Author Topic: The Road to Perdition, or how I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love MusicBrainz  (Read 13387 times)

Phaedrus

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About the challenge of 'genres' you mentioned earlier, and how yours got f'ed up somehow: I let no software auto-fill the genre tags. Not MusicBee, nor Picard, nor Tag&Rename etc.

Yeah, that was a mistake. I have been paying for it ever since.

I started maintaining my digital music library back in the late '90s If I had been able to keep up with it from the beginning, people would envy my library. As it is, I've gone through ripping my core library several times. First to 128k, because that's all the space I could afford, and it took so long to rip and compress a CD. Then 320k when I could afford it. Now, I'm on FLAC. I can theoretically recreate the CD if I want to. Add in the losses along the way because I didn't back up properly, and here I am.

I tried tagging by Main genre first, and figured I'd refine as I went along. The problem was that I couldn't use multiple levels of genre, like I can now. (This was in the early '00s.) So I just lived with it. Once I could use multiple levels, I tried to go crazy with mood, and occasion. This is where I went wrong and tried to cheat with Last.FM.

The reason I went with the Last.FM tags is that they were the first place that offered this option. It was reasonably accurate at first too. My other problem is that I can't really decide for myself what genre something should be. My perfectionist tendencies get the better of me. I end up with almost a separate genre per track. Maybe I focus too much on the differences rather than the similarities.

Now, if I can just get a skeleton to start from so that I can use my library while I work on it, I'm good. Nothing will touch my genres after this. I have learned my lesson. I'd like to do it all manually. With hundreds of Album artists, multiple thousands of albums, thousands of individual tracks, and hundreds of "Various Artist" albums to sort through, it just ain't gonna happen.
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hiccup

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I tried tagging by Main genre first, and figured I'd refine as I went along. The problem was that I couldn't use multiple levels of genre, like I can now. (This was in the early '00s.) So I just lived with it. Once I could use multiple levels, I tried to go crazy with mood, and occasion. This is where I went wrong and tried to cheat with Last.FM.

Over the years my focus on genres and sub-genres have shifted a bit more towards other classifiers.

While 'genre' is certainly important, it is much too rough and subjective to be the ring that rules them all.
You could even engage in battle with somebody about some song being pop or rock.

And personally I have never found good usage for 'mood' and 'occasion' tags.
They are also quite subjective and personal in my opinion.

Nowadays, as main entities besides 'genre' and 'sub-genre', I use tags such as: energy, valence, danceabilty, style, voicing. (voicing can be things such as male, female, choir, instrumental, etc)
Those are very useful for creating all sorts of playlists for different moods and occasions.

e.g. for when reading, 'instrumental', 'low energy' is nice.
Or, depending on your mood, certain combinations of 'energy' and 'valence' will give specific results.
etc.

I wish metadata providers would provide such info. That would be more useful than trying to classify a song or an album by only determinating some (invented) genre name.

frankz

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And personally I have never found good usage for 'mood' and 'occasion' tags.
They are also quite subjective and personal in my opinion.
I actually have one for "Occasion" after a couple decades staring at the field! - That's where I put my "Explicit" tag so I can filter stuff out when my kid is around.
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Phaedrus

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I want you all to know that I spent way too much time on this post. I chewed on this all day, wrote twenty different posts, re-visited the "Music Genre rabbit hole," -shudder- and edited to not sound like an a$$. (might have failed here) This is where I end up, for better or worse;

Over the years my focus on genres and sub-genres have shifted a bit more towards other classifiers.

While 'genre' is certainly important, it is much too rough and subjective to be the ring that rules them all.
You could even engage in battle with somebody about some song being pop or rock.

And personally I have never found good usage for 'mood' and 'occasion' tags.
They are also quite subjective and personal in my opinion.

Nowadays, as main entities besides 'genre' and 'sub-genre', I use tags such as: energy, valence, danceabilty, style, voicing. (voicing can be things such as male, female, choir, instrumental, etc)
Those are very useful for creating all sorts of playlists for different moods and occasions.

e.g. for when reading, 'instrumental', 'low energy' is nice.
Or, depending on your mood, certain combinations of 'energy' and 'valence' will give specific results.
etc.

I wish metadata providers would provide such info. That would be more useful than trying to classify a song or an album by only determinating some (invented) genre name.

I'm with you. Mostly?

You've invented your own set of names to classify your music; a personal taxonomy for your music. That's pretty cool, and I'm actually a bit jealous that you've been able to develop your library to that level of precision. That is waaaaaaayy too much effort for my musical use cases.

