Tagging Songs in iTunes

Tagging Songs in iTunes 1

March 30, 2004
By Jerrod H.

“Tags” are embedded in audio files, and include information such as Artist, Title, Album, Release Date, and Genre—much more than a filename could contain.

Anyone who has a large collection of digital music understands the importance of and value in maintaining a correct and complete set of tags for their music.  This is especially true for iPod users, as tags are the only means by which the iPod and iTunes understand how to categorize your music.

As we discussed in a previous iPod 101 article, the Gracenote CDDB online database makes tagging extremely easy for most users importing CDs.  However, CDDB is a user-filled database, so frequently, the tag information downloaded from CDDB has misspellings, errors, or simply doesn’t come “the way you’d like it.”  Sometimes, CDDB won’t even have information for the CD you’re importing.  Also, for users who acquire their songs through “shady” means, the tag information is hardly ever complete and accurate, if present at all.

iLounge is here to help.

Tagging one track at a time:

iTunes offers several ways to correct or add a tag to one file.

First, try selecting any song in your iTunes library.  (This tip also works from within any playlist!)  Next, click once on the tag that you want to change.  The tag will change to a text entry field.  (See screenshot below).  Type your correction or addition, and hit enter.


This method is quick and easy for the occasional tag fix, but you may encounter a problem when using this method—often, all fields are not displayed in the iTunes library or in a playlist… Sometimes the column you want to change is hidden.

To edit a tag in a hidden column, you need to open the track’s “Get Info” window.  To do so, right click (or Command-click on a Mac) on the track, and go to “Get Info.”  The window shown below will open, and you may edit any of the attributes shown.



Tagging multiple tracks with common information:

The methods shown above are fine for fixing spelling or making other corrections on any one song at a time, but they are quite tedious when filling tags for many tracks at a time.  Often, the process can be simplified by tagging in groups – one for each album.  Usually, tracks on an album have a common genre, artist, comment, year, and release date.  Why enter them all in over and over?  You don’t have to.

To edit many similar tracks at once, begin by selecting the group of tracks in your library.  (Select the first song with a single click.  Hold down “Shift” and click the last song).  See below:


Next, right click (command-click for Mac) on any one of the tracks, and go to “Get Info” as we did for a single track.  The following window will appear:



Any changes that you make here will be applied to all of the selected tracks.  When you click O.K., the only changes that will be applied to all tracks will be those fields that have their check box selected.  In the example above, the Artist, Year, Genre, Album, and total disc and track numbers will be written to all 12 tracks.  Song ratings, for example, will not be overwritten, as the My Ratings checkbox is unchecked.

Click O.K. to finalize changes.

We highly recommend ensuring that all of your tags are complete and accurate… It may take a lot of time and labor, but it will make your iPod experience much more enjoyable!

Notes and Tips:

The “Part of a Compilation” checkbox in the “Get Info” window allows you to tell iTunes whether it should store the audio files on your hard drive according to the Artist title, or group the tracks according to their Album name in the “Compilations” folder.  It is a good idea to enable this option for any CD in which the Artist is not the same for each track, but it is certainly not required.

If you are finding that some of your longer tags (i.e. long track titles) are being truncated, you’re probably using an old ID3 format.  Use iTunes’ “Convert ID3 Tags” feature in the “Advanced” menu to update the tracks to the latest ID3 format (v2.4).

For Windows users who want more audio tagging features than iTunes offers, we recommend Tag&Rename.

Jerrod H. is a Forum Administrator and Contributing Editor for iLounge.

  1. Hi

    Anybody know if there is a way of excluding artists from the artist browse list in iTunes / iPod? Basically, I have got loads of compilations on there and I am fed up of having to scroll down a huge list of artists, or selecting an artist only to find that there is one song listed. I thought about renaming the artist field data to the same as the album, though I’d prefer not to do this as I’d still like to know who the artist is if playing the compilation. Is there anyway you could just ensure that artists are not displayed if the ‘compilation’ option is checked?

    Thanks in advance to anyone who helps!

  2. “Any one know how to get the BMP (Beats per Minute) or do you hvae to calculate that yourself”

    If you use something like Media Center then you can let it run an auto BPM scan and insert it into a BPM field.

    I usually let it run and move the results into a custom “BPM – Auto” field, then create my own “BPM – Exact” field for entering my own definitive results.

    Dunnoe about integrating Media Center and iTunes, sorry. I’ve heard there’s a new Media Center 10 out (haven’t tried it) but maybe that can access the iTunes metabase?

  3. For ‘Super Duper Tagger’

    I am a Media Center 9 user, though now that I’ve upgraded my G2 to a G4 I’ve been using iTunes to sync with the ipod. I prefer MC9 for ripping and organizing/tagging.

    My question is – how to get the changes/additions made to the library in MC9 into iTunes?

    Recently I ripped a bunch of CD’s (using MC9) then in iTunes ‘added the folders’ … is there a better way?

    And, when I tweak the organization, changing and/or adding tags – what’s the best way to get these changes seen in iTunes (saw the ‘get Info’ tip earlier – is this the way?).

    Hope you (or anyone else w/MC9 experience) see this – thanks.

  4. Hi,
    Currently travelling India without my PC (without my music library). Need a way to update my ID3 tags from CDDB directly to the iPod. How do I do this ?


  5. I am having problems with getting the CDDB to grab my song info for me (while I am online). I get an error message that tells me to check my internet connection (which is fine) and configurations. I don’t know what configurations to check and the weird thing is, this feature was working fine before. It is very annoying. Has anyone had this happen and been able to fix it? Please help!

