There has yet to be a satisfactory system or program that allows tagging multiple custom keywords for a music collection that works on a personal audio library. Besides documenting the available options, this is sort of a request to developers (especially on mac or multi-OS) who use digital music (and possibly iTunes). Let’s get open source with it.
Whats Out There
If you are up for what i consider cumbersome customization then foobar2000 for windows seems to have plenty of user-made add-ons including tagging capabilities. I no longer have a PC and rarely use Vista on my mac, but I have no ambition to return to the aggravation of tweaking and building it all manually.
If you can tackle your collection by hand, then a standard audio playing software like iTunes can plug you in with genres and smart playlists. Genres aren’t always tagged appropriately when imported or bought (especially if downloaded from band websites or record labels). If you want to go in and add keywords in the comment or grouping tag, you can put a classification in a smart playlist to add where COMMENT = [the genre you added] or GROUPING = [electronica].
There are some shareware programs for windows but they seemed to do a poor job if at all. Some auto-tag correctors claim to add missing things like when the artist name is missing from an otherwise tagged mp3, but they can’t automate or choose genre for you. MP3TAG is capable of scripting from websites. Last.fm, Rateyourmusic, allmusicguide, myspace, and wikipedia all have multiple genres in varying depth and of debatable applicability. If songs, albums, or artists could be assigned a selection of these then tagging would be less of a hassle. Even better would be to have a cloud of suggestions picked out and then embedded directly to the mp3s. Then if something like iTunes could parse, order, and manage them with a plugin or some other magical way that it becomes native- who knows who could rule the music world then.
Criticism of existing methods
It’s clunky to have to create smart playlists in iTunes for each keyword that is used within a tag. And there is no easy way to go about adding or subtracting tags to files. You can manually edit each track or use an append script but this isn’t all that fun. What audiophiles need is a local delicious-style tagging system. Or a offline last.fm-type genre manager.
Qloud once had this going on, but it was more internet and community based, yet integrated with iTunes (it was a plugin that slowed the program down though). Now they removed the tag features from the current version for Mac and Windows.
Without getting too comprehensive or bloated, a program could be developed where it uses either a database or the comment/grouping/genre to write tags to, and each tag could be separated with a specified delimiter (comma, semicolon, or other character). Doesn’t Windows Media Player even have multi-genre capabilities? And if the Genre browser native to iTunes wouldn’t be able to parse individual tags, a menu (something like a widget or mini-software window) could be used to conveniently choose or edit tags.
Songbird is an open source alternative that still needs improvement in the speed performance department but it does have some noteworthy features. Foobar2000 might have some tagging capabilities, but it is not very intuitive to set up.
There will be something on the horizon one day.