If I'm using music for background, I don't care about the details of the song, only the overall feel. I figure there's a fairly short list of moods I'd care about in this case. Should be fairly easy to get this close. The Last.FM tags I've seen with this are pretty much close enough for government work, and for me.

Sometimes I'm paying attention to the music. I'm either listening critically, or I'm doing something that doesn't require my full attention, and I want to listen to some music to help pass the time. Here, I either know what specific type of music I want to listen to, or I find it by flipping through my list. Once I find one, I want more of the same genre. I'm finding that if I don't agree with the Picard wikidata genre, I'm refining my understanding of the genre more easily than adjusting the tag.

My third method for using music is setting it up as a jukebox. Let people pick the tracks. I have now clue what criteria they use to pick. In this case, I can see your taxonomy being confusing. (Most of my friends have put zero thought into music genre. They just know what they like.)

I guess I have to include "Special use cases." The lists I've curated. Neither of our methods of classifying music would ever put these lists together. These are things like "my frisson list," "tracks that I think a specific person might like," "Tracks that remind me of particular things," or the one that just grows and never seems to shrink; "songs that I want to take a more detailed listen to." Almost forgot the all-important "Road Trip," and the "Kid-safe" list I refer to below.

I'm curious about how you use your secondary tags with new music. It seems like you have to listen and analyze every new track you introduce to your library. Maybe if I stopped getting bulk disc dumps I could do this too.
 
I actually have one for "Occasion" after a couple decades staring at the field! - That's where I put my "Explicit" tag so I can filter stuff out when my kid is around.

I've been using a "Whitelist" concept for playing music around the little one. I only listen to music that has been manually added to a playlist, or is from before the '80s. I haven't heard enough "coarse" language or overt enough themes in music from the seventies and before to be concerned. (Yes, I know it's there, but I feel like it's buried far enough under double-entendre to be acceptable.)

Anything from the '80s on needs a quick listen for swearing, and possibly content. Just because it doesn't have swear words, doesn't mean I want my little girl hearing it. I certainly don't want to have to answer her questions about what a particular lyric means, or have her repeat it at school. "Adam Ant" is a perfect example. While I love the "Strip" album, I really don't want to deal with the fallout if she starts singing the title track on the playground.

Then there's the whole "Clean" vs. "Explicit." I can't stand some of the "Clean" versions of explicit songs. P!nk did it right with "F***** Perfect." The worst is the obvious "Bleep" over the word, always jarring. Ideally I'd use lyrics, but I'm not going through all my tracks, getting lyrics and verifying "Clean" vs. "Explicit" in case I mis-tagged the track.

Besides, she'll be old enough, soon enough.
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MusicBee 3.4.8033, installed on C:\
Library on External drive;
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hiccup

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That's pretty cool, and I'm actually a bit jealous that you've been able to develop your library to that level of precision. That is waaaaaaayy too much effort for my musical use cases.

You can curb your jealousy.
I don't have this scheme applied to a large part of my library.
It's mainly so that at least I am able to turn on a playlist that will play a reasonable amount of diverse artists/music that fall under the confines of these tags.
Most of the time my brain is master of what gets played.
But when e.g. I grab a book, it's nice not to need to put too much effort in considering what to play, and also get to hear stuff I wasn't specifically thinking of at that moment.

So my objective is certainly not to taxonimize my whole library.
Just having it possible to have some useful playlists, which are allowed to grow very slowly over time.

And for most of the music I owned a long time, my brain will be helpful enough for choosing what I want to hear, but especially for music and artists that are completely new to me, I put a little bit more effort in populating these tags, so also to help me 'learning' the music/artists/genres faster and better.
So all in all it's partly useful, and partly just a fun waste of time.

Phaedrus

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You can curb your jealousy. I don't have this scheme applied to a large part of my library. It's mainly so that at least I am able to turn on a playlist that will play a reasonable amount of diverse artists/music that fall under the confines of these tags. Most of the time my brain is master of what gets played. But when e.g. I grab a book, it's nice not to need to put too much effort in considering what to play, and also get to hear stuff I wasn't specifically thinking of at that moment. So my objective is certainly not to taxonimize my whole library. Just having it possible to have some useful playlists, which are allowed to grow very slowly over time. And for most of the music I owned a long time, my brain will be helpful enough for choosing what I want to hear, but especially for music and artists that are completely new to me, I put a little bit more effort in populating these tags, so also to help me 'learning' the music/artists/genres faster and better. So all in all it's partly useful, and partly just a fun waste of time.

Cool. We're still on the same page. I've made the mistake of just putting my entire library on shuffle, and that can be pretty jarring. Nothing draws attention to the music like going from "Brian Eno" to "Slayer."

