Why MP3tag Is the Only Music Tag Editor You’ll Ever Need
In the age of music streaming where everything is categorized and searchable in seconds, you might not think much about metadata. But anyone with a music collection knows the pain of trying to manage a poorly tagged library.
This is why a music tag editor is essential—and MP3tag is the best in the business. Let’s take at what MP3tag has to offer and how to use it efficiently.
Why Use a Music Tag Editor?
In case you’re not aware, MP3 (and other audio file formats) supports various metadata. Metadata refers to information kept about data; in the case of music, this includes the artist, album, year of release, genre, and similar information.
It’s important to note that metadata is completely separate from the filename. You can have an MP3 file named The Beatles – Come Together.mp3 that has zero metadata. In this case, the only way you have to identify the track is its filename. This becomes a mess in a playlist and provides you no good way to organize tracks by artist, genre, or similar.
Music you buy from sources like iTunes or Amazon Music likely comes with the proper tags already. But a tagging editor is still vital for music you’ve downloaded from other sources, allowing you to fix errors, etc.
Getting Started With MP3tag
Download MP3tag from its official website to begin. The installer is straightforward with no nonsense to worry about. The software is only officially available for Windows, but the site includes instructions for running it on macOS via Wine.
Despite its name, MP3tag works with many other audio file formats. It’s compatible with AAC, FLAC, OGG, WMA, and more.
Once you’ve installed MP3tag, you’ll be greeted with its main interface. You should first tell MP3tag what directory you’d like to work in. This will likely be your Music folder by default, but you can change it via File > Change Directory or the Ctrl + D shortcut.
Once you’ve done this, MP3tag will show all the music files in that folder, with their metadata information, in its main panel. This can become overwhelming, so it’s a good idea to work on a single album or artist first until you get the hang of it.
Basic MP3 Tag Audio Tagging
If you only need to tag a few files, you can use MP3tag’s simple utilities. Click a track in the main panel list and you’ll see its basic tags appear in the left sidebar. If you don’t see this, toggle View > Tag panel or press Ctrl + Q.
In this panel, you’ll see some common tags like Title, Artist, Album, Year, and Genre. Simply click inside each of these fields and enter the desired info. Note that MP3tag also allows you to add album art. Right-click the current art and choose Extract cover to grab it from the files if available, or Add cover to set any image as the cover.
Each field also has <blank> and <keep> entries in the dropdown list. Use keep to leave one or more values the same while changing others.
If you want to change tags for multiple songs (for example, selecting all tracks from an album so you don’t have to enter the album name multiple times), you can use the same keys as in File Explorer. Hold Ctrl to select multiple files, or select one file and hold Shift while clicking a second to select to every item between them. You can also press Ctrl + A to select everything in view.
When you select more than one track, MP3tag will automatically populate many fields with <keep>. This prevents you from accidentally changing unique fields; for instance, you might want to set the same Year for all tracks in an album, but leave each Title as it was.
MP3tag Saving Behavior
Before you move to another track, it is vital to remember that by default, you must save tags in MP3tag before moving to another file. If you make changes to one track and click another without hitting the Save icon in the top-left corner (or hitting Ctrl + S), you will lose those changes.
To change this behavior, open Tools > Options and select the Tags category in the left panel. Check the box labeled Save tags when using arrow keys/single mouse click and MP3tag will automatically save all changes when you move to another track.
Just be careful of saving accidental changes when using this option.
Customize the Tag Panel
By default, the tag panel probably contains some fields you don’t really use. You can remove unnecessary tags and add others by right-clicking inside the panel and hitting Customize.
Here you’ll see checkboxes to disable any of the built-in fields. Double-click one to change its name, default value, and size. Select the New icon to add an additional field.
You’ll have to scroll through the Field dropdown to pick one. This contains tons of choices, many of which aren’t that useful (most people probably don’t categorize their songs by BPM). Choose a Name, Default value, and Size of field, then press OK to add it.
