Minimalist approach

after many years of tags, tags and more tags, I have decided to take a minimalist approach to tagging.
I use only iPod and Foobar (for portable and computer use), having retained all original material for playing on hi-fi.

What are the minimum tags required for successful operation of iPod, iTunes and Foobar?
I was thinking along the lines of; Artist Name, Track Title, Album Title, Genre, Album Artist, Track Number, Total Tracks, Disc Number.


The minimum depends so much on the way you want to select your music.
It is much easier to tell which fields are useless. E.g. rating wmp or popularimeter are not used by iTunes. Neither is language.
On the other hand: there are loads of fields that only iTunes (and iPod) uses but no other program (e.g. podcast).
As long as the use case is not clear, it is hard to judge which information is the minimum.

Much appreciated. Thanks!
However, when I find the following:
......I begin to question my sanity!
Surely they can't all be required?


maybe this helps you:

ALBUM ARTIST is not required in my opinion.
Even foobar switched to TPE2 for albumartist in their latest update. (they call it album artist, but it is the same as albumartist in mp3tag)

I would also say TOTAL TRACKS is not requirred,

And I don't use DISCNUMBER, I put this information in the Tracknumber (CD1 = 101, 102, ... ; CD2 = 201, 202, ...)

And I care not much about GENRE, because it's always a matter of opinion.

The most basic tag-fields are (in my opinion): ARTIST; TITLE; YEAR; ALBUM; ALBUMARTIST; TRACK

But I won't delete existing tag-fields, just make your mediaplayers to ignore them.

Yes, it is mostly a matter of taste. And in this respect I would add the cover as well - I mean, what is the point of having a flashy "cover flow" display on an iPod if there are no covers to flow ...
Perhaps I am not minimalistic enough.

I think I would go with cover as well since it has become such an important feature of late.

Can I ask another question about replaygain?
I will replaygain my collection (MP3 and M4A), and then do ITUNNORM for the MP3's (portable use because the volume limiter on European iPods is ridiculously low for my 67 year old ears. Does this mean that I should delete the replaygain info from these files?

Replaygain is not evaluted by iTunes - these programs use the data from comment itunnorm.
Other players do not use the Apple tags. So if you stick to the Apple products you can delete replaygain, if you use other players as well, then don't.

ohrenkino and Pone, thanks for your help. Most valuable.

I had intended numbering tracks as follows: 1.01. 1.02. 1.03. etc., but dont know how to do this without using the discnumber tag.
One box set I have contains 6 albums and 101 tracks and I don't have a clue how to number as 1.001. 1.002. 1.092. 1.101.
This will just about put my thoughts "to bed" and I won't bother you anymore!!


If you have the tracknumbers 1.01. 1.02. 1.03 in foobar, you will have
%discnumber% = 1 and %track% = 01, 02, 03 in Mp3tag

To get %discnumber% in the the %track% field, i have the following actions:

If you just want to write TRACK:
Action: Format Value
Field: TRACK
Formatstring: $num(%discnumber%,1)$num(%track%,2)

If you want to write TRACK and delete DISCNUMBER in one go:

Action: Guess Values
Source Format: $num(%discnumber%,1)$num(%track%,2)-
Guessing Pattern: %track%-%discnumber%

Does your boxset have 101 tracks on one CD? If so, you need $num(%discnumber%,1)$num(%track%,3)

If you want track number 1.01, 1.02 instead of 101, 103 you must set a dot into the formatstings of the actions: $num(%discnumber%,1).$num(%track%,2)
But I have made the experience that there are a lot of mediaplayers which can only read digits in the TRACK field.

If you need to write new tracknumbers to a album, use Mp3tag's Autonumbering Wizard and set "Begin at tracknumber" to 101 for the first CD, 201 for the second,...

Agreed, with the addition of cover art.

I would like to include COMPOSER, but source information for this is so spotty as to make it unusable.

GENRE, maybe -- I don't care about genres, but some do...

