This article highlights an overall interesting trend. But the reviewer also points out the confusing
and inconsistent tagging that happens with classical music in MP3 and other tag-enabled formats.
I have found that cddb/Gracenote and freedb are fraught with problematic and inconsistent data-entry
for classical titles. There are actually tags that work great for how classical music is generally
understood -- COMPOSER, ARTIST, ALBUM ARTIST and ALBUM TITLE for instance. You can customize iTunes
and other database programs to list by whatever field you wish, for instance by artist and album
title or by composer and title, so if the data is entered correctly, it need not be totally PITA to
use classical music in an iTunes setting. But unfortunately, most of the pre-programmed metadata out
there is garbage, typical of internet "group volunteer" operations with no oversight or quality
control. Sometimes "help" is not helpful.
What has surprised me is that the owners of copyrighted classical recordings haven't gotten together
to standardize and publish correct tag-entry methods and to correct at least their active catalogs.
I can understand how there's no economic incentive to fix out of print items, but the active catalog
gets lost in the shuffle (ipod pun intended) if the tags aren't right.
Classical titles are just the most glaring examples of the problems with the online auto-tag
databases. I used the Catraxx catalog-database program to gather and organize my jazz, rock, country
and popular CD's and I found that at least 50% of the auto-loaded tags needed tweaking for
something. Either the recording year was wrong (most common), or something that was not a
compilation was listed as one (also very common), or in the case of jazz, the musicians weren't
listed in the MEMO field (this is a convenience and I don't hold it against the online databases
that this information is usually missing or incorrect), or the record company was incorrectly or
inconsistently named (very common), etc.
Gracenote is a for-profit entity, so there should be better quality control. Apple's own database at
the iTunes store has more errors than you'd think in the more obscure corners of jazz, and classical
selections are harder to correctly indentify and locate than rock or jazz. For these for-profit
entities, there's no excuse for the poor quality control. And what's particularly galling is, none
of this should be necessary since CD Text was available from the beginning of CD's and should have
been used to correctly identify artists and songs (which would then make filling in other tags much
easier and more prone to be complete and correct).
I wish I could propose an easy solution to this, but the only one I can think of is that buyers of
digital downloads demand better tagging/database information from the highly profitable entities
they buy from. As for cleaning up Gracenote and freedb, I won't hold my breath. I do submit
corrected information to Gracenote from both Catraxx and the iTunes software most of the time, and
appreciate all other users who do so too.
-- Tom Fine