For now, I'm sticking with my current philosophy of "going with it." I'l let Wikidata populate my genres, and Last.FM populate Mood and Occasion. With all the tags I've done so far, my results are vastly better than what I've got. I'll reserve final judgement for when I've got everything transferred over to MusicBee.
Dell Inspiron, i5, 16GB, 256GBSSD
Windows 11 Preview
MusicBee 3.4.8033, installed on C:\
Library on External drive;
285,125 Tracks, 17,922 Albums, 4252.94GB, 825d 14:11

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Phaedrus

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I now have my next two challenges, because Picard is working the way I want it. (With minor exceptions.) I'm ready to start processing my real library.

1. How do I transfer ratings to my new, and improved library?
2. I really need to figure out how to handle my album subfolders.

My ratings don't seem to be stored in the tags in my files. I really need this to happen. This is literally the only bit of information in my library I really care about.

Many of my albums have subfolders which contain files associated with the album. Mostly these are cover art scans, but there is some other useless information I want to maintain. I want to move my files in Picard to a new location so that I can keep track of what albums I have processed. I also want to use the folder structure I've created with my Picard naming script. I have reasons, and they are all perfectly logical.

The first one is probably pretty easy, but I haven't started it yet. The second one is going to be harder because there is no naming consistency. I really don't want to cycle through all 7k subfolders manually. That sounds like no fun at all. Not the end of the world, but not preferred.

I'm open to ideas. the Picard forum did not have any assistance to offer on the second one.
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MusicBee 3.4.8033, installed on C:\
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Phaedrus

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So I ran my first experiment, and getting everything back into MusicBee seems like it is going to be the hard part.

I set MusicBee to save the rating information to the file. I found the tag in Mp3tag, it's called "POPULARIMETER." Picard does not see that tag. (After the panic subsided, I'm still mildly concerned about this.)

So, I've discovered that if I don't set Picard to clear tags first, the "POPULARIMETER" tag is preserved. If I set Picard to clear tags first, I get rid of the duplicate information I don't want.

The only tag that seems like I might want to preserve would be for some of my more esoteric albums which may not have details in MusicBrainz, but did show up in Discogs. Those are probably rare, and I guess I don't really care that much. I'll take it on a case-by-case basis as I go through the re-tagging.

So, it seems I have a couple of possible deal-breakers.
MusicBee does not see the new files as the same because I am changing my naming scheme. I guess if I split up the move between Picard and MusicBee I'll be alright. I'll tag the files in Picard, and then move them in MusicBee. Don't want to split it up like that. This will require more thought.

Losing ratings is major. As I've said, this is literally the only piece of information I really care about. Any work I've done for other tags has been about fixing problem names. This should all be taken care of in Picard. I don't want to go back through my library track by track to re-rate them. So many songs to miss.

I over-reacted. If I don't save the files to a different location, all the data in Music Bee is preserved.

This does bring up another point that I will wrestle with another day. An over-arching goal of mine is to make my library totally software agnostic. I want to be able to take my files, import them into any other application, and lose nothing. I want all my static playlists to work, and my dates, play counts, and ratings to transfer over. I know this is not an insignificant task, and I understand that it may not all be possible, but I said it was a goal, didn't I?

We shall see how things develop.
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Phaedrus

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Well, here's an interesting wrinkle.

I have, in the first album in my copied library I'm trying to tag with Picard, and extra track, with a .bak extension. (<Title>.mp3.bak) Windows does not recognize it as an mp3 file, and neither does MusicBee, or any other application I've used to date to work with my library.

Picard does. Just doing a standard lookup, it finds twelve tracks in my 11 track album because it recognizes this renamed file as an mp3. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I think mostly irritated, it seems Picard is just looking for the first period? Now I have to be careful about any file that may have a period in the name.

I don't know where those would be, but now I have another thing to watch out for.
Dell Inspiron, i5, 16GB, 256GBSSD
Windows 11 Preview
MusicBee 3.4.8033, installed on C:\
Library on External drive;
285,125 Tracks, 17,922 Albums, 4252.94GB, 825d 14:11

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frankz

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I actually have one for "Occasion" after a couple decades staring at the field! - That's where I put my "Explicit" tag so I can filter stuff out when my kid is around.

I've been using a "Whitelist" concept for playing music around the little one. I only listen to music that has been manually added to a playlist, or is from before the '80s. I haven't heard enough "coarse" language or overt enough themes in music from the seventies and before to be concerned. (Yes, I know it's there, but I feel like it's buried far enough under double-entendre to be acceptable.)

Anything from the '80s on needs a quick listen for swearing, and possibly content. Just because it doesn't have swear words, doesn't mean I want my little girl hearing it. I certainly don't want to have to answer her questions about what a particular lyric means, or have her repeat it at school. "Adam Ant" is a perfect example. While I love the "Strip" album, I really don't want to deal with the fallout if she starts singing the title track on the playground.

