What are ID3 tags?
When play a song in any program or portable player, you've probably noticed information that displays with that track:
- song title,
- track number,
- album title,
- artist name, and
- picture of the album.
All of this information displays no matter what the file name is.
This is called metadata. It's attached to the file through ID3 tags.
There are several versions of ID3, each offering an additional set of tags or ways to contain information. Older ID3 versions (1.x) couldn't hold many characters in a single tag. But newer versions hold a lot more information in each tag and offer more tags.
Why are ID3 tags important?
If it wasn't for your ID3 tags, then someone who downloads “podcast001.mp3” would never see important information:
- the name of the episode,
- chronological order of the episode,
- the podcast it belongs to,
- what the episode is about, or
- the podcast cover art (what displays when an individual episode is played).
Some of this is auto-generated by iTunes when it downloads your file from your RSS feed. But it's always best to manually tag every file so you can be the most compatible.
Software to edit ID3 tags
Popular media players like iTunes, Windows Media Player, and VideoLan Client (VLC) Player can edit ID3. But they don't do it very well. Each uses their own version and this means some information may not show up for your listeners. You can sometimes convert the tag version in these media players, but they won't write in that right version by default.
The following software works great across all platforms and uses the more compatible ID3 version 2.3.
ID3 tagging for Windows
ID3 tagging for OS X
- ID3 Editor ($15)
ID3 tagging for Linux
Thanks to “Curbuntu” for sharing these.
What to enter in which ID3 tags
Don't be overwhelmed by the number of fields you can fill out. Only a few are the most important (some may not even be included in your tagging application).
- Track: your episode number. This will help sort episodes chronologically if a player doesn't read the published or modified dates.
- Title: your episode number and title, just like your blog post. For example, “AYJW027: Courageous (2011).”
- Artist: the name(s) of the episode host(s) or name of your network.
- Album: the title of your podcast (remember, this is your whole show, not just an individual episode).
- Year: the year of release.
- Genre: pick what is most appropriate or “Podcast.”
- Comment: a short summary of your episode. This could be the same as your WordPress excerpt, or simply the web address to your shownotes.
- Copyright: your copyright information. I recommend writing it like, “© 2011 D.Joseph Design”—note that “by” is not necessary, and the symbol should aways precede the year. Not all tagging programs have this.
- URL: your shownotes web address. Not all tagging programs have this.
- Cover / picture / album art: your podcast cover art. If you don't have any, hire me to design it for you!
If you have the option to copy the data from the above version 2.3 tags to the version 1 tags, do it. In ID3 Editor, this is as easy as pressing a little button. Other programs will do this automatically.
iTunes overwrites some tags
You may notice that you edit your tags in a certain way, but iTunes changes them to something else. That's because iTunes will differ to the RSS feed for some information.
Overriding this is easy, and sometimes optimal for customizing exactly what you want shown.
- Use Blurry PowerPress Podcasting plugin.
- In WordPress admin, go to PowerPress > Basic Settings.
- Under “Podcast Entry Box,” checkmark the additional fields that you may want to change with each episode.
- Click “Save Changes.”
Again, iTunes will automatically pull these from your feed if you don't manually change the data.
Changing the iTunes episode summary
The most important of these, and maybe the only field you need to care about, is the summary field. By default, this will be the entire contents of your blog post or your excerpt, depending on how you publish your RSS feed (Settings > Reading > “For each article in a feed, show”).
If you use WordPress's “More” functionality to display “excerpts” instead of writing separate excerpts. Then iTunes would still grab the entire blog post.
Overriding this by enabling the Summary field would let you write a more optimal summary for iTunes, iPod, and iPhone listeners.
- Bullet-point list of topics
- Short or memorable links to off-site content
- Feedback information
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