Getting Artists to show up correctly in the Zune software

Ever have an artist not show up where you expected in the Zune software?  Ever swear it’s correctly labeled ‘Red Hot Chili Peppers’ yet it’s showing up under ‘Unknown Artist’ instead?  How about this one, you can find it in the software but under the Zune it’s in the wrong place?  The culprit here is the Zune software’s really weird use the artist and album artist metadata bundled inside the file.  I consider this a huge and highly annoying bug.

A lot of tracks out there only have the ‘Artist’ field filled out while a second, less-used field ‘Album Artist’, sometimes called ‘Band’, is empty.  The Zune, instead of defaulting to the artist when it has an empty album artist, puts all those tracks under the dreaded ‘Unknown Artist’ section.

I just had this comment on an older blog post showing just how frustrating this can be, Shad said…

I am having a hell of a time getting CDs that I recorded in my commercial recording studio to show up as anything other than Unknown Artist. I finally got the folders that I have labeled (by right clicking and renaming them) to show up in the software but when I sync to my PC and update the Zune, they do not show up as "Unknown Artist" in the Zune. I cannot find them at all on the Zune. Any ideas?

I answered him in the comments but thought I’d repeat the steps I use to fix this issue here:

  1. Download and install mp3tag or any other tag editing program. I just like this one because it’s straight forward, free, and small in size.
  2. After you install it run the software.
  3. On the menu go to Tools, then Options.
  4. Select the ‘Tag Panel’ node on the left.
  5. Click the ‘Add Field’ icon on the right, looks like a rectangle with a star.
  6. Under ‘Field’ select BAND.
  7. Under ‘Name’ type ‘Album Artist’ or ‘Band’. Doesn’t matter, it’s for your eyes only.
  8. OK out of everything.
  9. Drag & drop the files or folder of files you want to edit into the main white area of the app.
  10. You’ll notice on the left side you can edit all the metadata about your tracks. Make sure to edit both ‘Artist’ and ‘Album Artist’ to be the same thing.
  11. Save.
  12. Sometimes the Zune software will pick up on your new information, sometimes you have to kick it a little by renaming the file.
  13. Everything should be rocking now!

Another great thing about mp3tag is that it can rename your files using your metadata, can add cover art or look it up from Amazon and guess at what the metadata should be based on filename.  It supports pretty much every single audio format I’ve thrown at it as well that supports metadata.  The renaming is nice because the Zune software lacks the ability to customize how your files are named.

Any questions drop them in the comments.