7 Steps to Metadata Utopia April 2016
NOTE: this isn’t a post talking about if it’s worth sending CD’s, or sending links to yousendits or SoundClouds or FTPs or Rapidshares (which, might I add, is RUBBISH) or public Dropbox links (which I recommend) or just whacking MP3’s directly into emails etc.
No, no, no – this is a post about the actual MP3 file, what it should look like, what it should contain and how by taking heed of the advice thus contained within this post, you’ll make a lot of people like me very happy.
Recently I contacted a handful of artists and asked them to get some music over to me as I was submitting a new batch of tracks to our sync contacts around the world and their music fitted the bill that was required. What I received in return was a resounding mish mash of metadata; some that ‘did the job’ and others which made me consider a change in career.
If I can ask for a moment of empathy; imagine this conversation taking place for a second…
Me: “Hello music supervisor of a massive TV programme that is known worldwide and would result in both fantastic exposure and a lovely sync fee for any artists’ music you so choose to use on your show”
Me: “Check out this great new song called ‘TRACK 01’ by ‘UNKNOWN ARTIST’, it’s really good! Would you like to feature it in your show?”
Thank you for allowing me to paint that vivid picture with my words. I can only assume you now know what I’m getting on at.
Firstly let me apologise to all the artists out there who are already ‘quite good’ at making sure all their metadata is up to scratch. You, my friends, are good people – but before you get all smug with yourself I urge you to read on, as I can pretty much promise that you won’t be providing the ‘perfect’ MP3 file.
Allow me if you will, to invite you all to a utopia. Within this said musical Shangri-La your iTunes library would never have to look like this:
But instead, everything looks like this:
I know. It’s beautiful isn’t it? I’ll allow you a few minutes to compose yourself before we continue. Shall we begin?
Start with the Right Software
If you use anything other than iTunes than go find the nearest calendar, realise it is 2014, and stop using whatever else it is you’re currently employing (I discovered someone still using Winamp the other day. I ASK YOU?!). The vast majority of the people you’ll be sending your MP3’s to will be using iTunes and *potentially* a Mac, but the latter doesn’t matter as it’s Apple’s media player which reigns victorious in this post.
Get your import settings right
On a PC: Under ‘Edit’ click ‘Preferences’ and then ‘Import Settings’.
On a Mac: Under ‘iTunes; click ‘Preferences’ and then ‘Import Settings’.
Once into that sub menu, set the ‘Import Using’ dropdown menu as ‘MP3 Encoder’. Then on ‘Setting’ below select ‘Custom’ and a further menu should pop up where on that you need to make sure it’s set to 320kbps on the dropdown menu as such:
At 320kbps your average 3:30 song will be around 8MB in size. Note that this isn’t email friendly. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post; this isn’t about HOW you’re getting the MP3’s to whomever, but about what they would like from you once they’ve received them. If I’m requesting your music in a digital format it is because I no doubt want to ‘do something’ with it (in this case; try and get it used on TV where it has to be at a certain quality to be considered). It is a myth that TV people and Advertisers will only work with WAV files – those days are gone and a high quality MP3 more often than not is suitable, at least in my experience. If you want an email friendly sized MP3 with perfect metadata then do all this, but just change the size to 128kbps. Simple.
Make sure your initial import is from a master file
I’m going to assume that you’ve probably already got your music as MP3’s somewhere on your computer. If so check what kbps rate they currently are (right clicking in iTunes and selecting ‘Get Info’), if it is anything less than 320kbps then you need to track down either i) the master file which is the WAV that was created from the ‘bouncing’ of the finished studio recording or ii) the master CD of your music. Once you’ve got your hands on that, import at a higher quality and you can replicate your MP3’s again and again and again and again without losing any sound quality. If you initially created your MP3’s at a low bitrate then they’ve forever destined to sound pants. In fact, the best thing to do (which contradicts myself slightly from point 2) is to initially import your music as WAV’s so you have them on your computer and readily available. From the WAV files you can then create whatever MP3 you’ll ever really need.
Create your lovely artwork so its dimensions are 1200×1200 pixels. That’s all I ask of you. Right click the track(s), select ‘Get Info’ and then ‘Artwork’. Lovely.
The comments section is used quite commonly within our part of the industry and shouldn’t be overlooked. This is the best place to insert all your contact details and relevant web addresses so whoever is listening to your music can go and find out more if they so wished to.
In here include the names of the writers and composers of the tracks so if people wanted to find the song on the PRS/MCPS database then they could do with ease (and as you’ll no doubt be registered to Sentric Music then your music will be registered on those databases). If you also wanted to include your star sign, likes and dislikes and whether or not you have a GSOH then so be it.
So voila! You think you’re done yes? Well not quite. Your track may be sitting pretty in your iTunes library now but the file name might be looking quite miserable when sat on someone’s desktop like so:
So once you’ve done all of the above steps, simply select all of your tracks at once and select ‘Create MP3 Version’:
And your new shiny files will look gorgeous before they’ve even been put into iTunes:
So there you go. I hope you take something from this and I hope it is easy enough to follow if you’re not too clued up about these things. If you’re not then take the time out to learn to be; it’ll not take you too long to grasp it all and once you have it’ll genuinely help your cause.