Ripping and Tagging

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At CJMP we are currently using NP3 and FLAC files.

In order for our automated Station Playlist program to function as it should, and for the quality of the music on air to be acceptable, certain key specifications regarding ripping music from CDs to Mp3/Flac and tagging them properly must be followed.

Executive summary

We will accept digital files ripped to FLAC, MP3, or AAC.

Files ripped to MP3 will have a bit-rate of at least 256 kilobits per second (kbps). Files ripped to AAC will have a bit-rate of at least 128 kilobits per second (kbps). MP3 files will be tagged according to the ID3 v1.0 standard or ID3 v2.3 (or higher).

All files will be correctly tagged with (at least) the artist’s name and song title.

Purpose of this document

As CJMP accumulates more programs and more programmers, we will be continually developing our music library of digital files. This library will eventually live in one place and will be organized according to a scheme that allows us quickly to find and play music and other content. We do not want to end up with heaps of poorly-ripped and -tagged files; the time to do it right is at the outset, before introducing new files into the automation library. This document tells you some of what you need to know.

This specification document will evolve along with the equipment and needs of the programmers. The current version is an attempt to lay out some basic requirements for any digital files coming into the station.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact CJMP’s Program Director at programdirector@cjmp.ca.

Before you even get started

Remember that one of the main uses of the music in our digital music library will be to supply the station automation software with a source of music filed by genre, so that we can divide the broadcast day up into thematic chunks.

This means that the songs that we play when no one is in the studio should have a clear start and finish. Live albums with applause that links the tracks, or other albums whose tracks all run together, are best not ripped and stored. If an album has a couple of tracks that run together, then feel free to rip and store the rest of the album, but leave those tracks out of our library. If an album has only a couple great tracks, but otherwise it’s not so good, just rip the great tracks.

Many albums nowadays, especially re-mastered releases of older albums, contain extra material which is not really suitable for automated programming: outtakes, crappy live tracks, studio chatter, radio commercials, boring 18-minute remixes of the hit single, and so on. Use your judgment! If it won’t sound good coming out of the radio with no one to put it in context, don’t put it into our library!!

Also, tracks longer than about 5 minutes (and certainly longer than 10 minutes) don’t work well for automation. It’s OK to have a few of them here and there, but please avoid dumping large numbers of long tracks into the music library. It makes it harder to schedule ads, promos, and PSAs.

Ripping from CDs to digital files

For now, we will accept digital files in three formats:

  • FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec);
  • MP3, when the bit-rate is at least 256 kilobits per second (kbps);
  • AAC (Advanced Audio Coding), when the bit-rate is at least 128 kilobits per second (kbps).

Eventually we may want to switch over to FLAC only, so FLAC is preferable to MP3 or AAC when possible.

For more information on the FLAC format, and a list of music software which will rip from CDs to FLAC, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Lossless_Audio_Codec. Windows users can easily find and install Winamp or VLC media player; Apple users can rip to FLAC with VLC media player and various other programs.

Exact Audio Copy (EAC; http://www.exactaudiocopy.de/) is open-source freeware and produces a ripping log to let you know how close you are to producing a 100% faithful copy of a CD. If high quality is the goal, then all ripping software may not be equal. We suggest that, when ripping files, you ensure that you are producing the highest-quality files possible. For more information, ask someone on the Programming Team.

File and folder names

It helps organize our music library if all incoming music is filed as follows:

  • Create a folder named for the artist;
  • Inside that folder, create a folder name for the album;
  • Inside that folder, place the individual files for the tracks from that album.

The StationPlaylist software appears to choke on extra-long folder and file names. When you’re ripping from CDs to MP3 or FLAC files, please make sure that the resulting folder and file names are not excessively long. Sometimes the ripping software will look up the CD and get album-title or track information with all kinds of extra nonsense (e.g., “In Through The Out Door (Led Zeppelin) – 2008 Remastered [Bonus Tracks]”). When this happens, please cut the file or folder name down to a reasonable length (i.e., under 20 characters whenever possible).

If an album is a compilation album (meaning that it contains tracks from various artists), then it helps to create a folder named “Compilations”. Inside that folder, create a folder named for the album title; the tracks from the album should go there.