BTW -- w/r/t the disc number field -- Am I the only one who ignores this? I feel that in most cases disc number is an artifact of the limitations of CD media. For most albums (for example, Pink Floyd's The Wall) I just number the tracks sequentially (in this case, from 1 to 26).

Agreed. But having the discnumber is jsut one more piece of data to complete the collection - and by far from the minimalistic apporach.
So, numbering the tracks sequentially is IMHO a good way to play tracks on modern media. But if you want to restore the old distribution then the discnumber can be of help.

The more I thing about this the more I begin to like the minimalist notion.
What information do I really need to have on my files?
I'm even beginning to think that cover art is pretty (sometimes), but I tend to listen to music rather than look at pretty pictures.
Question is, what information do I really need and what information can I easily obtain on the net and use it as and when required.

Artist - Album - Title is beginning to look quite appealing.............only joking of course!


I would say that the minimum is:


The following would depend on your own habits and needs:

  • YEAR, I consider to be essential, because I like browsing years and playing music from certain time periods. I usually use it for the year of the original album's release, sometimes for the year of the recording.
  • GENRE, but only if you use it intelligently. Some people get carried away, assigning dozens of genres, and tagging individual tracks within albums, to the point that it's absolutely useless.
  • DISCNUMBER is usually needed only on multidisc sets, but you can also just number tracks from 1 to N, encompassing all of the discs in the set, which is, in a sense, "simpler". I prefer to use DISCNUMBER, then if you have a sufficiently rich application you can easily play individual discs from a set.
  • ALBUMARTIST is not usually needed, but can be helpful. Many apps seem to expect you to use an album artist such as "Various Artists" for compilations. When you have guest artists in the ARTIST tag, it can be necessary for grouping and sorting purposes.
  • TOTALTRACKS is seldom needed.

What I use:

  • ARTISTSORT - lastname, firstname for individuals, leading articles to the end for for proper names, e.g. "Beatles, The"
  • ALBUMARTIST - on all albums, including those where ALBUMARTIST=ARTIST
  • ALBUMARTISTSORT - as above
  • ALBUMSORT - leading articles to the end
  • TRACKNUMBER - no leading zeros, they should never be needed in numic tags
  • YEAR - four digits, never a month or day component
  • REPLAYGAIN_TRACK_GAIN (_ALBUM_GAIN, etc.) - added to all albums by another app
  • COMPILATION=1 - only added to compilation albums
  • DISCNUMBER - only added to multidisc sets
  • TOTALDISCS - only on multidisc sets, although it's not often used by applications
  • COMMENT - notes about things like (re)mastering details, date and location of live shows, added notes about performers,the album, or certain tracks on it, probably added to less than 1 in 10 albums

The nice thing is that you can create Mp3tag action groups and use conditionals so that much of the above is added for you nearly automatically. You can also remove any of the tags or add them to the entire library in a matter of minutes in Mp3tag. Having them tends only to make applications operate better, but it's often essential that the entire library be consistently and fully tagged to take advantage of this.

One can live with a filename like "Artist - Title", but no tags at all.

However, this question is odd IMHO. You need as many tags as required for your kind of use. (If you like to sort by year, you should take care of the year tag. If you like to adjust your application the loudness/volume, you have to provide replaygain. And so on. In Classical music you'll probably need more tags, like composer.)

IMHO deleting tags is not required. Once, the information is there, it's stupid to delete it. Think of gather the knowlegde again. It's hard.

You may just ignore tags; or your application will ignore it. Don't care!

(Personally, I would like to have as much information as possible.)

Points are well made LosMintos and JJ J, for which thanks.
My own feeling is that if I am not really going to use a whole myriad of tags then I see clutter. I know that this is really all padding and not a space issue. Also, it would appear that some of the tags are superfluous like ALBUM ARTIST and ALBUMARTIST.
I do understand your point tho that tagging is very much a "horses for courses", personal issue.