Tag Tracks With Multiple Artists

I'm a recent convert to MP3Tag and am still learning just how powerful a tool it is. I was a long time user of Tag&Rename which I liked very much but I see that MP3Tag is quite a bit more flexible and gathers much more information. I like that.

Anyway I am stuck for how to tag compilations, tracks with featured artists, and tracks with multiple artists. This is something that's always bothered me and since I'm about to retag my entire collection I'd like to sort it out.

I am willing to go with a generally accepted standard if there is one, but I can't find it. I intend to follow the Uberstandard for most of my tagging because it's somebody's standard. Is there such a thing as a standard for various/multiple artist tags?

My media player of choice is Media Monkey (and my phone). One of the things I don't like about how some of my CDs are tagged is the long list of extra track artists. For example:

I have a 50 Cent CD with several different artists listed, here's an example of a few:
50 Cent
50 Cent feat Eminem
50 Cent feat Young Buck

I'm aware that Album Artist is meant to provide a "cleaner" way to browse through artists. What I wonder in the case of the 50 Cent album is if it makes more sense to assign multiple track artists:

50 Cent;Eminem
50 Cent; Young Buck

I don't know how to do this in MP3Tag. In MediaMonkey you use a ";". More importantly, can MP3 tag do this automatically (separate artists using some kind of predefined separator)?

Along these same lines I have another example of an album that I don't know what to do with. Chicago - Music From the Miramax Motion Picture, Track 1, artists are:

Catherine Zeta-Jones Renée Zellweger Queen Latifah Richard Gere John C. Reilly.

  • All of those people are not one artist. If I want to listen to every song I have by a certain artist it would be convenient just to search for their name, not their name and every variation of the artist lists that include their name.
  • I really don't like the idea of tagging the track Catherine Zeta-Jones feat. Renee Zellweger, Queen Latifah, Richard Gere, John C. Reilly. When the track information is scrolling across an MP3 player or phone it's ridiculous to have that many artists listed. If using "featuring" in the track title is the standard I guess I could make it work but I hate it otherwise.
  • I was thinking about listing each artist separately as I described above but I have these questions:
    1. Will that throw off my track count in a Media Player? 2. If I shuffle my music do I have an increased chance of hearing the same song again because it is listed under multiple different artists?

I have plenty of other examples if they're needed. For now please tell me if there is a standard to follow for tagging various artist/ multiple artist compilations or how you do it.

Also, please tell me if MP3Tag can automatically tag multiple artists separately in a track and how I go about doing it. I plan to use Discogs or Musicbrainz for track information, not sure if that's relative to the process.

Thanks all for any help or advice you can give.


There isn't really any standard. Even the use of ALBUMARTIST isn't always accepted or else isn't treated the same by all players/software. You may also find that Media Monkey (which I'm unfamiliar with) and your phone treat tagging differently, so may have to come up with some compromise or (worst case) keep separate libraries tagged differently.

My main library is in FLAC, but I keep a separate 'mirror' library of files transcoded to Mp3 for my portable players (all running Rockbox). The tagging of the Mp3 library is much simpler than that of the the FLAC library, because Rockbox doesn't recognize things like multiple artist fields or sort fields for names. The transcoding is done by a script I wrote that throws away or combines fields into something that works with Rockbox.

Yeah, you usually don't want featured artists to be specified like this in the ARTIST field. You might use ALBUMARTIST and then two ARTISTs on each track:

ARTIST=50 Cent

Many people just place the featured artist in the track title. It usually causes few problems there, although you won't be able to search for the artist and come up with that track.

ARTIST=50 Cent
TITLE=Peep Show feat. Eminem

Multiple ARTIST fields are easy to work with in Mp3tag, but where it gets tricky is in how your player/software treats them and what it expects. It also depends a lot on the audio file format. For formats using vorbis comments, like FLAC and Ogg Vorbis, completely separate fields named ARTIST are the accepted standard. For Mp3 files, ID3v2.4 used a similar thing, using multiple values separated by a NULL 00 byte. Mp3tag also happens to write ID3v2.3 tags the same way, although it's not in keeping with the spec.

Some software, when working with multiple values in a field will only read values delimited by some separator character like a semi-colon. For those, you'll have to write the semi-colon yourself and realize that Mp3tag is NOT treating the strings on either side of the semi-colon as separate artists.

Normally, what you do to designate separate fields in Mp3tag is use a \\ character sequence.

ARTIST=50 Cent\\Eminem

The double backslash isn't actually written. When you use either the Tag Panel (on the left) or the file view (columns on the right) that's what two separate fields will look like (and there can also be more than two), and it's how you would enter them. When view or using the Extended Tags dialog, however, they will appear as two completely separate fields with the same name.

