Tag your Music with Metadata for the Most Impact

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by Michelle Lockey

Tag your Music with Metadata

You’ve made all this great music; you burned a ton of Cd’s and are headed off to a conference.  You hand the CD to several music supervisors and industry professionals.  You feel good, heck, you feel great!  You are hopeful about all your new connections.

The music supervisor takes your CD, (loses the cover) and imports your music.  The music supervisor then shakes their head when they see:

Track 01   No title, no author, no nothing.

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They love the songs they are hearing but have no way to contact you.  In the stack of 100 biz cards they collected they don’t know who you are.  Now an opportunity is lost because the music files weren’t properly tagged with metadata or they did not retain that data. (WAV files don’t retain metadata)

What is metadata?

Proper definition: a set of data that describes and gives information about other data.

In other words, metadata is information that will help to describe your music as well as provide contact information for those looking to contact you to use your music.  We are in the digital age, so CD’s are a nice package but it is the digital file that ends up getting stored and saved.  So tagging your music files with the appropriate metadata is key.  And it does more than that.  Having the files properly tagged will also tell them a bit more about the music and help them narrow down their music choices.

Filling Out Your Song Catalog

If you haven’t already, you should start creating a song catalog using a spreadsheet program or other programs like Composer Catalog.  (composercatalog.com) There are several bits of information that you should have for your metadata.  Here is an example of the data that you should fill out for each song. Create one column for each title.  Then you can add the information to your music files as well.

  • Song Name
  • Artist
  • Contact Information (email/phone)
  • Genre
  • Subgenre
  • Composer (s) – with PRO info and splits
  • Song Summary
  • Mood
  • Key words
  • Instruments
  • BPM/tempo
  • Key
  • Lyrics
  • Year of Copyright/year created

Pro Tip:  Make sure you have all co-writer information & splits available and have all the rights ownership before pitching your music.  This will be critical if someone wants to sign your music

Here is a photo of a line of my song catalog filled out, followed by an mp3.

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Most of the keywords, moods and descriptions can go into the comments section if space allows.  Here I just put a general description and what the song may be used for.   In the music file itself; it is helpful to put your email next to the artist or song name and to make it easier for the industry rep to contact you.

*BEWARE:  One thing to note is that WAV files don’t keep the metadata that is input into the file. So if you tag WAV files in iTunes, then send them to someone, the tags will disappear. Aiff and mp3 will retain the information.  There are other types of software to use such as MP3tag, Tag Editor, Id3, and many more.  Just make sure the data “sticks” in the files by sending them to a trusted friend to open first.  Usually you will be pitching the mp3 first, so the information should be retained there.

Pro Tip:  Make sure you have all the proper files of your music. 

Mp3 for pitching purposes

High Fidelity files (wav, aiff & 48k/24bit or 44/16)

  • Song with vocal (if applicable)
  • No Vocal (have a file that is just the instrumental, sans vocal)
  • Alternate Mixes (if applicable)
    60 sec, 30 sec, sting, acoustic only etc.

Get Crafty with Keywords and Moods

I sometimes use a thesaurus to come up with various ways to describe the moods, style, general keywords that will describe my song.    For a song that is “Happy” Just don’t say “Happy and Fun” BORING!   Also say, bouncy, joyful, playful, bright, lovely, snuggly, warm, crunchy, car commercial, kids party etc.…     I include short words that will say what I am thinking the song can be used for as well.  This gives Music Supes an overall idea of the songs emotion & utility as well as style.  For style you could say: upbeat fun acoustic guitar with playful vocals.  It is much better than just saying that it is under the “Folk” genre.

Know Your Genre

Genre is important as well.  There are some main types of genres and then subgenres.   Here are some main genres

  • Pop
  • Rock
  • Americana
  • Country
  • Folk
  • Gospel
  • Hip Hop

Then you need to pick subgenres:

So if your song is under the main genre Folk, Subgenres can be:

  • Indie Folk
  • New Folk
  • Contemporary Folk
  • Traditional folk

Researching similar artists and sounding songs will help you to add some of these subgenres to your metadata.  This again, will help the Music Supervisors to know what your music is all about and how it might fit in their shows.

Pro Tip: Make sure you have a list of all the instruments used in the song as well.  

How to search for similar sounding (ala) artists/songs

BEWARE:  This next section talks about finding artists and music similar to yours to list in your metadata.  When creating music in a similar style, be sure to never rip off the artist’s sound or style.  If you are too close to the sound of the artist, you could be subject to lawsuits and copyright infringement.  Similar sounding artists/songs that you list in your metadata are for references purposes only.

I get requests from Music libraries and Music Supervisors for music that is in the style of or feels like a certain song or artist.  Also when I send songs to music libraries and music supes, they want me to list about 5-10 similar feeling/sounding artists in the metadata for the song. This helps them to categorize the song and better fill the needs of the listing or show.  (A listing is a description of the style of music needed).  But how do you find these ala artists?  If you don’t know who you or your music sounds like, then ask others.  If you get one or two artists out of that, then you can do a Google search (in a particular way- see below) to find more artists that your music may sound like.

Search for the artist in a Google search by typing in “Sounds Like Natalie Merchant”, then go to the Last.fm link that comes up.  Try to list at least 5 sound-alikes.  Here is a link from a search I did for “Sounds like Natalie Merchant”

https://www.last.fm/music/Natalie+Merchant/+similar

I listen to the music that comes up and then pick roughly five artists that have a similar vibe.  You can also search the artists that come up in the first search for even more possibilities.  Music Supervisors & Publishers want to know who your music most sounds or feels like, so have those sound-alikes at the ready.

What if I don’t have time or the know how to tag my music?

If you don’t have the time, resources or knowledge to tag your files yourself you can use a service like Tagteamanalysis.com.  They will tag your music  (in spreadsheet format) for about $4 a song.  I used them and they did really well.  You may also be able to find a music enthusiast or intern that could do this for you at a low price or free.

Making sure that you have the proper metadata in your song catalog and music files will make your music easily searchable and will make it easy for the Industry reps to contact you.  You don’t want all your hard work to go out into the world never to be found again.  So tag away!!!

Here’s to Metadata Tagging!

Have a Great Day! – Michelle

P.S.  Here are some articles on tagging & tagging software

http://aifftagging.blogspot.com/

ID3: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ID3

ID3 Editor http://www.pa-software.com/id3editor/

MP3 Tag Editor  http://www.mp3tag.de/en/

FREE tagging software: https://www.lifewire.com/free-tools-for-editing-song-information-2438490

2 thoughts on “Tag your Music with Metadata for the Most Impact

  1. Great info, Michelle! 😀

  2. A wealth of great info! Thanks for sharing. (Also, I really like your website, a ton of more great insight there as well)
    Abby

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