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Cleaning Up Song Tags in iTunes

Ensuring that songs are properly tagged in iTunes is important not only to ensure that they're recognized by Genius but it's also a key factor in making Genius capable of generating good playlists.

iTunes tags are actually metadata about a song. There are more than three dozen pieces of information that can be assigned to any given song (or video or podcast) in iTunes. Most of these are things that can be easily edited using the Get Info command (from the File menu) on a selected song. You can also batch edit multiple songs by selecting them and using the same command.

The most common metadata for songs include obvious entries such as song name, article, album, and genre. If you have a song that is not recognized by Genius, chances are that one (or possibly more than one) of these key attributes is either missing or is incorrect. However, these aren't the only attributes that are available.

Other attributes include the number of beats per minute, the year that the song was released, the album track number, the composer of the song (which may or may not match the recording artist), and the date that the song was added to your iTunes library.

Ensuring all these attributes are accurate will allow Genius to deliver more predictable and better-sounding playlists.

If you buy music from the iTunes Store, most of the metadata for those songs will be included automatically. Depending on other sources of music, it may also be provided.

The MP3 file format, for example, (used by other online retailers) does include the capability to store some, though not all, of the attribute information available in iTunes as part of the song's file (and are often referred to as ID3 tags).

Even if you import music from a CD, iTunes will attempt to identify the disk using Internet-based databases and supply as much information on its own as possible (though this does not always prove an accurate match, particularly for tags such as genre).

Ensuring accurate metadata for your music can be easier said than done, particularly if you have a large collection of music from non-iTunes sources. There, are however, some tools that can help you automate the process.

BeaTunes is a popular cross-platform iTunes add-on that can help clean up major metadata issues such as missing tags, typos, and entries for artists that may have variations in their names (for example, REM versus R.E.M. or Pink and P!nk). BeaTunes also analyzes the beats per minute of songs and populates the appropriate tag (one that is known to be used by Apple to generate Genius playlists).

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