Digital Etiquette for MP3 Creators

This is a friendly call for creators of MP3’s to follow some very simple guidelines that  will make end users lives easier, and be a testimony to the messages we preach & teach.   If you value the material you post publicly on the Internet, please demonstrate it’s value by following these 3 very simple guidelines.

1. Edit the ID3 tags thoughtfully.  ID3 tags are the meta information that allows users to locate material based on the artist/speaker, album, name, date, etc.  A large percentage of MP3’s have no ID3 tags whatsoever.  They are simply identified by the file name, which is so over encrypted and unintelligible to be of any use.  Fill in the speakers name in the ‘artist’ category. Use ‘album’ to identify the preaching series or workshop.  Fill in the ‘name’ or ‘title’ section with a clear title .

2. Be consistent with your naming convention. I have seen quite a number of series or conferences that vary the spelling of a name, and each variation appears within it’s tag differently.  I can’t tell you how many Don Carson names I have to scour to find my Don Carson audio  (D. A. Carson, DA Carson, D A Carson, Don Carson, Dr. Don Carson, Dr Don Carson, Dr. D. A. Carson, Dr DA Carson…you get the idea).  This happens within series or conferences. Personally I think the ‘Dr.’ bit adds an unnecessary level of complexity.  When you add a ‘Dr.’ or ‘Dr’ or ‘Dr. __’ the problem becomes exponential.  Watch that you don’t mistakenly put a space before or after the name as this will also create a new instance of the tag.

3.  Compress your files.  We don’t need to waste bandwidth or hard drive space.  I still see 1 hour speech files as large as 90 mb.  That’s more than 3 times what is necessary.  You should be able to get 60 minutes below 25 mb with little loss of quality.  Switch off stereo and you reduce it by half.  The speaker is talking into one mic, which makes stereo needless.   There are plenty of good compression tools on the net.  Audacity is a very good free package.

We live in a digital world, and we produce digital content.  Let’s take care that what digital content we create has as much care applied to it’s digital format as the care we use in the exegesis of the message contained within.

Thank you.

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21 thoughts on “Digital Etiquette for MP3 Creators

  1. Brian, I’m guilty of leaving stereo on too. Most software packages default to stereo and are sometimes very difficult to discover how to switch them to mono.

  2. Thanks for pointing all those out. As i often have a limited amount of downloads available to me to use it is very frustrating to have to miss out on downloading something that would have been interesting because the file size is so unnecessarily big.

  3. That was a very useful technical pointer. Would it be possible to give a fully technical and more comprehensive article, along with some freeware tools, to do these things such as compression.

    Johnson C. Philip, PhD (Physics)
    India

  4. Dr. Johnson, I’ll have to look around for a technical article that someone who knows more than me has written. If you are Mac based, Garage Band is a very good recording package and easy to use. Adobe has Audition. On the freeware market the one I’ve had the most success with is Audacity (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/) but it’s clunky. It took me a good 30 minutes to figure out how to change a stereo file to mono. And I’ve forgotten how I did it now. I’m sure there are others but I’m not familiar with them.

  5. One other recommendation: If your messages are more than 79 mins. long, it may be helpful to break it into two files. Many of us download the messages and burn them onto a disc, in order to listen to it during our commute. A standard CD will allow a 79-min. message, but not longer.

    itunes does have a function which allows you to burn a lengthy file onto two CDs, but those who use RealPlayer or another program may be unable to transer the files onto a CD.

    -phil

  6. Good points. Another good reason to set the ID tags is that most mp3 players (including the ubiquitous ipod) rely on them for browsing. If you transfer a file on without them, you won’t be able to play it.

  7. Excellent post. I spend lots of unnecessary time cleaning up the tags and filenames of the MP3 sermons and lectures that I download so I can listen to them on my MP3 player.