Tags and acceptable tag formats

Digital music files contain metadata called ‘tags’ which live inside the file and identify various aspects of the data. For our purposes, the two most important tags are Artist and Title, which identify the artist responsible for the song and the title of the song. It is very crucial that these tags be present and in the correct format (see section 4 below). If you are ripping files to MP3 format, please make sure that the software you are using is creating file tags either in ID3 v1 format or ID3 v2.3.0 or later. Any other tag format will cause trouble in the StationPlaylist software and risks being deleted from the music library.

If you are ripping files to AAC format (which seems to be the default setting in iTunes), just make sure that the tags are getting onto the files. These tags will be in the MP4 tag format.

If you are ripping files to FLAC, just make sure that the tags are getting onto the files. The StationPlaylist software can read FLAC tags (which do not seem to have many different versions as the MP3/ID3 tag standard does).

You can use iTunes to convert from one tagging format to another (although iTunes does not recognize FLAC files, so you can only convert to or from MP3 or AAC files). Ask someone on the Programming Team for instructions.

A very useful and free utility for inspecting and correcting file tags is Mp3tag, which you can download from http://www.mp3tag.de/en/. It will show you what format your tags are in and will display the information in the tags so that you can edit this, one file at a time or in bulk. It works for MP3/ID3, MP4, and FLAC tags.

‘Found’ digital files

Nowadays, with bit torrents and other ways of exchanging digital music files, many of us come into possession of files which we did not create. The spec remains the same: if you can find digital files available for download or otherwise discovered somewhere, make sure that these files are in one of the approved formats. If not, they may not be allowed to live on CJMP’s music server.

Files that come through torrents are also notorious for being untagged or badly tagged. If you want to clean up the tags so that they meet this specification, please do so. If you don’t want to clean up those tags, don’t give us those files.

Tagging digital files

Tagging files is extremely important! Tagging allows the StationPlaylist software to see the name of the artist and the title of the song. This matters because the automation software is smart enough not to play the same song, or a song by the same artist, within a certain period of time; but if songs in the library don’t contain the artist tags and song title tags, then the software can’t see that two files are by the same artist (or are the very same song).

We need a clear and consistent specification for tagging files. Otherwise “Rolling Stones”, “Rolling Stones, The” and “The Rolling Stones” end up looking to the automation software like three different artists. So the automation software might play a song by “Rolling Stones” followed by a song by “Rolling Stones, The” followed by a song by “The Rolling Stones”. Inconsistency will also cause confusion among programmers looking for music by song title or artist name.

The best time to tag files is at the time you rip them. If you are acquiring files from friends or via peer-to- peer filesharing, it is your responsibility to make sure that their tags match our standards. Digital files without tags or with incorrect tags risk being tossed out of the CJMP music library.

You can tag FLAC files using Winamp, Mp3tag, and various other pieces of software.

You can tag MP3 or AAC files using iTunes, Winamp, Mp3tag, and various other pieces of software.

DO NOT tag files by messing with the Properties dialog box in the Windows operating system. Windows uses a different tagging protocol, so the changes you make to the tags in Windows will not be visible to our automation software.

Please be careful when tagging files! It’s tedious work, but small spelling errors or inconsistencies in punctuation can make a big difference.

Artist name

We use the contents of the Artist field to sort music alphabetically, so that things end up in the same order as they would if you were looking for them in a record store (if you are old enough to know what means...). So we expect to find The Beatles under the letter ‘B’ (not ‘T’), after Bad Company and before The Bee Gees. We expect to find Tom Jones filed under ‘J’ not ‘T’.

People’s names

We will tag all artists who go by their own name as “Last Name, First Name”; e.g.:

  • Franklin, Aretha
  • Rother, Michael
  • Cole, Nat “King”
  • Mellencamp, John Cougar

Artists with a pseudonym are tagged in the same way; e.g.:

  • Sioux, Siouxsie
  • John, Elton

When an artist’s pseudonym is not in the form of a first name and last name, then we tag it as is; e.g.:

  • Captain Beefheart
  • Major Lance
  • Queen Latifah
  • Wreckless Eric

When two artists collaborate, we will tag this as “Last Name, First Name, & First Name Last Name”; e.g.:

  • McCoo, Marilyn, & Billy Davis Jr.
  • BUT: England Dan & John Ford Coley (because “England Dan” is a nickname)

Please use an ampersand (&) instead of “and” and be sure to put the second comma before the ampersand (after the first artist’s first name).