I wouldn't think so, to either question.

I add an ALBUMARTIST tag to ever album, every track, just for consistency. Even if it isn't necessary.


For a run of the mill VA album, I would generally set the ALBUMARTST to be '! Various Artists' (I put the ! in front of the name so that it gets sorted to the top of the list'.

ALBUMARTIST=! Various Artists
ALBUM=Dazed and Confused Soundtrack
ARTIST=Rick Derringer

ALBUMARTIST=! Various Artists
ALBUM=Dazed and Confused Soundtrack

With multiple artists on a track, add multiple ARTIST fields, same for a VA album, or a non-VA album.

ARTIST=Frank Sinatra
ARTIST=Luther Vandros

ARTIST=Frank Sinatra
ARTIST=Aretha Franklin

You can do that with featured artists if you like. Sometimes I don't bother tagging a featured artist.

I don't use any tag sources, so someone else will have to help your there. I try to make sure tagging is accurate when I rip an album, and any corrections are done manually.


And now the short answer:

Use \\ to designate multiple artists (I also find it useful for multiple genres) in Mp3tag.

Play around in both your media player of choice and your portable audio players to see what type of tagging works best for them, BEFORE you retag your whole library. Try working with a small test library of diverse test cases, say, 20-30 albums. Ultimately, the software you use will dictate how you should tag your library.

JJ - Thanks for replying to my post. I knew when I was writing it that it was longer than most people like to read. I appreciate youR taking the time.

I, too, keep a FLAC and MP3 library. I'm cleaning up my albums because they were tagged years ago using Gracenote and I like what I see from MusicBrainz, Discogs and AllMusic better. Unfortunately I have to use another program to get to AllMusic but I'll live :slight_smile:.

I have a question about something you said - to paraphrase "add another artist". How do I add another artist?

I typically load an album, select all tracks and then query a web service for album info. I then download whatever information is presented to me at the time. Can I control how much information is fetched from the web service (adding more fields to download is what I mean)?

For that 50 Cent CD (for example) I get:

MusicBrainz - Primary or first artist in the Artist tag, all others listed as "feat" in the track title.
AMG - Primary artist listed in the Artist tag, all others moved to the Composers tag - and now that I think about it this may have had something to do with my settings in another tagging program - I'm not sure.
Discogs - All artists lumped together as one artist in the Artist tag

I think what you're suggesting has me manually adjusting the tags. That's not my first choice but it is an option I'll pursue. Can you tell me how to do it? I don't see where/how I would add another artist tag field.

Otherwise I'm interested in configuring MP3Tag to assign additional artists or featured artists automatically to either a 2nd/3rd/4th ARTIST tag or an altogether different tag (toying with the idea of using MUSICIANCREDITS or creating a custom tag called CONTRIBUTINGARTIST. If anyone can help with this please speak up :slight_smile: !

Thanks again for the help.


Just another example:
I put all the different artists for a track in the ARTIST tag. This can be
If the album is clearly dedicated to one artist, I write only his name in the ALBUMARTIST tag. In this case it would be 2PAC.

If the album is a compilation (a collection of different artists just put together for a special reason, like "Very best guitar songs" or "Best of Jazz"), then I write "VARIOUS ARTISTS" to the ALBUMARTIST tag.

For me, this is the best way for my favorite Music-Suite "MediaMonkey" and my mp3 playing devices.

JJ Johnson wrote:

I agree for 99%. The last 1% is my addition "...Ultimately, the software AND DEVICES you use will dictate how you should tag your library."

I'm probably being a bit more OCD than others, but what I do is set up a standard scheme that works best for me in capturing the information in accordance with the maximum capabilities of the so-called standards. Multiple values / multiple tag instances where that's appropriate completely independently of what any given soft can handle properly.

As I query each online database for values, I set up Actions in MP3tag back up my canonical values to custom tags prefixed with my initials. This in effect becomes my "master database" for the files.

I've found that in this wild-west area of software, the normal "public" tags are in fact quite fragile as carriers of information, and I don't want to restrict myself to only using software that's well-behaved in respecting tags, as that pretty much eliminates the more interesting packages.

This scheme also allows me to script out the contents of the main tags for whatever my current target player / organizer prefers, so I also don't need to restrict my choice of hardware players etc to those that can make good use of my more complex storage scheme.

Yes this takes a bit more up-front "information architecture" planning, but I want a solid standardized scheme so I only need to organize the files once up-front and then not worry about having to fix up messes created by all the inconsiderate tools out there.

I also back up my tags to plaintext export files, highly recommended.

Thanks everyone for your input.

