Genres suck.

Having obtained a suitably large hard drive, I am currently in the
process of ripping MP3s from all of my CDs. One part of this exercise
is tagging them with id3 tags, and in the back of my mind I know that
I have to have everything tagged just right if I am to be happy with
the results when I’m finished.

I had some trouble getting id3lib to work on the machine I’m ripping
on, so I’ve been just doing id3v1 tags for now, which will work fine
because I can generate the rest of the id3v2 tag from the file and
directory names of the files later.

Now, id3v1 sucks in a variety of ways. The most obvious way it sucks
is very short fixed-length fields (someone commented once that
id3v1 looks like it was written in Fortran, and that id3v2 looks
like it was written in Fortran95). I can live with that.

But id3 has a field, “Genre”, whose implementation is truly colossal
suckage — the field contains an integer which corresponds to a
genre in a fixed list of genres that someone, somewhere
decided were all the possibilities. There is no option for user-defined
genres. You use what’s there, and barring extensions (which has
happened once already), no new forms of music ever exist.

But that’s not the half of it — to understand why it sucks,
you really must read the
genre list
. I can’t begin to imagine how they came up with
the list, but I can imagine what kind of music the people
that came up with the list listened to. Note that there
is “Classical”, “Country”, and “Jazz” — but a gazillion kinds of
electronica, and strange things like “Space” and “Dream” and
“Pranks” (which is not “Comedy” for some reason), presumably because
the implementors owned a couple MP3s, or maybe a whole album,
in each of these categories.

So I guess blindly just to give it a tag, and then I file it by
a different arbitrary list of genres in the directory hierarchy
GENRE/Artist/Album etc. — but this is sucking for
the same reason. I have a “BJORK” genre. I have “Electronica” which
is huge and “JPOP” which is ridiculously narrow.

I realize that the proper solution to this is to stop trying to
organize the filesystem into genres and just use playlists, which
is what I will probably start doing. But I’m curious — how have the
rest of you solved the problem of organizing kinds of music?

(To save you the trouble: I know Ogg Vorbis has a text field for genre.
I’m not interested in Ogg because the point here is to have music
to play in the car, and I’m happy to use the extra disk space and
lame –r3mix to get the
quality level I want.)

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