  6. I am having trouble with burning songs to a CD from iTunes. When I try to burn them to a disk to play in my car it won’t work. Do I need to convert them or what do I need to do? Please, any suggestions would be welcome. Thanks!

  7. “”WHat is the deal with you go to get info and everything is grey and it won’t let you change the tag?

    can anyone answer that??””

    rizk, your source file is read only. Just go into that file and uncheck the box in properties

  8. I use Tag@Rename to tag my files but when I copy them into iTunes the tags aren’t as they should be in. It only seems to happen on the compilation albums. Specifically, the “artist” field in iTunes says “Various Artists” but in Tag&Rename the artist field lists the individual artist for each song. Does anyone know how I can correct this so iTunes also shows the individual artist for each song? I don’t know if its something I’m doing wrong in Tag&Rename or in iTunes? thx.

  9. “WHat is the deal with you go to get info and everything is grey and it won’t let you change the tag?”

    You’re actual song file is checked as ‘read-only’

    To solve this choose the song with-in your itunes library, go to File>Show Song File.

    This shows you where on your computer itunes is storing the actual file of the song.

    Once you click on the song file go to File>Properits and under attributes uncheck the ‘read-only’ box.

  10. “WHat is the deal with you go to get info and everything is grey and it won’t let you change the tag?”

    Here’s the deal. you’re actual song files, where ever they maybe located on your computer are checked as ‘read-only’ files.

    Find the song file – probably in your itunes music folder. but if you can’t find it – click on the song while in itues and choose File>Show Song File.

    The click on the actual song file. Choose File>Properties and then there under the attributes unclick the ‘read-only’ box.

    You can choose mutiple song files and unclick this box all at once to save time.

  11. Ok, HUGE problem. I downloaded Tag&Rename and started to tag music FROM the iPod. Again, this is straight from the iPod. Now everything I’ve tagged (easily a couple hundred songs – all AAC I think) will not play on the iPod. I’ve had to manually start replacing the AAC files with mp3 copies of itself and it’s a huge pain in the arse. Anyone know of an easier way to correct this? Or at least know what I’m talking about?

    Thanks in advance.

  12. Hi, I just bought a iPod today, and something is bugging me…maybe there is a simple solution?… When you tag tracks in iTunes as being Part of a Compilation, they appear under the Artist as ‘Compilation’ in iTunes… but when the same tracks are transferred to the iPod, they appear as individual artists, not under ‘Compilation’ … is there a simple way to get these to appear under Compilation on the iPod??

  13. I currently use MediaMonkey.

    The naming convention I use for filenames is:

    artist – track title – album

    Then I tag the track based on the filename. When I import my library into iTunes only 90% of the tracks are accurately tagged.

    Is there a tagging program I can use so when I import songs into iTunes the track info will be 100% accurate? If so, what settings should I change in iTunes before I import my music folder?

  14. Is there any way to access the “comments” in a tag, on iPod itself, while the song is “now playing”? I listen to older jazz, and would like to be reminded of the order of soloists, which I can put in “comments”. I would have thought there’d be, for instance, a top level menu item like “comments” that would apply to “now playing” and display on the iPod screen, but there doesn’t seem to be one. Any ideas on how to get the job done (besides making up a “notes” item for each of all the thousands of songs!)?

  15. Hello to all, I am having a problem with tagging songs, if some could help I would be very greatful. I have mutiple songs from the same artist, but when I click on the artist’s name only one song will come up. Not all of the files are doing this just a couple. By the way I am using itunes software and have a P.C., if that matters.
    thanx for any input.

  16. What is the correct separator character to use for the artist and composer field so that iTunes and iPod recognise each individual name instead of a string of text? I’ve tried /\; and,. I’d like to be able to select a composer on my iPod and have it play all the songs that that composer has written.

  17. Good Evening,

    I have already change all the tags fields but how can i synchonize the updated field into the library with the original file?

    Because, the tag fields of the mp3 files into the itunes library are OK. no problem with that. when i check the original file (from the directory where it comes from) the tag is unchanged.

    is there any possibility to change the tag to the original file too?

  18. Hi All-

    If you’re interested in being able to quickly add text tags to your music I have a small utility for iTunes (Windows only right now) that I’ve built. It’s called Tweet and it’s a small application that sits in your task tray and allows you to tag the playing track (it saves the tags in the song’s “Comment” meta-data field). It will cache tags you’ve already added and has type-ahead suggestions and tag clouds for even easier tag entry. It’s in beta but it’s stable. I would love to hear any feedback or suggestions.

    It’s free and can be downloaded at http://www.tweetweb.com/


  19. There’s a lot of good mp3 tag editors now a days.. One of my favorite is THEGODFATHER works great but there are some slight things you gotta learn so test it on a backup copy folder of songs first before you go and 1-click-rename your whole library because it’s very powerful.

  20. Grey iTunes “get info” problem. I have read the uncheck read only suggestion above. However, the songs file properties are not checked read only. I have compared the information in all the fields of the actual file properties with one that isnt grey and they are all identical. Any suggestions please?

  21. ianm #74 – I had same problem. Solved it using mp3tag freeware to edit tags. Had to copy files to a thumb drive before software would let me edit, then copy them back to my itunes music library – not sure why. Obviously I then had to ‘add folder to library’ before they showed up in itunes.

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