Organize Music Collection – ID3 Tags

Published on September 25, 2021 at 8:12 am by LEW


I want to expound on an issue I have come across recently. I decided to organize my music collection from the last forty five years, for media players and computers. It was going quite well, until I started running into a reoccurring problems with “greatest Hits” collections.

The media player I mostly use allows smart play lists. I was trying to set one up a smart playlist that would play random tracks from a particular decade. For example “60s Music” and “70s Music”.

Generally when an album is a compilation, like “greatest hits” type, the sort date for the music is the year the album was released, not the year the song was released. And for some of the older artists, “greatest hits” are the album I would most likely come across.

Tagging Music Files

Most forms of electronic music allow tagging, adding metadata to be saved with the music file. Metadata is things like artist, album name, cover art, etc. ID3 as used in MP3 files is probably the most well know. However there are other formats, such as VorbisComment used in OGG and FLAC files.

A tag has a name and a value. For example “Artist” equals “Artist Name”. Standards like ID3 and VorbisComment have specific defined tags that media players can look for. While there are many tags, most media players only recognize a handful of them. And to complicate the matter, you need to consider the version of the tagging standard, as well as custom tags created by large media appreciations that are not part of any standard.

Tagging the Year

Back to my particular problem. To simplify, I will use ID3 tags in this discussion. However I was able to apply my hack to other tagging formats as well. And make no mistake, this is a hack that works with the music player I most commonly use (Kodi if anyone is interested).

To start ID3 has two versions and multiple sub versions. I skipped over ID3v1, and went straight to Id3v2. if you are really interested, you can go to the ID3 website and read all about it. I was, and I did.

Most music players use the TYER (Year) to tag the year of release for a song. Most online music databases will identify this tag as the year the album the song is on was released, not the year the song was released. Some of these songs are remastered or rerecorded, not just compiled. So overall this approach makes sense.

Repurposed a Tag

For my smart playlist decade problem, I needed another tag. The one I chose was TORY (Original Release year). Technically this tag is for multiple releases of the same album. For example ABBA Gold has six releases and multiple regional variations, each slightly different.

I repurposed this tag for the original release year of the song. Many ID3 tag editors recognize this tag, and will let you edit it. For example, using MP3tag, you can customize the display to include this tag. Just right click in the tag box, chose customize, and then add new tag.

Most media player software does not recognize this tag, so ignores it. Meaning I can repurposed it without any side effects in most players.

However if you are using Kodi, you can select Original Year as a rule for smart playlists. For example, my 60’s Music has two rules. Original Year Greater than 1959 and Original Year less than 1970. So far this has been working great, and I have not had any issues with other media players.


I am currently listening to my 70s Music playlist while I write this. As I said this is sort of a hack, using a tag that is not normally used to reflect the release year of a song, and not the release date of the compilation.

The only caveat/problem you might run into is if you are using tagging software like Picard, it will rewrite the tag back to album release date.

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