Article: How to Organize Your Digital Music Collection
07-10-2005, 12:40 AM
Here is an article I published on my website about organizing your
digital music collection. I hope it'll be useful to some of you in this

How to Organize Your MP3 Collection
by Gary Hendricks

Have you ever tried finding an obscure MP3 song hidden within your
digital music collection? It is really a pain - especially if you
have thousands of MP3s which are badly organized.

Taking time out to organize your digital music collection is an
important activity. Not only does it give you that nice feeling of
being organized, it also saves you time when you're trying to find a
song. This article will walk through some options for organizing your
MP3 files.

The All Important ID3 Tag
Organization of MP3 files is based on the important ID3 tag. Just what
is the ID3 tag? Well, it is simply a commonly-used format for storing
the additional information about your MP3 files. Some examples of the
information found in these tags include the year the album was
produced, the musical genre of the song, the artist name, among others.
With this information, you can sort and locate any MP3 file you need
when you play them in a portable music player or a program like Winamp.

The biggest problem with ID3 tags is inconsistency (there are two
versions out there -ID3 version 1 and ID3 version 2). Due to this, if
you download a MP3 file from the Internet, you may find that the data
filled in the ID tag is incomplete or inaccurate. If you rip your MP3
files from an audio CD, you may also find that the ripping program
fills in the ID3 information wrongly.

How do you clean up your ID3 tags so that they are accurate and clean?
One way to correct them is to use auto tagging. One of the best
programs for doing this is Musicmatch Jukebox.

In Musicmatch Jukebox, there is a feature called Super Tagging. Using
this feature, you specify a list of MP3 files - the program will pick
up any information it can (e.g. the filename, directory structure,
existing ID3 tags) and match them with an online database. This online
database contains additional information about the artist (including
album art). Musicmatch will then show you a list of matches which you
can accept to automatically fill out those ID3 tags.

Manual Tagging
The problem with auto-tagging is that sometimes, the online database
does not find a match for your artist. Also, the ID3 tags may be not be
automatically filled in a manner which you like. In such cases, the
best way to tag your MP3 files is to do it manually.

Let me share with you the way I go about organizing and cleaning up my
MP3 ID3 tags.

Choose a Proper Artist / Album Directory Structure
For manual ID3 tagging, the first and most important thing to do is to
get all your MP3 files into a proper Artist / Album Directory
Structure. Here's an example of what I use in my music collection:

* Norah Jones
o Come Away With Me
+ 01 - Don't Know Why.mp3
+ 02 - Seven Years.mp3
+ 03 - Cold Cold Heart.mp3
+ .....
o Feels Like Home
+ .....

The artist here is Norah Jones, whom I've named as a Windows folder.
Within that folder, I create a folder for each album she has, which in
this case corresponds to Come Away With Me and Feels Like Home. Now,
within each album folder, I move in all the tracks in that album. I
name each track in the format XX - Song Title.mp3

Storing all your MP3 files in this Artist / Album structure is both
clean and well-organized. More importantly, it allows you to
automatically tag those ID3 tags using a ID3 tag editor (see below).

Install and an ID3 Tag Editor
The next step in manually tagging your ID3 tags is to download and
install a good MP3 tagging program. Many of these programs come free or
are available as shareware.

Two programs I rely on heavily are MP3/Tag Studio and MP3 Tag Scanner.
These programs can read your existing Artist / Album directory
structure, then automatically tag files based on this information. The
best thing is that you can also enter and edit your own tags in batches
- which is very convenient.

Other Organization Ideas
Another idea for organizing MP3 files. Let's say you already have a
bunch of MP3 files with accurate and complete ID3 tag information.
However, the files are not named correctly, or are not in a proper
Artist / Album directory structure. What do you do? Well, one option is
to use Apple iTunes. iTunes includes a Consolidate Library feature
which, starting from ID3 tag information, physically moves and creates
an Artist / Album directory structure for you.

There's also a great program called MP3Trim that allows you to detect
and remove digital silence (before and after an MP3 song). MP3Trim also
allows you to clean up extraneous ID3 tags and other weird information,
and even normalize your songs to prevent sudden jumps in volume.

Organizing your digital music collection is an important task to do
from time to time. It allows you to keep track of the music files you
have and makes listening more of a pleasure than a pain. The next time
you're at a loss and are not sure how to organize those MP3s, do look
at the above tips. Good luck and happy organizing!

Gary Hendricks runs a hobby site on digital photography. Visit his
website at for tips and
tricks on buying digital cameras, as well as shooting great photos.

Article: How to Organize Your Digital Music Collection