iTunes and tagging

This post was inspired by a recent post at RW/W about Moody, a 3rd-party app for iTunes that allows you to do "mood-tagging." Basically, it just organizes your songs into playlists for you, which I think is pretty useless. But I think the problem it's trying to solve is one that would make my life a lot easier. Over the years, I've amassed a pretty sizable collection of music. Organizing it in a clean, understandable fashion has definitely been one of my biggest frustrations.

There may be some of you out there that don't bother to organize your music and wonder why I would even care to do so. The primary answer is for browsability. I have so much music that I frequently forget what I do/don't have, and find myself often rediscovering albums. The holy grail of organization would make this process a lot easier.

I use iTunes as my primary music player. The search function is great. I like that it keeps track of what I've listened to both on the computer and on my iPod/iPhone. I've rated a ton of songs and I think that makes it a lot easier for me to refind songs that I like. And I think that the browser is a lot easier to manage then a bunch of folders on a hard disk, as it simultaneously cuts across the three axes of music-browsing - artist, album, and genre. You could toss year released in there, but I think that's a bit tougher to use.

For browsing purposes though, genre really seems to be the only way to go, for a couple reasons. First and foremost, given a sufficiently large selection, there will be too many artists and albums. Secondly, except for a few rare outliers, there won't be enough musical variety within one artist/album, meaning that you have to keep switching around if you want to put together a playlist of any variety. Thirdly, artists/albums are pretty concretely defined categories, meaning that the contents of these categories aren't really that subject to change.

The problem with using genres for browsing is that it's a huge pain to label things. You can only apply one genre to each song! That's pretty useless in my book. A lot of good music cuts across genres. Even bad music cuts across genres, to be honest (e.g. Diddy-influenced fusion of R&B and hip hop).

Solution: Apple, allow people to tag songs in iTunes.

Before anyone goes rushing off to tell me about awesome online apps that do this, let me answer by saying that I'm really not interested in using web interfaces for this kind of thing. When you're managing this much volume, the extra portion of a second per operation will translatesinto a cumulatively huge difference.



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