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Making Your CD’s Song Titles Appear In iTunes

3:27 pm Home Recording

So you finally finished recording enough songs for a CD of your music. Or maybe your band has accumulated enough decent live recordings to collect onto a “Promo CD” to show off the band. You’ve burned the CD and made a few copies, you’ve even printed up some cover art. Wow! You’re ready to roll. Or are you?

If this were 1997, hey, you would be good to go. But as they say, that was then, this is now. Now, the very fact that you are putting your music on a CD is considered somewhat retro! Most people will either play your CD on a laptop or other computer or, more likely, they will import it into iTunes, where your songs will get mixed in with all the songs by Arcade Fire or Jefferson Airplane or whatever they have on there.

Here’s the problem. When you first pop your home-burned CD into your MacBook, iTunes comes up, ready to import. But what are these song titles it’s showing? Instead of “Dreams Of Saskatchewan”, the first song seems to be called “Track 01″. The second song is “Track 02″, that’s not right either. They’re all like that!

What’s more, if you put your CD into a regular CD player, perhaps in your car or home theater system (remember, DVD players will play CDs), it will not display the song titles like it does when you put in the latest Jack White CD. How could it? You haven’t told it what they are!

The fact is, if you don’t do something about this, the appeal of your CD could be greatly reduced, especially for habitual downloaders. So, you’re saying, how can I get the correct song titles to appear when I import my CD under iTunes or play it in a player?

Manual Labor

Let’s start with the iTunes situation. You could edit each song title right there in the CD song list display (click on the title with the song already selected). Don’t forget to also edit the “Artist” field for each one so that your name (or your band’s) will remain “attached” to each song in iTunes. Oh, and you might as well edit the “Album” field for each song to do the same with the CD title. Once you’re done, you can import the CD, and all of your songs will be there with titles and artists and album names just like everyone else!

As you’ve probably figured out, this is way too much trouble to bother with! Not only that, the changes you make this way affect only your own computer and your own copy of iTunes. Everyone else will still get the “Track 01″ routine. And it still won’t show the titles on the car CD player. What to do?

Text By the Book

Well, the first thing you need to do is to burn the CD again, but this time include CD-Text data. Check your CD-burning software for details on how to do this - it’s probably in there somewhere, as CD-Text has been around for quite a while. (The Wikipedia article on CD-Text is most illuminating if you are interested in the gory details.) If it won’t write CD-Text, get better software!  I use Steinberg WaveLab Essential myself.

Your software will probably give you a lot of CD-Text fields to fill out, but the most important are the aforementioned CD Title, Artist, Album Title, and of course the individual Song Titles. Be sure to assign a Genre to the CD as well, as this is required by a later step in this process.

Once all the CD-Text info (also known as “metadata”) has been specified, burn yourself a new copy of the CD. Now, when you confidently pop this CD into your laptop, iTunes comes right up and offers to import songs called…….”Track 01″. And “Track 02″. And so on, right down the list! It looks exactly the same as the other CD. No actual song titles, nor anything else from the metadata. So what went wrong?

Need the Info

Well, nothing went wrong, and in fact if you take this new CD out to the car you will find that now the CD and song info is showing up on your player just like it does when you put in that Gogol Bordello CD that’s always in the car. So we are making progress!

The fact is that, for reasons I don’t know, iTunes ignores the CD-Text that you burned onto the disc. iTunes, it turns out, is looking for a different set of CD and song metadata (sometimes called “CD-Info”) on your computer, and if it can’t find that it checks the Great Database In the Sky for the info. But your CD isn’t in the Great Database, and your computer doesn’t have the CD-Info. Hence “Track 01″.

When you were supposedly editing in all those song titles and the artist name and all that jazz earlier in this article, you were actually filling in the CD-Info fields for that CD right there on your computer. But (a) we need a way to fill in the CD-Info automatically, and (b) we want the CD and song info to show up on anyone’s computer, not just ours!

To convert CD-Text to CD-Info automatically, there is no better tool (in fact, there apparently is no other tool) than CD Text To CD Info v2.0 from Doug’s AppleScripts for iTunes. This tool, which is for Macintosh only (sorry, PC users, what can I say), is a free download that installs easily as a Script within iTunes. Once it is installed, a little icon appears at the top of the iTunes window. When you click it, the script allows you to transfer the CD-Text from the disc to the CD-Info area in your computer.

Once this is done, you will find that the song titles not only show up in iTunes now without you typing them in, but they also “stick”. The next time you load the CD in iTunes, there they are again!

Going To Gracenote

OK, one more problem. Everything is set up just fine on your computer now. But if you sell a few copies of your CD at a gig, the people buying it will see that same old “Track 01″ business if they put it into their computers. We need to get our song titles into that Great Database In the Sky!

The Database In the Sky is actually called Gracenote (formerly CDDB). When you pop a regular CD into your laptop, iTunes comes up and sends an inquiry to Gracenote that includes information identifying that particular CD. (This info includes items like the number of tracks, the exact length of each - to the sample - and so on.) If that CD is found in the database, Gracenote sends the CD and song info to iTunes and it all shows up in the CD import window!

Note that this only works if the computer is online when the CD is inserted.  A “fresh” computer that has never played the CD and is not online will revert to “Track 01″.

To submit your song titles to Gracenote, simply select the CD in the iTunes sidebar, then click on “Submit CD Track Names…” under the Advanced menu and follow the directions.  (This is where you need to have the Genre specified.) And that’s it!

When I was testing all this stuff out for this article, the song titles for my test CD became available within an hour after I uploaded the info to Gracenote. That’s fast! In any case, it should rarely take longer than a couple of hours.

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