I'm going to experiment a little more tonight to see what I like the best. I REALLY wish I could get AllMusic data - it seems to be much more complete. I'm going to look further into Musicbrainz and Discogs I guess.

Is there a way to take all of the artists listed after "feat." in the track tag and add them separately to another tag using Actions? How?



i use the %involvedpeople% and setup foobar to list them as feat.
adding new artist to this tag is easy and will auto seperate them. not sure if any players pickup this tag as i used a customised foobar as my main player

On a compilation, you use "Various Artists" which is fine. But what if there are only two different artists? How do you do that? I tend to combine them into one album artist, for example "Artist 1 & Artist 2". It seems overkill to treat an Album by two different artists as a compilation. But then again, it's inconsistent if you concatenate artists for one album and use "Various Artists" for another album. I'd just like to hear some suggestions, how do you handle it?

Only rarely would I treat such an album as a compilation. For instance, I have a three CD set called 'Big Band Fever'. The first disc is by Duke Ellington, the second disc by Count Basie, and the third disc is by Tom Dorsey. I grouped them together and called it a compilation, with an ALBUMARTIST of 'Various Artists'. The other way I might treat such a set would simply be as three separate albums.

But if I have a collaboration album by two artists, like 'Raising Sand' by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, I tag it like you said. It's not a compilation.

ALBUMARTIST=Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
ARTIST=Robert Plant
ARTIST=Alison Krauss

I have quite a few albums tagged like this, especially jazz albums. The only downside is that it creates one more artist in your library, and it isn't necessarily an artist that anyone would recognize as a group or recording entity.

I have some CDs that are mostly by a single artist, but they have one or more tracks by another artist that don't include the primary artist. Typically, these are recordings of live shows, tribute albums, or reissues with bonus tracks. These are a lot closer to being "compilations", but I tag them as though they're by the primary artist. I don't remember which albums offhand, but let's say "Joe Smith" is the primary artist on the CD and then "Tammy Jones" has two solo tracks at the end. I'd tag the first tracks with

ARTIST=Joe Smith

and the last two tracks with

ARTIST=Tammy Jones

Thank you, I enjoyed reading your answer. I do everything as you do. I've quoted this part because it's interesting, as I'm experiencing that too. For example, if you have two different albums by the same collaborating artists, you may end up with two album artist names like:

"Robert Plant & Alison Krauss\Album1"
"Alison Krauss & Robert Plant\Album2"

That's kind of ugly and it will mess up your library and playlist sorting (but then again, I can't think of another way to sort). It also feels logically wrong, as "Robert Plant & Alison Krauss" isn't a single artist, but with that naming scheme, you're effectively treating them as a single artist.

I've thought about creating two seperate fields for album artist, which would logically separate them. How about that? What would be the pros and cons?

I wouldn't do that, because the order is fairly unimportant and all it does is create another artist. You have control over the order, but you have to enforce consistency yourself. You'll sometimes even see both versions printed on the same album on different parts of the artwork and packaging. Eventually, I think it's important to consolidate artist names so that the list doesn't get out of control. It's also important for grouping by artist.

Right, but I have less of a problem with this.

That could be the best approach, either two ALBUMARTIST fields or just two ARTIST fields. One con is that you probably then have no control over how the artist name is presented. The wider problem, though, is as I said above: it depends on how a specific application treats the tags. It might work well in one application, while another application might (for instance) not recognize more than one ALBUMARTIST or not list both of them.

1 Like

Great post. I have the same headache with "featuring artist" (rihanna always seemed to have :slight_smile:)

At first, i put them as an artist (using the \\ method) but i never felt good.. They are not really the co-singer but usually have a small part in the song .. Now i think i am going to use "involved people" tag

Hene my question as above

How to create an ACTION that will remove the artists after feat. or featuring in the title and move them to "involved people" field.

Thanks to anyone who can help :slight_smile:

The "how to" is described in the FAQs, /t/967/1

Create an action of the type "Guess values" for %title%
Enter as guessing value:
%title% feat. %involvedpeople%

This works only for titles with just one "feat." in it.
You would then have to adapt the INVOLVEDPEOPLE to the proper syntax.

I just keep it simple, which is very universal.

I give everything an AA and A value.

typically AA equals A, but otherwise its where I would expect to find the album when browsing all my albums, or in a record store.

'A' equals whoever is on the track. so I have ONE entry per tag for A, and it could be something like: Eric Clapton and BB King and JJ Cale. no multiple frames, no separator characters.

that will then appear, to apps and devices, as a single unique artist different from say Eric Clapton, or even Eric Clapton and BB King. only exact string matches will match artists.

however, for searching it works fine.

I haven't had any problems or disappointments with this way, and its easy.

Thanks.. it worked exactly what i needed :slight_smile: