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Organizing a classical music collection: the Composer tag

If you are into classical music, you know how hard it is to organize your audio files.

The most important problem is lack of support for the “Composer” tag in music player software. For a while, this led me to the idea of reusing the mainstream “artist” tag to contain composer information. But then performer information must go into other tags such as “Album” or “Comment”.

The advantage of this approach is that it works with any and all music players.

But it has many disadvantages. First of all, tagging your music becomes an endless nightmare: no tagging software I have encountered out there does it this way, so basically you would have to make corrections manually. Forever. Remember that your are files always coming from many different sources, so you would have to keep track of which files have already been converted to your system.

Also, this kind of reasoning is just conceptually wrong. Though the idea of the “artist” in music is a wrong concept by itself, what it really means in practice is “performer”. If you start abusing concepts you end up with nightmares as repulsive as this system:

No solution could be less correct in data normalization terms...

Finally I found it easier to just use the correct tags. Use the “Composer” tag for the composer. The disadvantage is, you have to work harder to find software that supports it. But it is not impossible. Apple products support the “composer” tag. On a PC (Windows or Linux) one can use powerful music players such as Amarok which fully supports the “composer” tag. (On Ubuntu Linux, you just type sudo apt-get install amarok.)

What about my phone? I’ve been unable to find an Android music player with support for the “composer” field. I did find hints on the web and tried a few players, but the tips were written years ago and apparently the newer versions do not support the “composer” tag anymore.

Since phones are unable to carry that much music anyway, I intend to just use any directory-based player. What’s important is that my collection will be correct and give me less of a headache.

Summing up, I have 2 pieces of advice:

  • Use the “composer” field: use the correct tags and spend some time to find software that supports them. Such software deserves to be preferred.
  • Regardless of tagging, keep your collection well organized in terms of directories.