Desktop: The brainz of the operation

Which singer or group is most highly represented in your iTunes or other music playlist program?

itunes 88 (photo credit: )
itunes 88
(photo credit: )
Which artist's music do you have more of in your MP3 collection than any other? Which singer or group is most highly represented in your iTunes or other music playlist program? Don't bother running to your computer to count. I already know the answer. It's some guy called "Unknown Artist." S/he appears to be a very prolific and versatile artist, able to sing everything from country to soul to the blues, solo or as part of a group - and in voices as varied as male bass to female alto. Don't blame iTunes. The information accompanying the music that you copy onto your computer is highly dependent on its source. That information, known in the biz as Id3 tags, is the metadata format containing information about what you are listening to, embedded in the digital MP3 file. It's how you can look at the readout on your iPod or MP3 player and see who is singing what, how long the song lasts, what album it is from, etc. When you "rip" (transfer) a CD to your computer for use on an MP3 player, the Id3 information accompanies it; that metadata is stored in the CD version of the song, too. And, you get the proper information if you download songs from a music service like the iTunes store. But what happens when you download music from "other," less authorized services (you know what I mean!) or, showing off your technical prowess, rip a cassette tape or LP to MP3 format? "Metadata" wasn't even a word when cassettes and records reigned; and many of those "funny files" you download aren't properly tagged. What do you do, then, if you want to make your music fit the MP3 tag standard? You could type all that information in yourself. Which means, basically, making a conscious decision to live with the annoyance of a large collection of "Unknown Artist" songs. Or, you could download Picard Tagger (, the latest brainchild of the Musicbrainz people (, which will automatically take care of the drudge work of tagging files for you - automatically. Picard Tagger draws information on your music from the Musicbrainz database - a free service containing vast amounts of information on music of all types. It's user-supported, which means that even rare and otherwise esoteric information is more likely to exist on Musicbrainz than other tagging information services, which often don't cover pre-CD era music. You can drag and drop music files into Picard Tagger, which will then analyze (based on its length and acoustic or other properties) its guesses as to what the song you're listening to is called, who sings it and what album it's from. You can then accept or reject the information - in which case Picard Tagger will try again. Sooner or later the program gets it right (usually sooner). And then your music will officially be part of the modern MP3 music era.