Then there's the whole "Clean" vs. "Explicit." I can't stand some of the "Clean" versions of explicit songs. P!nk did it right with "F***** Perfect." The worst is the obvious "Bleep" over the word, always jarring. Ideally I'd use lyrics, but I'm not going through all my tracks, getting lyrics and verifying "Clean" vs. "Explicit" in case I mis-tagged the track.

Besides, she'll be old enough, soon enough.

I didn't mean to listen to with her (I have a playlist that we listen to together, or we listen to her stuff), I meant around her - like I'm in a room and she's in the next room and I don't want f-word travelling through the walls so I filter out explicit stuff when she's around.  :)

I don't think I have a single "Clean" version in my library.  "Clean" versions are stupid bastardizations.  I'd rather just skip it than hear a version from some alternate "Clean" universe..
A smile is happiness you'll find right under your nose.

Phaedrus

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I didn't mean to listen to with her (I have a playlist that we listen to together, or we listen to her stuff), I meant around her - like I'm in a room and she's in the next room and I don't want f-word travelling through the walls so I filter out explicit stuff when she's around. :) I don't think I have a single "Clean" version in my library. "Clean" versions are stupid bastardizations. I'd rather just skip it than hear a version from some alternate "Clean" universe..

Exactly what I meant, as well. And don't even get me started on the "Kidz Bop" garbage. I got a whole rant I can do about that.

Yea, verily, I say unto thee. The "Radio Edit" is an abomination, and should be cast into the pit.
Dell Inspiron, i5, 16GB, 256GBSSD
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MusicBee 3.4.8033, installed on C:\
Library on External drive;
285,125 Tracks, 17,922 Albums, 4252.94GB, 825d 14:11

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Phaedrus

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So trying to run my Library through MusicBrainz, and I have hit a major stopper. Maybe even a deal-breaker.

I got all the way to "AC/DC" in my studio albums, and I'm stuck on an album which has made me re-reconsider. It seems that my version of "Let There be Rock" is not in the MusicBrainz database. My version has one extra track. I can't find the right version listed anywhere in MusicBrainz. I was able to locate it in Discogs. I took a look at some other albums that I though might have that kind of problem, and I found a couple more. This is not an isolated issue for me.

Now, I'm not so sure now that this is something I want to do. I'm going to spend some time back in MusicBee, and take a long hard look at my library to see if I can find some commonality in my problem albums. Maybe I just have some particular albums, or album types making it look like my library is worse than it really is. Maybe I need to just go one level higher, and accept my library for the way it is.

Back to the mountaintop.
Dell Inspiron, i5, 16GB, 256GBSSD
Windows 11 Preview
MusicBee 3.4.8033, installed on C:\
Library on External drive;
285,125 Tracks, 17,922 Albums, 4252.94GB, 825d 14:11

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frankz

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Add them!  There's even an "Add Cluster As Release" plugin that makes it dead easy.

OK, it's a little work, but part of using the database is contributing to and improving the database IMO.  You're exactly who they need to fill it out - the guy with an obscure version.
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Phaedrus

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Add them! There's even an "Add Cluster As Release" plugin that makes it dead easy. OK, it's a little work, but part of using the database is contributing to and improving the database IMO. You're exactly who they need to fill it out - the guy with an obscure version.

It did not even occur to me to even consider editing the database.

I took a quick trip through the process, and it seems like it should be mostly painless enough. Without reading anything, I'm concerned that I don't necessarily have all of my jewel cases and media. I noticed a bit about the UPC as I breezed through the pages to submit.

I will read the documentation, and do my part to improve the database.

I'm back, baby. Excelsior!
Dell Inspiron, i5, 16GB, 256GBSSD
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MusicBee 3.4.8033, installed on C:\
Library on External drive;
285,125 Tracks, 17,922 Albums, 4252.94GB, 825d 14:11

Topping D10 32bit 384 kHz USB DAC
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psychoadept

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I took a quick trip through the process, and it seems like it should be mostly painless enough. Without reading anything, I'm concerned that I don't necessarily have all of my jewel cases and media. I noticed a bit about the UPC as I breezed through the pages to submit.

I will read the documentation, and do my part to improve the database.

I'm back, baby. Excelsior!

Fantastic!  Don't worry too much about media and packaging.  The general sentiment among MusicBrainz veterans is "any data is better than no data" but "no data is better than bad data".  So as long as whatever you do enter is correct, whatever you don't enter can be added by you or someone else later.  Don't sweat it.
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