When an artist name consists of a person and a group name, we will tag this as “Last Name, First Name, & xxx”; e.g.:

  • Petty, Tom, & The Heartbreakers
  • Brown, James, & His Famous Flames
  • BUT: Lulu & The Luvvers

Again, please use an ampersand (&) instead of “and” and be sure to put the second comma after the first artist’s first name.

But when the name of the artist is combined with a following word or phrase, then we invert the artist’s first name and last name and then put the whole group name in square brackets; e.g.:

  • Hendrix, Jimi [The Jimi Hendrix Experience] (not Hendrix, Jimi, Experience, The)
  • Matthews, Dave [The Dave Matthews Band] (not Matthews, Dave, Band, The)

“The xxx”

All artists whose name is in the form of “The xxx” will be tagged as “xxx, The”; e.g.:

  • Rolling Stones, The
  • The, The

Huh?

Sometimes you will hit an artist or group name which is just baffling. In this case, leave it as is and use the Comment field of the tags to make a note to the person checking the tags.

Album Artist tags

We use the contents of the Album Artist field to display the artist’s name as it would normally appear and not necessarily how we display it for purposes of alphabetical filing. This field gets displayed in the internet stream along with the title of the track which is currently playing. It makes more sense to display The Beatles – Hey Jude in the stream metadata than to display Beatles, The – Hey Jude.

Some examples of how the artist’s name should appear in the Album Artist field:

  • Aretha Franklin
  • Siouxsie Sioux
  • Nat “King” Cole
  • Siouxsie Sioux
  • Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr.
  • James Brown & His Famous Flames
  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Song title

When tagging files, make sure that the song title tag represents exactly the title of the track. Sometimes automatic tagging will produce something like “02 – Nature’s Way”, with the track number in the tag. This should simply read “Nature’s Way”.

If the song title tag is cut off, make sure that it is complete.

If tracks have no titles (e.g., as on the Sigur Rós album “()”), then name them “Untitled 1”, “Untitled 2”, and so on. This will allow the automation software to tell the difference between the tracks and not repeat them too close together in time.

Canadian and local content

Use the Comments field to tag any music that satisfies the CRTC’s Canadian content definition. (If you’re unsure, leave a comment in the Comments field and someone will check into it.)

If a song satisfies the definition of Canadian content, type “CanCon” into the Comments field, without the quotation marks and exactly as written there: all one word and with both C’s capitalized.

If a song satisfies the definition of Canadian content and the artist is from the Sunshine Coast, Gulf Islands, or Vancouver Island, type “CanCon\/Local” into the Comments field, without the quotation marks, with “CanCon” all one word and with both C’s capitalized, and with a backslash and a forward slash between “CanCon” and “Local”. The reason for this is that the blackslash and forward slash will translate into a single forward slash when dumping files out into a directory structure. We’ll end up with a CanCon folder containing a Local folder, containing a folder named for the Artist, containing one named for the album, which will contain the album tracks.

The Comments field

The only things that should ever appear in the Comments field are:

  • the Canadian and Local content indicators (see section 4.4); or
  • questions or concerns about the tagging, which will be reviewed by someone else before the file goes onto the automation server.

Otherwise, please make sure that the Comments field is blank.

Genre

When tagging files, please make sure that the Genre tag contains something reasonably representative of the music you’re tagging. You can be as vague as “Rock”, “Pop”, “Soul”, or as specific as “DC hardcore”, “Acid Folk”, etc. Do your best and whoever ends up reviewing these files will have somewhere to start.

The distinction between the “Rock” and “Pop” genres is a tricky one to define. Roughly, it comes down to the ‘heaviness’ of the music. When we program an hour of Pop, it should be more or less light, melodic, and have lyrical content that is not too weird or confrontational. Obviously, many albums contain songs which are closer to the Pop end of the scale and others towards the Rock end. When in doubt, it’s probably better to mix some Pop into a Rock rotation than vice versa.

What about classical music files? (To be written.)

Where to put digital files

Please put any files intended for the automation server into the “MUSIC FOR SERVER” folder on the netbook in the CJMP studio. Please create a folder with your name and put them into that folder. Having your name there helps us get back to you with any concerns or questions.

You do not need to worry about whether the files are neatly organized into folders according to artist or album. We’ll be using Mp3tag to clean up the files and sort them into folders anyway.

Revision History

Draft: Winter 2011

Revised Summer 2011

Winter 2012