Metadata is a term that gets bandied about much these days. Technically, it is data that describes other data.
That's a brain twister.
When referring to the information connected with an album or a track of music, metadata's all the stuff about the artist, the date of issue, track title, band members, etc.
Metadata is the underlying information structure that elevates simple track title and artist name to a robust user experience connecting us to what we once had. The album jacket.
Many of us grew up with the album jacket as our informational guide to the musicians inside. We held the physical object and read its words as we listened to music playing from the cover's vinyl contents. To some, this still seems idyllic, with greater fulfillment than its electronic version.
But what we may be forgetting is that while perusing one album may be a joy, it is still a pain in the butt to look at an entire library.
Walk into any record store and you'll see the problem. Hundreds of feet worth of bins and note cards to guide bewildered purchasers to the right bins. Fun? Yes. Efficient? No.
Metadata offers libraries rich with information on thousands of albums at the touch of a finger—and cross connects that data with relationships never considered or realized by the average users.
When we give up one thing to benefit from another, a little is lost over here, a lot may be gained over there.