When you send your audio files out into the world they’re completely out of your hands. So how do you make sure people know what they are and where they came from? Metadata.
Metadata is information about a file that is embedded within that file. It’s where you store the track name, album name, artist name and so on. Not all file formats store metadata, and some only store limited metadata.
mp3s, Apple’s m4a, and AIFF formats all store extensive metadata. WAVs only store the track name and album name, so they are not a good format to send when metadata is important, like when you’re sending people demos.
First, let’s look at good file naming conventions.
If you’re sending several audio files and you want your audience to listen in a certain order, start with a 2 digit number (01-99) so when the file names are sorted they will be sorted in the order you want them. Also iTunes and other players read those first two digits as track numbers by default. Next have the track name and avoid special characters (like question marks, etc.) which not all operating systems support. You never know if your listener is on a Mac, PC, iPhone, Android device… so better to avoid those. Just look at the mp3s from any soundtrack album in your iTunes library to see what the file names look like. Typically it’s something like this:
05 My Track Name.mp3
If you’re pitching tracks for specific project, it’s helpful to add the project name and your name to the file name. Some music supervisors like having a date in the filename, too (I don’t). So for a specific pitch a good filename would look like this:
03 Best Movie Ever-Shie Rozow-Awesome Track.mp3
One of my pet peeves about track names in soundtracks is using “Main Titles” or “Opening Titles” or “End Credits” or “Credits” or any other very generic names like that. If nothing else add the movie name so it’s “Best Movie Ever Main Titles,” now I know at a glance exactly what it is.
Now let’s take a look at the metadata.
There are 3 basic pieces of metadata that are absolute musts – Song Name, Artist, and Album. If those aren’t included when a track is sent to me, I will likely delete the track without even checking it out. If you have these 3 basic pieces of metadata you’re OK. Additional metadata that is nice to have includes Composer, Genre, Year, & Artwork. If you have all those you’re in good shape.
Want to make your metadata great, especially when sending songs to music supervisors, composer demos for specific projects or tracks to be used for tracking or licensing purposes? In addition to all of the above add the BPM (some music supervisors really appreciate this), use the Grouping field to include clearance information such as the company or person clearing the Master & Sync (including percentages if there are multiple entities involved), and use the Comments field to include contact info as well as any additional notes. Additional notes can be licensing info or even track descriptions. There is also a Description field that you can use if you like for descriptions, but I find that most people either aren’t aware of it or don’t use it, so I prefer to use the Comments field. Finally, if it’s a song, include the lyrics in the Lyrics field.
Avoid putting anything in the Rating field. Rating your own music is kind of tacky, and some music supervisor and editors actually rate their own music for their own purposes, so leave it empty and let them rate your music if they want.
Here is a screenshot of a soundtrack to a short film I scored called Broken as it appears in my iTunes library. As you can see, I personally don’t look at BPM, but I do look at most of the other metadata I mentioned above and my tracks have all that info.
Whenever in doubt, try to put yourself in the shoes of the person receiving your music and try to imagine what you would like see.
You can easily edit your metadata using just about any media player like iTunes or Swinsian. If you’re interested in something a little more professional you can look into purchasing Soundminer or here’s a free open source tool for audio tagging called Kid3, which I use regularly and like very much.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.