    Audacity does appear to be among the best freeware audio editors out there. While there may be a bit of a learning curve, they have several tutorials available at:

    http://audacity.sourceforge.net/help/

    And, lest we forget, we lived in blessed times when we can download and listen to sermons and lectures from gifted teachers all over the world with only an Internet connection.

  8. Oh, and for those of us on the downloading side, Mp3tag (www.mp3tag.de/en/) is a great tool for cleaning up tags and filenames on MP3s.

  9. That is a great post regarding the MP3 compression. I do agree that much of the content can get compressed far more than it is currently. An exception would be the audiobooks/Bibles that people purchase. We deliver the vast majority of content in 64k at least because it is high quality and most of it paid for. We want to ensure a great listening experience.

  10. I use the LAME exe and the following string:

    LAME -m m -V8 -q0 -B128 –lowpass 11.6 –resample 24

    Thanks to Highland Village Church for that compression technique.

    I can get a 45-50 min sermon in under 10mb however it tends to confuse mp3 players, who can’t correctly get the sermon length from analyzing the file.

  11. Audacity is a great program.

    Can anyone point me to some id3 tag tutorials? I try to enter them and have even used mp3tag, but the data I enter never seems to match up with iTunes so some of the field data is incorrect (e.g., what I enter as “Artist” ends up in “Description” in iTunes or whatever).

    Or am I the only one who has this problem?

  12. Just as a pedant’s note – some microphones are stereo and produce independent L and R channels (like the one I use for recording sermons). But even using mono on those microphones (middle and side microphones) should be fine for the spoken word, and is the quickest way to slash file sizes.

    Helpful post.

  13. I find these to be problems as well. However, I change ID3 tags myself after downloading material. This way, all of my MP3’s are organized to my liking and standard.

  14. I would add the following:

    1.keep a high quality copy for the future when downloading larger files is no problem.

    2. The very first words should identify the following sermon. When people listen in their car and want to find the right sermon (a cd full of mp3 sermons that all start with the same 30 second talky intro intro, or music, is not very helpful. (take note, Desiring God!) Either just have the first words of the pastor or the scripture reading, or a clip of someone reading the sermon title. Mp3 players, or car stereos don’t always give you the full title/id tags, and often if driving you can’t use them.

    I love audio sermons.

  15. Sorry to blow your third point, but converting a file to mono does not halve its size. I’ve just done a test to confirm what I already knew. The stereo and mono versions are identical in size. I use Adobe Audition (v 3) and use the Joint Stereo settings.

    Maybe it’s my imagination, but I find a slight volume boost with stereo files against mono ones. I find this particularly helpful in the car since I drive an older model with significant road noise. What is particularly unhelpful is mono files that have not been normalized. I’ve often been disappointed on a long journey at having to abandon a message I really wanted to listen to because it wasn’t loud enough.

    I do agree, however, that many files are oversized. Sermons are speech and don’t need 128k, 32, 40, or 48 will usually do. And I also find the lack of ID3 tags a sore point.

  16. Peter, you are right AND wrong at the same time. The issue is bound up in bit rate, and consequently, in how your particular software is programmed, and what options it gives the user to control the package.

    You usually have 2 primary options to consider. One is bit rate. The other is quality. If I choose a bit rate for a file, and export it once as mono and then once as stereo, the conversion will hit that bit rate on both accounts, which means your file size will be the same for both. The difference will be in the quality of the audio streams. The mono stream will have more quality, whereas the dual stereo streams will have more compression, and therefore less quality. The question is, will it make a perceptible difference? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. This is probably how you used Adobe Audition.

    If you choose a quality level, then you will begin to see some differences in file size, again depending upon who is behind the programming. But bottom line is that fundamentally, stereo does increase file size over mono significantly. ‘Joint stereo’ is a bit of a mix, but again depending upon whether you have a target bitrate or target quality will change the outcome. The question is, does your software package give you enough control to optimize high quality audio with small file size? Mono is the way to go.

    There is some good technical information here: http://ff123.net/

    I have had very good success with Audacity using the LAME encoder, all free at Sourceforge.

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