Dog ate my homework

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OK, let me guess. Only a few of you actually read any of the material I assigned for homework last night, right?

Instead, most of you were probably enjoying your hi-fi systems, your families and life in general – that sure sounds better than reading an article on organizing your music library.

So, I’ll be happy to give you some tips in these posts to keep it simple and easy to absorb, one short post each day. Let’s start by making a few broad observations:

  • First, perhaps the single biggest issue I find in most libraries is a lack of consistency – which then leads to frustration.
  • Second, the library you are creating is yours and doesn’t have to work for anyone other than you and the folks likely to want to use it.
  • Third, music database resources most likely do not organize music in the same way you want.
  • Last, if you’re into classical music the problems I just outlined are even worse for your type of music.

Consistency is really the key to a successful library. The reasons become clear when you start to think about finding something. If some of your artists are listed by their names and others by their bands, there’s an immediate issue when you want to retrieve the track. Or placing Diana Krall in a genre “female vocalists” and then later looking for her in Jazz. Or more commonly, searching for Beethoven and he’s actually listed under Ludwig. So, whatever you do you need to be consistent in your practices within a type of music.

Learning how others manage their libraries doesn’t always work for you. You need to first figure out how your mental sorting machine works and then use that to advantage. For example, in my mobile phone directory I list everyone by their first name then their last name – my wife does it the opposite way. If I want to phone Robert Harley I don’t think “Harley” I think “Robert”. That works perfectly for me. How does your mental sorting engine work?

The largest database sorting engine is Gracenote and the second largest is MusicBrainz. Gracenote is a paid service and MusicBrainz is free. Both have their good and bad points but neither will tag your music the way you want – of that I guarantee. So you’re going to have to put some effort into customizing things.

Classical music and its organization is the toughest of all library cataloging problems for a couple of reasons. The best reason is that not a lot of time and resources by the companies that provide this information have been applied. They are more interested in tagging what most people are purchasing today and that is not classical music.

Let’s delve into this a bit deeper tomorrow. Meanwhile, I gotta go find that dog that ate my homework!