Maintenance of Your Digital Music Archive

Once you have a larger digital music collection, it is a great joy to browse through the album covers and turn them over to view the back cover or to study the liner-notes. However, in order for everything to work perfectly, some maintenance procedures are required – just as you would with a CD or vinyl collection. The following tips are intended to help you to maintain your digital music collection so that you can get the most out of it:

I. Storage and Naming of Files and Folders:

Just as with your cupboards and drawers at home, it is easier to find things, when you keep a minimum of order.

  1. Set File Archive Structure. Decide on an archive structure and file all your files and folders consistently in that structure. As an example, it is a good idea to have a folder for each album, complete with cover art pictures and liner-notes. You could then compile all album folders of a particular artist in a specific artist folder and repeat that for all artists:
  2. Unify File Naming Convention. Although it is less important, how the music files are named, as the software doesn’t normally revert to the file names (as long as the meta data are available), it is none-the-less helpful to have a uniform naming convention for them: e.g. “Artist” – “Album” – “Track”.
  3. Clean-up File Duplicates. Over time it is inevitable that certain music files will appear more than once in your music collection. E.g., you once purchased a greatest hits album of a particular artist and later on one or the other individual album of that same artist, or you acquired an mp3 file of a track and later on purchased the album as a CD or download, or whatever. Watch for those duplicate files and delete them, unless you consciously want to compare different versions of the same album. Otherwise, they will take up storage space and cause unnecessary confusion when searching for specific music.
  4. Set Cover Art. It is only half the fun browsing through your music collection, when the cover art isn’t shown correctly. The software depicts the cover art correctly, when it fulfils certain simple conditions. In order for the software to show the cover art correctly, it has to be placed in the same folder as the corresponding music file(s). Make sure the following naming conventions are met (watch for capital/small letters):
    • The front cover picture is named “Front.jpg”
    • The back cover picture is named “Back.jpg”
    • The liner-notes file is named “Liner-Notes.pdf”

    Make also sure that the files correspond to the respective file formats. The cover art pictures have to be *.jpg-format and the liner-notes files *.pdf-format. Normally, the download portals will deliver the files in these formats. Just check to make sure. However, the naming of these files is handled by the download portals in a non-standard, arbitrary way and will require frequent corrections.

II. Manage Meta Data:

Most music files contain so called “meta data” or “tags”. Some are highly standardized (Mp3, Flac, AAC, ALAC, etc.), others less so (WAV). These are data about the respective music file, which are stored within the music file itself. These meta data usually contain information about:

  • Artist
  • Album
  • Track
  • Track number
  • Genre
  • Date
  • Comments
  • etc.

Music files that you download from commercial download portals, tend to have meta data of highly varying quality. Since download portals post the music files as they receive them from the music labels, the quality of the tagging depends on the care the music label takes in providing these data. Unfortunately, most music labels take little care in tagging their files. A “tagging service” provided by the download portals would be a real value add.

  1. Unify Spelling. Artists’ names can sometimes be spelled in numerously different ways. E.g., the name of the famous composer of Russian romantic music is spelled in any of the following variants:
    • Tschaikowsky, Peter
    • Tchaikowsky, Peter
    • Tchaikovsky, Peter
    • Tchaikovski, Piotr
    • Tchaikovskij, Piotr
    • Tsjaikovsky, Peter
    • Tchaikowsky, Pyotr
    • Tchaïkovski, Petr
    • Tchaïkovsky, Piotr
    • Tchaikofsky, Peter
    • Tschaijkowskij, Piotr
    • Tschaikowski, Peter
    • Chaykovskiy Pyotr
    • Ciaikovsky, Piotr
    • Ciaikovsky, Pjotr
    • Cajkovskij, Petr
    • Ciaikovskji, Piotr
    • Czajkowski, Piotr
    • etc.

    Decide on the way you want the artist to be spelled and apply that spelling consistently, so that the software can attribute all files belonging to the same artist to the same artist name. Otherwise you would end up with a number of entries under “T” and “C” all referring to the one famous composer of Russian romantic music – which would not make finding his music any easier.

  2. Complete Meta Data. The more meta data are provided with each music file, the more information is available to you when listening to the music, respectively the more detailed searches can be formulated. So, if possible, make sure all the meta data fields are filled in and add any missing information. You can find a lot of information on artists and their albums in online data bases such as Wikipedia, Discogs, freedb etc.).