Our first Embedded Boogaloo is a no-brainer. Probably a label's most important digital file, chances are most of you already have experience with audio metadata. Even if you're new to putting out music, most of us have used iTunes in the past 15 years and know what a pain in the ass it is to find out our music files didn't come with any metadata. Of course, most labels will be primarily concerned with master audio files instead of MP3 and M4A files -- according to the survey we conducted earlier in the year, the most popular choice is the WAV format, but some also reported storing their master audio as FLAC and AIFF.
Let's start with the go-to format. According to the WAV Metadata Guide, there is a misconception that embedding metadata will “break” WAV files; on the contrary, the format can hold several different kinds of metadata formats and any “well-behaved WAV reader” should handle them. Thus, the kind of metadata you choose to embed depends on what program you anticipate using to "read" the file's metadata.
For example, the seven default metadata tags in the open source Audacity software (Artist, Track Title, Album, Track Number, Year, Genre, and Comments) can be exported into WAV files, and are done so in two formats: LIST-INFO and ID3 tags. LIST-INFO was the original specification for WAV audio and AVI video published in 1991; ID3 is the de facto standard for MP3 metadata. So why are both exported into each file? It’s a way to hedge your bets for future metadata readability: “Many player programs cannot read LIST INFO tags, but applications that can read ID3 tags in WAV files will be able to read the ID3 tags instead.”
AIFF files can have embedded ID3 tags as well. FLAC files, on the other hand, use the Vorbis comment metadata container. So when enriching your metadata (or adding it from scratch), your best bet is to pick a tagging schema and stick with it consistently for each format -- for example, using embedded ID3 tags in all of your master WAV audio rather than switching between ID3 and LIST-INFO. (We’ll be hammering on consistency for the rest of the Embedded Boogaloo posts, so remember that word well.)
In terms of actually embedding the metadata, a plethora of graphical user-interface music taggers (both open source and proprietary) exist. We recommend finding an open source program that will provide one-stop embedding for all of your file formats. Some options include:
- Kid3, an open-source ID3 tag editor for FLAC, WAV and AIFF files (Mac/Windows/Others)
- BWF MetaEdit, a tool specializing in editing INFO metadata in Broadcast WAVE Format (BWF) files, but also supports traditional WAV files (Mac/Windows/Others)
- IDTE Tag Editor works with FLAC Vorbis and WAV INFO tags, but also supports "forced" ID3 tag editing to any file (Windows/Linux)
Next, we'll cover photo metadata. Stay tuned.