Metadata explained - how to embed metadata into your music
By Rob Stewart - JustMastering.com - Last updated August 7, 2017
What is metadata?
The term metadata sounds technical, but really it is just information (data!). It is used everywhere, in web pages, software, television and radio broadcasting, and countless other places including music.
From a music perspective, metadata is simply information about your album, your songs and your mixes that you plan to include with your release by embedding the information right into the music files. Some common examples of music metadata are:
- Album Name
- Artist Name
- Song Name
- Copyright information
Do I have to add metadata to my masters?
No, however, I highly recommend it, for several reasons:
- The metadata embedded in a music file is independent of the file name. This means that even if a listener renames a music file, the metadata is preserved. In any music players that read the metadata, it will still show up where it needs to, displaying the true song name, artist and release details that you specified.
- Some metadata can play an important role in you getting paid when your songs are used in broadcast. For example, the copyright information, publisher and artist/composer information can be used to help find you, and pay you. Failing that, the ISRC is another way to uniquely identify your recording, and connect it with you as the owner.
- Embedding metadata into your music helps your fans find you! Metadata can indexed and made searchable on search engines, and music sites all over the world. It also makes it easier for listeners to import tracks into their favorite music players because many music players read the metadata in a file when you are importing it.
- If your music is streamed or broadcast around the world, your listeners will want to know more about your music! If you've ever heard a song on the radio in your car, and then glanced at the radio's display on the dashboard to find out who the artist was, you've just demonstrated how important metadata truly is! Publishing music without metadata is much like writing a letter without putting your name on it.
How to add metadata to your masters
First, if you are having your music professionally mastered, ask the mastering engineer if they will add the metadata as part of their service. I offer embedding metadata as part of my audio mastering services for no extra cost (more detail, here).
If you are self-mastering your music, here are some low-cost (some are free) tools that you can use to embed metadata into your masters. This list is not an endorsement from me on these specific tools. Please check them out, but also look for other options based on your needs.