Embed picture in files or not

Interesting, I didn't know that.
I stopped embedding album art entirely for the space savings.
Since I shot album art for each CD that I ripped with my DSLR and ended up with a 2-3MB Cover.jpg, embedding those wasted loads of space.
For a 12 song album with a 3MB cover the result was 33MB of duplicate information.

When I finally removed the embedded art and reconverted my flac files from flac to flac (to decrease the padding that was bloated by the embedded images), I ended up saving hundreds of gigabytes of space.

That's your point of view.
20 TB (= 20'000 GB) are currently available for about 300 Euro/320 USD.
That are 0,015 Euro per saved GB.

In my opinion, the disadvantages (not to embed covers anymore) are no longer worth it today.
That's just another point of view.

Of course, everyone has to decide that for themselves.

True, if you only store 1 copy without using any redundancy and also only if you leave the drive powered off. Otherwise you'd have to account for electricity cost over time as well.
Personally I have 3 copies of my music, 1 of which is powered on 24/7.

I don't see any advantages of embedding them (at least for my use case).
I only store complete albums, each in their own folder with a Cover.jpg file (at least).

All software that I use (MusicBee, Plex, Kodi, Jellyfin, MediaMonkey, Foobar2000, Navidrome, Symfonium...) supports album art in this form.
When exporting a playlist to be used on a mobile device I can simply downsize and embed covers in a size that fits the resolution of the device on the fly while syncing.

Embedding art also hurts performance. Both while scanning (my library already takes 20+min without embedded art per rescan) and when backing up.
If I for example find a better cover image (happens all the time) and replace it, in my case exactly 1 file needs to be changed and rewritten when backing up. Cover.jpg.
If I embedded the image, I'd have to change every song in the folder, all of which would have to be rewritten when running a backup.

Another downside is data usage when you or others access the music over the internet. My upload speed is limited and throwing away 3mb of data usage per song seems wasteful to me.

Agreed, different people have different wants and needs after all. I'd be curious to learn the advantages of embedding the album art for your use case.

This is useful in my case when syncing tracks to a mobile device. My main library has about 25k songs across 2k albums. But based on device capacity I tend to sync about 2-3k tracks at a time and change them up regularly. Having the artwork embedded ensures these are transferred without having to configure the sync to somehow always grab the cover art from each folder.

I have never noticed a significant difference when scanning the library, whether on my main library PC or any mobile device.

This is correct. And since the text fields have very little impact on file size but carry the most weight for maintaining a library it is essential for them to exist. Reducing the artwork file size to allow these to exist is most important.

This is the most important thing. Do what works for you and your requirements. The best advice is to be consistent, regardless of how you prefer to manage your music.

That's fair.

At your library size I doubt there is a measurable difference tbh.

For my case with 821k tracks and multiple users, I take every little performance increase or space saving I can get.


I'm just wondering why anyone needs album art to be that size. I leave a full-size copy in the same folder as each album, but create 300×300 pixels at 72 dpi thumbnails to embed in each track. They are always less than 200 KB. Works out great.

It depends on where you mainly look at the picture.
If you play your songs on a 75" flat screen, you will not be happy with a 300x300 pixel cover art.
If you only see the cover art on a smartphone, the 300x300 can be enough.

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That's exactly why I store the biggest size/highest quality I can find (within reason) as a Cover.jpg in the folder. Looks good on the big screen and smart players automatically resize on the fly for smaller screens.

Symfonium (android app) for example caches the album art on the device. It downsizes it to the device resolution before caching, thus combining great sharpness with a reasonable storage footprint.

Just a hint for users that want to embed not so large cover-files in their mp3s:
Some years ago I tested resolution and compression rate in order to get best visual quality and not so large files in bytes.
I learned by these tests, that if you have to comromise it is much better for visual quality to have a higher resolultion and a higher compression rate than a low resolution and a low compression rate. Both can result in the same storage place needed.

My conclusion from these tests since about 10 years:
I keep 1 copy with the best resolution in my album folder. For additional embedding I reduce the resolution to 800x800 and use a relative high compression rate of 70 in Irfanview. This results depending on the content of the picture in used storage space needed between 40 -200 kb per cover.

If I ever want to revise my decision and embed larger cover-files I still have the originals in the album-folder and with Mp3Tag and it's actions it is not a big and time spending task to do this.

We tend to think that our decision now is the best and will the best with no wish to change in the future. But I can tell you - as I am an old man now - I changed my original decisions a lot in the past. So today I think that it is best to act in such a way that you leave yourself open to future changes.

PS: (to clarify my use of termes)
Compression in Irfanview:
Lowest= 100 (best quality)
Highest = 1 (lowest quality)

I try to use high-res, usually 2600x2600 but turn the compression down so files are max 800 kb. To me that is a good compromise, as they look sharp on my TV, and loads quickly when scrolling through my library or on my phone. And it is not a big deal when embedding, all my music files are lossless, so the relative size is not that important anymore.

In the beginning I used to store lossless PNG files, and do keep them in case I plan to resize my covers. But I have found that lots of players choke on them because of the size.

That remains true, even tho I'm not that old yet.
I started out with a complete mess, simply copying music from friends without adjusting tags or controlling quality when I was a kid. At one point I then noticed that fixing that mess would be harder than starting over (at that time I had around 60k tracks in iTunes).

I completely started over, this time only using .wav, shooting the cover of each CD I ripped with my DSLR and embedding it in each of the tracks. Which was naturally a huge waste of space.

So a couple years later I removed all embedded album art in one fell swoop and also converted all my .wav files to .flac, saving multiple terabytes of storage without losing any quality.

However when and if my needs change I'm more than willing to adjust my collection at any time. The only thing I'm really cautious about are steps which involve a permanent loss of quality or information, those should never be taken lightly.

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