Day 256 – Digital Dusting

The inevitable and unenviable down-sides to upgrading network storage are the clean-up duties that come with it. Time turns pristine terra-bytes into atrocious terror-bytes.

We all succumb at times to the convenience of wide open spaces that make us just drop some data in a disorganised pile. I’ll tell myself I’ll get back to tidying it later. It’ll just be there till the weekend; a couple of weeks at the most. I’ll delete what I no longer need and I’ll group and re-name everything I intend to keep.

Today I “enjoyed” cleaning up 85GB of music with low quality meta-data tags. It had never really mattered that I had never gotten to this clean-up until now. As it turns out, for music playback, Plex really cares about having some nice high-quality tags to identify all the tracks from. It’s the difference between a crude image with a disclaimer of failure, or a polished album cover off the internet.

I was really not looking forward to this task, and I’d have gone even more mental if not for MusicBrainz and their wonderful “MusicBrainz Picard” tool.

MusicBrainz-the-site I believe has existed for some time, and it is basically an open collaborative Wikipedia for music album meta-data. To say it is comprehensive is an understatement. For many albums it has every single variant released in every single geographic area with all the minute variations in meta-data.

Wading through this could be a pain.

But, that’s where MusicBrainz-the-tool comes in; I point it at my music folder, drag all the tracks across the be identified… and it starts by grabbing the details that are already embedded in all the files.

If that data is already sufficiently detailed, tracks and albums will immediately move into the “identified” column. If not, you can click the magic “Lookup” button, which will match the available details against its extensive database. It’ll match tracks by album, track name, track number on the disc, duration… whatever it can use to uniquely identify the album a group of tracks were on together.

When this succeeds (as it does most of the time), again, the albums move straight in the “identified” column, only padded out with much more comprehensive tags including contributing artists, year of release, publisher, and on and on.

In the rare cases where this still does not pinpoint the album (for example, multi-disc albums that were split into separate directories seem to usually fail), you can hit the button that takes you into the search page of MusicBrainz-the-site. Every entry in the search result has a banner that you can click, which will add the album into the “identified” column where you can then drag the album that you think matches. Again it’ll do a best-effort automatic match of the tracks you drag across, but ultimately you can drag-and-drop the identification results till you are happy with the matches that have been made.

Then all that’s left is hitting “Save” and the tracks get re-tagged in-place with the new information.

I like the way the workflow has been laid out. I like that the automation is merely assisting me and not telling me what the answer is. Too many poor solutions suffer from over-automation leaving no room for human intervention if the automated outcome isn’t quite right. This is not one of those solutions.

And I think it saved me a lot of time today.

Now I get to sit back and relax with my music library.
Before I have to go and clean up a decade of photos I’ve put in all the wrong places.

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