Use MediaMonkey to clean up your MP3 collection's tags.
MediaMonkey (http://www.mediamonkey.com/) is a media player made by Ventis Media, along the same lines as Windows Media Player or Apple's iTunes. It's designed to house your library of music, movies, podcasts, and the like, making them easily accessible from a single program. It's the ability to play and manipulate MP3's and ID3 tags that will be covered here.
MP3 files have probably piled up on your computer - whether you download them from Amazon, iTunes, or simply rip and encode your own CD's, chances are you have more than a few songs that don't appear correctly in your media player - that is, the title, artist, album, or other information is not correct. This makes the music less accessible, as each of these are search terms for you to use when you are looking up a song and helps you group music by artist, album, genre, and the like. Correcting these pieces of information - the tags, as they are called - can be done manually, but that's a tedious and long process. MediaMonkey offers a great way to accomplish this - and the flexibility it offers is what makes it stand out for this project.
Start by downloading the newest version of MediaMonkey from the MediaMonkey website. You can click here to be taken directly to the download page. There are two versions of MediaMonkey available for download - this article is specifically using the free version. The comparison chart on the page linked above will help you compare the two, but the paid for version is not needed to correct your MP3 tags.
Once you've installed MediaMonkey, which is a simple process though not covered here, you'll want to make sure that you add your music library to the MediaMonkey's browser. The easiest way to do this is to press the [INSERT] key on your keyboard from MediaMonkey's main viewing window. This will bring up the "Add/Rescan Folders" window. From here, select the drive / folders that you want searched to import your music by clicking the box next to the corresponding location. Clicking "Okay" will start the process. Let the software do it's thing - it's almost time to work some magic.
After the import process is complete, you should see your music arranged on screen, listed in several columns that are sortable by clicking their label. You may already notice conspicuous gaps, where some of your tracks are missing artist information or the album name is different between songs, even though they are off the same release. This is the sort of thing that MediaMonkey makes easy to fix.
I've found that the easiest way to accomplish accurate changes to the tags of my MP3 files is to select songs grouped by albums. If you click on Album at the top of the Library list, you'll arrange your songs alphabetically by album name. If you're songs are missing album information, these likely will be immediately pulled to the top of the list. From here, we need to select the tracks that we want to work with.
To select a series of songs, you can [CTRL]-[LEFT-CLICK] on each song in the series. This should highlight the song to show you it has been selected. Alternately, [LEFT-CLICK] the first song in the series, then [SHIFT]-[LEFT-CLICK] the last song - this should highlight all of the songs between your first and second click. It's important to note that if you do this, any songs in between the clicks will be part of the selected group, so if you are working with Album A but select a song from Album B, it will make the work for MediaMonkey more difficult, or could potentially lead to miss-tagged songs.
Now that you have a series of songs selected, hit [CTRL]-[L] (or alternately. [RIGHT-CLICK] and choose "Auto-Tag from Web") to start the process. It works fairly cleanly, but you'll want to pay attention closely the first few times to make sure that you understand what each item does in the window that pops to the front.
You'll see a window that will now begin searching the Amazon.com database for information about the music that you selected. MediaMonkey is pretty accurate - it will typically find the album that you are looking for, displaying the cover art, track list, and the key information about the album in the window. Near the bottom, you'll see the list of tracks that you selected. From here, you will be able to see the tag information that will be changed should you decide. It will be highlighted in yellow - mousing over the text listed will show you exactly what will be populated when you execute the change. Your original information will be immediately above for comparisons sake - it's important to compare this information to be sure that things appear to be matching up. Why? If you choose to re-tag your music using an import version's tags, you might have songs that will have completely incorrect information if they did not appear on the import's track list. It's also possible that there are multiple releases of the album that you are re-tagging - if that is the case, you might end up with tracks tagged out of order. Suffice to say, make sure that you look over the changes to see if they are logical.
To execute the changes, all you need to do is click the "Auto-Tag" button on the lower right of the window. Pressing "Cancel" will do just that, and nothing will change.
Looking around the window, you can select any other album versions that MediaMonkey thought might be applicable by using the drop-down menu at the top of the list. This is the first place that you should go if you see major problems with the tag updates. You can uncheck things like the Release, the Label, or even the Album and Artist if you'd rather not update this information from Amazon's database. You can uncheck individual tracks in the track list on the bottom to suppress changes to those songs through the Auto-Tag process. Clicking on any of the links in the upper part of the window will usually take you to Amazon.com and the album or song's page there. This can allow you to do things like auditioning the song and comparing it to the one in your list, as well as reading about the album to find out more information that might help you with tagging.
Once you click "Auto-Tag", MediaMonkey will often ask you if you would like to add the album art to the tags - checking the "Save image to tag (if possible)" should attach a copy of the image to the tags of your MP3's, rather than necessitating an image in the folder of the songs themselves. This is often considered the preferred way to capture the album art for your collection.
When the changes have been made, you'll see a button that was previously grayed out on the lower left now available - "Undo" will do exactly what you think: it will reverse all of the changes that you just put in place. It's nice to have this feature in case you make an error and need to revert to the original information after you see what the tags have been changed to.
And that's it! While you'll need to go through this process for any tracks / albums in your library that you want to update, the control and help that MediaMonkey offers is excellent - linking to the Amazon database allowed me to tag many MP3's that I had ripped years ago and were missing some of the pertinent information. This software does a great job and seems to accomplish it fairly easily.
There are some other options for tagging your music that MediaMonkey offers - you can see them in the context menu if you [RIGHT-CLICK] a highlighted song. "Auto-Tag from Filename" will use the name of the actual file to create tags - depending on the software that you used to rip the tracks or the filenames your download site provided, this can be helpful. Clicking on "Properties" from the same menu will bring up a window that will let you manually enter tag information. This process is much slower and more cumbersome, but offers the most control if you know exactly what you'd like to have appear in the tags.
MediaMonkey is a robust tool for managing your library - poking around might help you realize some of the other great things that this software can do. If you want more features and feel like supporting the great software, upgrade to MediaMonkey Gold.
You might be able to find answers to your questions about the software by clicking here, which will take you to the support page at MediaMonkey's site.
There you go! You are on your way to updating your music collection and making it more accessible!