Once you’ve ripped all of your CDs to MP3 and you have them on your hard drive, you’ll want to get them into a music library manager or jukebox of some sort. I’ve mentioned iTunes and Windows Media Player, but there are others like Songbird, MediaMonkey and WinAmp as well. I’m not going to go into all of the different pieces of software you could use. Google “mp3 library software” or “mp3 jukebox” to find all the various programs that might fit your needs. Also be aware that if you want to use music stores like Rhapsody or Napster, you could use their jukeboxes too. I’ll hit subscription services and online sales in a future article, but I wanted you to be aware that you could use them too.
Anyway, these programs should allow you change the metadata on songs (artist, song title, album title, cover art, track number etc.) create playlists of your favorite music, rip songs directly to your music library and easily move music into your favorite portable player. This is also the place where you will mainly stay when playing music or doing all of the above functions. Because of this, you want to make a decision early and try to stick with it as moving between software can lose data.
The portable player you use can really make a difference in this choice as well. Even though you can get an iPod to sync with software other than iTunes, it’s generally a pain in the ass. So if you want an iPod, the easiest choice for you is, in fact, iTunes. You plug in your iPod and iTunes syncs it automatically. It couldn’t be easier, but try using iTunes with a Creative or iRiver player and you’ll have huge problems unless you install third party programs to hack the syncing together. So figure out what hardware you want to use, and make sure your software supports it.
Now if you are using the same software to manage your library as you used to rip your collection, the software probably knows all about your songs already. If your library is empty, you need to add the songs into it so the library software can manage it. In iTunes, clicking File, Add To Library will allow you to choose songs or folders to import. Once the music is in the library, you can now start working with it. Making sure the metadata is correct and creating playlists and the like. You can get more info on starting to use iTunes here.
Now the thing about these jukebox applications is that they use internal databases to track information. Some of the information lives in the MP3 file itself and some of it lives within the jukebox database. For example things like the Artist, Song Title, Album Title, and musical Genre are built into the MP3 file itself. Cover art CAN be embedded into the MP3, but many jukeboxes put the art somewhere else on the hard drive of your computer. And then things like ratings, when the song was last played, and how many plays it’s received are all stored in a database in the software.
We’ll start touching upon the various metadata items in our next installments. Stay Tuned.