it is in your best interest to speak with your plant representative to ensure they are aware not only that your masters have CD Text embedded within them, but also that you would like to receive your replicated product back with the CD Text.  Lastly, if your manufacturer offers a test pressing, take advantage of this service.   An ounce of prevention….

Testing, testing…..

After you have determined how to include metadata in its various forms, it is in your best interests to test your media to see how your metadata appears.

For ID3 tags, place your tagged assets into as many different players (iPods, Sandisk players, etc.) as you can access, to see how your information will appear.
For metadatabase information, have a look at what applications utilize which metadatabase providers, and then test your submissions through those providers.
For CD Text, test your discs in car stereos supporting it (a trip to the car stereo store anyone?).

Conclusion:

With a small time investment, you can effectively learn the scope of metadata quickly and provide listeners with more information about your release, thus increasing the visibility of your art.  In a market where gaining visibility is a major challenge, proficiency in metadata moves you much further along towards that goal.

Addendum:  Looking ahead with some possible initiatives

1)  Replay Gain:
Initiative:  http://replaygain.hydrogenaudio.org/
A proposal which claims the possibility of “ending the loudness war”.  Replay Gain is a tag embedded into a digital asset which is an amplitude calculation based-on the RMS energy of the sound file.
The idea is that the application playing the file would read the Replay Gain value and adjust the volume/output to achieve similar loudness across all playing tracks.

2)  Lyrics:
ID3 initiative:  http://www.id3.org/Lyrics3v2
Lyrics Plugin:  http://www.lyricsplugin.com/
There are a couple of initiatives out there now (above), along with proprietary implementations from both iTunes and Windows Media Player (storing in XML files instead of file tags).

3)  Liner Notes:
Currently there is not an ID3 tag, nor is there a proposal for one. There is the “Comment” tag which supports only 150 characters.  Gracenote supports production credit submission, however no systems seem to display this information if submitted at present.

4)  Album Art:
While you can embed via ID3, most DMR’s (iTunes, AmazonMP3, etc.) have proprietary art databases that work in tandem with their digital asset delivery system.
Finding album art has recently become easier thanks to sites like these:
http://albumart.org/
http://www.allcdcovers.com/

Further Information:

CD Text:
Unofficial FAQ:http://www.ncf.carleton.ca/~aa571/cdtext.htm

Gracenote:
Info:http://www.gracenote.com/business_solutions/music_id/
CDDB Players:http://www.gracenote.com/partners/software/
CDDB FAQ:http://www.gracenote.com/company_info/FAQ/FAQs/

FreeDB:
Info:http://www.freedb.org
FreeDB Players:http://www.freedb.org/en/applications__freedb_aware_applications.9.html
FreeDB FAQ:http://www.freedb.org/en/faq.3.html

AMG/Macrovision:
Info:http://www.allmediaguide.com/
Submissions:  http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=32:amg/info_pages/a_product_submissions.html

Musicbrainz:
Info:http://musicbrainz.org/

ID3 Tagging Initiative:
Info:http://www.id3.org/

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