I like most people have quite a few music files laying around on various places on my hard drive, and not all of it is in what could be called the best “shape.” After doing some playing around trying to get things fixed up, I think the best solution that I’ve come across so far is to use a combination of MusicBrainz and MediaMonkey. First things first, the two biggest requirements I wanted to get out of this project was to 1) clean up my meta-data for all of my songs and 2) display the album art in the best “cross-platform” way possible. For requirement number two, the best way is to embed the art into the music file itself, this works with all the media players I use as well as displays very nicely in Windows Vista explorer.
MusicBrainz is one of the better tools I’ve used to clean up meta-data, especially if it doesn’t even exist for some files. It has an ability to scan files to generate an “audio fingerprint” and match that against it’s database to come up with possible matches. The two weaknesses I’ve run into using it so far is that it’s database is entirely community driven, which isn’t itself a bad thing but it seems that there’s not a good way to remove invalid data from their database. You’ll understand once you search their database and get 4 album results with the exact same name but 4 different number of tracks for each, or a slightly different capitalization scheme. The only other weakness i’ve run into is probably with the software i’m using, but the Picard tagger doesn’t have the ability to play music while you work (a must if you are using it’s scan functionality). Here is the documentation page for the Picard tagger which is the one i’m currently working with. From there start with the Getting started guide or go to the more in depth documentation.
MediaMonkey is the album art heavy weight that I’ve seen. it’s one of the few that will embed album art into the music file if it can, and flexible enough to save it to a file if it can’t. MediaMonkey will also tag files, but doesn’t have the scan feature of MusicBrainz. By default will will use Amazon to find album art, although that can be changed with various plugins. another great thing is that it has a built in player so you can play music while you’re working on your music (seems kinda obvious, right) which makes the work go by so much quicker. One of the better write ups I’ve seen so far is an older write up in Lifehacker with step-by-step instructions for embedding album art using MediaMonkey, even though it’s old, everything they’ve written still holds true.
Now go forth and rid the world of bad meta-data and album-artless music files…