iTunes - just one of many media players

There’s nothing better than an orderly music collection. The correct album artwork, everything in its right place and all the relevant information all neat and tidy. It makes you just want to sit and listen to that music.

On the flipside, there’s nothing worse than digital music – paid or otherwise – that doesn’t fit into your existing collection in any sort of meaningful way. Nothing irritates a consumer faster than downloading a track and finding that it’s named sd3jk3832s_23.mp3 — and there are no other details.

No artist name, no album title, no artwork. In fact, nothing at all that’ll tell them what they’re listening to. It sits there like a stray in the digital music collection, meaning nothing, and ready for deletion regardless of how good the music.

It’s bad enough when they’ve parted with cash for a track — but think how much worse when it’s a promotional giveaway. It’s the online equivalent of giving somebody a CD-R with no label and expecting them to remember not only the name of the band, but also how to go about finding you again so they can give you money — or a huge record contract — if they like it.

You MUST tag your mp3 files. When they download a promo from your site – or buy your tracks from an online retailer, it should display correctly in whatever playback software the consumer chooses to use.

Fortunately, there’s a standardised model for this, and it’s called the ID3 tag.

I recommend a piece of software called Tag & Rename to confirm and correct this metadata on each of your files. It’s very simple to use, and it’ll do batch processing.

I can’t stress this strongly enough: tagging your files correctly is a must. Bad metadata will stop people from buying — or even listening to your music.

You can (and should) also use metadata as a marketing reinforcement of your website. In the comments section of the ID3 tag, why not put your URL? That way, the music itself is a link back to your website, so that your customers and fans are just a click away from more of that music they love so much…

And there’s so much more you can put into the ID3 tag: artwork, lyrics, recording details and pretty much everything else you’d ordinarily find on a record sleeve. Helpful information. Orderly information. Information that keeps them coming back to engage with your professional services over and over again. Information that fits into their ever-expanding collection.

Think of it this way: would you buy an unlabelled record with no sleeve?