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Reader Michael Rivero has a problem with his music files’ MP3 tags. He writes:

I know it’s relatively simple to acquire Artist, Title, and Album tags from programs such as iEatBrainz, but is there anything available that will acquire the Genre tag, either from one of the free databases (Gracenote) or the iTMS itself? Sadly, all of MP3s have Rock, which makes Smart Playlists pointless and I have far too many to sift through manually if I can possibly avoid it.

The difficulty here is that these free databases aren’t very discerning about genres. It seems that most of them have determined that if a song features an electric guitar and a kick drum whapping away on beats 2 and 4, it’s rock.

So yeah, I’m going to recommend a measure of manual sifting. However, the method I propose may take some of the sting out of it. That method is to put iTunes’ Browser view to good use.

Open iTunes, press Command-B to expose the Browser (if it’s not already visible), and reach into the Artist column. Select an artist and press Command-I to bring up the Multiple Song Information dialog box. Within this dialog box, select a more appropriate genre from the Genre pop-up menu or enter a genre of your own design, and click OK to retag everything by that artist.

I suggest going after the artist rather than album because you’re more likely to tag a greater number of tracks with less effort. For the most part, an artist or band plays the same variety of music throughout their career—I can safely tag everything in my iTunes library by Bill Evans, for example, as Jazz. Obviously there are going to be exceptions—Branford Marsalis has issued both jazz and classical albums and I’m hard pressed to think of a popular genre Neil Young hasn’t explored—so you should be careful when dealing with musical chameleons.

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