Use the arrows in the bottom-left of this panel to rearrange them however you like. Click OK in the Options window when done to apply your changes.
Advanced MP3tag Audio Tagging
The above will work fine for quick tag editing. But if you plan to use MP3tag often, you should get familiar with its more powerful features that will save you time.
MP3tag’s Actions let you create predefined actions that you can apply to groups of files. For example, you might create an action to normalize capitalization, or standardize common abbreviations like Feat and Featuring to feat.
Select one or more tracks to start, then go to Actions > Actions or press Alt + 6. Here you’ll see a few default action groups. Double-click one to see the individual actions it contains, or hit the New button to create your own group. Give it a name, then hit New again to start creating actions in it.
You can choose from a dropdown list of actions. These include case conversion, remove fields, replace, and more. There’s a lot to get into here, including regular expressions if you’re really advanced. Check out MP3tag’s help page on Actions for descriptions of each option.
To run an action once without creating a group, choose Actions > Actions (Quick) or press Alt + Shift + 6.
Often, you don’t have to do the heavy lifting of manually entering track information on your own. MP3tag supports importing tags from online databases, which is super handy.
For best results, you should have an entire album selected, with the songs in the original album order. Then click Tag Sources > freedb. In the resulting menu, choose determine from selected files.
If it finds a match, you’ll see a new window with the imported tag information. It’s wise to review this first. Because Freedb is an open service, there’s no guarantee that whoever added the tags got them completely correct.
Review the imported information and make any changes you find necessary. When that’s done, click OK and you’ll save the tags to your music.
Sometimes, the automatic match with Freedb won’t work properly. In case that happens, visit the Freedb website and run a search manually. Find the album (if it’s there) in the search results and expand it. Copy the Disc-ID field and note the genre listed.
Then in MP3tag, select the tracks again and choose Tag Sources > freedb, but this time select the Enter option. Paste the ID value you copied earlier and make sure the Category is set correctly. This should bring up the tag information, which you can then import.
Conversions are extremely useful when you have information already in the filename or tags, but they’re not in the right places. You can use these tools to easily move this data around to import tags from filenames, craft new filenames from tags, and more.
Note that these all use percentage signs around a tag as a placeholder. For example, for Michael Jackson’s Thriller album, %artist% – %track% %title% will show up as Michael Jackson – 04 Thriller. Click Preview to make sure you have it right before you click OK to save the conversion. Remember you can use Ctrl + Z to undo any mistakes you make.
Select one or more tracks for conversion, then pick one of the following options under the Conversion entry on the toolbar:
- Tag – Filename allows you to create a new filename based on its tags. It’s useful if your current filename is messy and you want to make a new template, similar to the above example. This is obviously best done once you’ve got the tags set properly.
- Use Filename – Tag to populate tags based on the current filename. This keeps you from having to enter some information by hand if you can’t import it and it’s already in the filename. You’ll need to match the filename formatting placeholders to match your files for MP3tag to use them.
- Use Filename – Filename to take elements from the existing filename and turn them into a new one. For instance, if you have (ARTIST – ALBUM) 01 TITLE – YEAR and want to change the order, simply use %1 for the first element, %2 for the second, and so on. So you could use %3 – (%1 – %4) to get 01 – (ARTIST – TITLE).
- Text file – Tag allows you to import a text file and use its values as tags. For most users, this isn’t as useful as the other options.
- Finally, Tag – Tag lets you copy the contents of one field to another. Again, this one isn’t as generally useful, but you could use it to easily copy the Artist field to the Album Artist field, for instance.
Like other features, there’s a lot you can do with conversions. Have a look at MP3tag’s help page on conversion for more guidance.
MP3tag Is a Must-Have Music Tag Editor
As we’ve seen, MP3tag is a powerful tool for editing music tags. Its many features make it just as great for casual users as those who tag their music all the time. Keep it around for the next time you need to correct some tags.
And if you don’t have a local music collection, here’s how to convert your old CDs and cassettes to MP3.