Talking tech since 2003

We’ve all been there.  You successfully rip an audio CD (or download music online) only to find that instead of actual song names, the tracks are called “Track 1″, “Track 2″, etc.  Upon closer inspection, you find that not only are the tracks not accurate, but neither is the artist or album name.  This is caused when the CD your ripped does not contain ID3 meta-data; the information that stores all of the song, album, and artist information.  Sure, you could manually re-tag the CD using a simple program such as iTunes, but doing so would be a very repetitive process, take a tremendous amount of time, and involve a relatively high risk of human error.

However, there’s a much easier way to tag your MP3 collection automatically; be it one song or an entire library.  The tool which we will use for this process may be familiar to a lot of you, as Jeff has previously reviewed foobar2000 and proclaimed it to be an excellent music player and library manager.  Combined with the “freedb” add-in (installed with a “full” foobar2000 installation), foobar2000 can automatically tag your MP3 collection, saving you a boatload of time, and eliminating the need for an additional program to be installed on your computer.

To begin, you will firstly need to ensure that you have installed foobar2000 on your computer.  If you have not already, download the application from the foobar2000 website, and follow the on-screen prompts to install.  It is important to ensure that you have the “freedb” add-on selected during installation.  You may also choose to do a “full” installation, as the difference in hard-drive footprint is less than one megabyte.

Once you have foobar2000 installed, you will want to move all of your music files into the library.  This process is as simple as dragging and dropping the folder or folders that contain your music into the main application.

At this point, you should have all of your media (or at least the media that you wish to re-tag) imported into the foobar2000 library.  From here, simply select all of the files in the library either by clicking and selecting or by pressing CTRL + A on your keyboard.

With all of the files selected, right click on one of them and select the “Tagging” option.  From there, select the button entitled “Get Tags From freedb”.
At this point, foobar2000 will generate “fingerprints” for all of your media files, and send them along to freedb to be compared.  Depending on the size of your library, this can take anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes, so it is important that you be patient and allow the process to complete.

Once matches have been made from the freedb database, you will be presented with a dialog asking you to confirm the changes.  In the case shown below, there were two possible options; both showing the correct artist and album, but each using a different genre.  From here it is up to you to confirm the validity of the freedb results, and when you are ready, you simply need to select “Update files” from the “freedb tagger” dialog.

If all goes well, your end result should be an accurately tagged media library.

Ultimately, using foobar2000 along with freedb can save you a lot of time and hassle when re-tagging your music library.  However, it is important to note that freedb is not always going to be one-hundred percent accurate, and it is bound to make errors from time to time.  Additionally, because freedb thrives on it’s community infrastructure, a lot of the information is entered into the database by volunteers, so there may be errors caused by that aspect as well.  However, like Wikipedia, freedb’s community structure also helps to ensure the greater accuracy of the information, meaning a decreased error rate for you.

Because of the room for error, I suggest that you at least skim through the proposed changes before you apply them, as doing so can reduce the number of errors that occur.

Do you have any tricks for managing your media library?  If so, leave it in the comments, or feel free to drop into the chat room.

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