Zune Software Bugs: What's In A Name? - Shawn Oster
Shawn Oster (gravatar)

Zune Software Bugs: What's In A Name?

The Zune has a great feature where you can sync music from a PC to your Zune and then copy that music from the Zune to a different PC. Some people seem to think you can't copy music off the Zune to a different machine, which is wrong.

Of course with the good comes the bad.  When you copy a song off the Zune it uses the Rip Music settings to create the folder and filename.  This wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't so broken.  Here are some bugs related to this particular feature.

1.  You can't specify the folder structure.  I hope you like \Artist\Album\Track Title because that's all you'll get.

2. Limited (worthless) separators.  The default is 01 Sample Song Name.MP3.  That's not bad looking but the other 17,482 songs in my library all look like 01 - Sample Song Name.MP3 instead.  Luckily there's a dash separator option but guess what that gives you?

01-Sample Song Name.MP3

Notice the fancy way it doesn't insert spaces?!  I've been dealing with mp3 files since the beginning of time (seriously, when Winamp, Freeamp and Sonique were the only players in the desktop arena) and of the thousands of songs I've seen others tag I've maybe seen the "dash with no spaces" separator style about 2% of the time.  90% of the time it's "dash with spaces".

3.  Microsoft has a long history of using the Album Artist tag to organize the library instead of the more standard "Artist" field.  Many a person has been burned/annoyed/angered by this, personally I'm just dead inside from having to deal with it.

A common issue is only seeing part of an album in WMP because half the songs have an "Album Artist" of "Paul Oakenfold" while the other half have "Oakenfold", yet they all have "Paul Oakenfold" as the Artist.  Annoying, yah?  The usual way around this is to just blank out the "Album Artist" field and WMP/Zune will instead use the Artist field like everyone else.

All is fine using this work-around UNTIL you copy music without an "Album Artist" field.  Instead of using the Artist field if the Album Artist field doesn't exist it decides to create a folder called "Unknown Artist".  Well, isn't that useful?  So while the Zune software correctly shows "Tenacious D" as the artist it copies it to my work computer underneath "Unknown Artist" because of the missing Album Artist.

Sometimes I wonder if anyone on the Zune software team actually listened to MP3s before the iPod?  Do any of them remember burning CD after CD late into the night and carefully naming/tagging everything?  Has anyone there actually used anything *besides* WMP to play/manage their music?  Does anyone remember the time there weren't any online music stores and ALL music was either a) ripped straight from CD or b) pirated via the "real" Napster?

If anyone did remember they'd know that the filename format is sacred, you just don't mess with a person's personal filename format.


  • @Shad: No problem, the Zune software allows more than one Zune to call your computer 'home'. When you buy your new Zune it'll be a separate device in the software and it'll be able to tell whether your wife's or your traveling Zune are connected. Since you're going straight from computer to Zune there is no 3-play to worry about.You can find the official word about it under the rather dry topic of "Syncing Multiple Devices" on the Zune site.

  • @Shad - The problem you're running into is the lack of solid metadata editing in Zune. The short version is that you need to change the artist AND album artist metadata. Here's the long version of how I do it: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.That should get you going.

  • Anonymous (gravatar)

    Anonymous said
    February 27, 2008

    The whole Unknown artist thing was getting very annoying, but this blog helped 100% Thank you very much =)

  • Anonymous (gravatar)

    Anonymous said
    February 27, 2008

    Thanks a bunch Shawn. That fixed my issues. Much appreciated!

  • Anonymous (gravatar)

    Anonymous said
    February 27, 2008

    I did what you said about editing the metadata manually with that software and it still won't put it in the folder with all the cd's from the same artist, instead it's saying it's in the unknown artist category even though the name comes up correctly and it has the album art. Never have I seen such poor software from microsoft, I didn't even have many problems with the old version.

  • Dude, whats the method for the Zune to PC sync? I didn't see it outlined in the blog entry, but I agree that filenames shouldn't be messed with.

  • Joel, here's what I do:1. Install Zune software on PC you want to sync to (in my case my wife's laptop and my work PC).2. Plug your Zune into PC.3. Select it as Guest.4. Click on that little whirly icon in the upper right to open up the Sync pane.5. Select your Zune and drag whatever you want over into the Sync pane.6. The normal "Sync Now" or whatever button on the bottom will now instead read "Copy From Device"7. It puts your content in the folder you have marked as your Rip folder.Ta da, easy way to get your content off. Of course a few gotchas...- It messes with your file names.- No real "auto-sync" where it just automatically copies everything from Zune to PC, you have to do it yourself.Anyway, that works for me.

  • Thanks Shawn. I'll mess around with that later on tonight. I was also wondering about loading my music library onto multiple Zunes. I have the one I purchased for my wife and I will most likely buy another one for using in my business for some archiving and playback. Any ideas on how to get the files to transfer over and not be restricted to 3 plays from my own library? BTW- I don't download music and all of my collection is from either purchased CDs or disks I burned from artists that recorded in my studio.Thanks!

  • 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?

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