Technological Overthinking #2 | Sony Walkman Album Art

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One recurrent technological question I have is why MP3 players never display album artwork consistently. The issue often seems random; when I get some albums working, others are blank in their place. So I wanted to figure out what the problem was and write them down for future reference.

As I’ve used some kind of Sony Walkman MP3 player since about 2008, I initially checked posts and articles about Sony players. However, the same issue applies with multiple brands of MP3 players and various other devices like digital photo frames.

Many people with Sony Walkman players have posted about cover art issues on Sony’s support website. But the official answers just tell people to transfer songs to their Walkman using Sony’s Content Transfer software, without explaining why the issue exists. I wanted to fix the issue within the music programs I already use (MediaMonkey and Mp3tag) instead of adding another program into the mix.

After looking on multiple subreddits and software forums, I found three essential criteria for making album art and other tags show up properly on the Sony MP3 players. (All criteria may apply to other MP3 players as as well, and the “baseline” JPG criteria may resolve issues with car infotainment systems and digital photo frames).

1) Every song must be tagged using ID3 tag version 2.3.
2) Every song’s artwork must be embedded into its ID3 tag.
3) Every artwork image must be a JPG. More specifically, it must be a “baseline” JPG rather than a “progressive” JPG.

Now I’ll explain what all of those words mean, and the steps that I followed to make my song files and cover artworks fit these criteria. It’s important for me to clarify that each individual part was figured out by someone else; I’m just putting them together so that I can show the steps all in one place.

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Technological Overthinking #1 | Music Library

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I can understand why streaming services have become so popular: being able to access a large library of familiar and new music that can’t be erased by a faulty hard drive or a wrong button-press is appealing. But, like most techies, I lean towards the “control” side of the convenience-control spectrum in many situations.

For music specifically, I prefer ownership over streaming. I like being able to buy albums from multiple places, store them and back them up wherever I wish, and play them on software I already use, rather than being restricted to specific marketplaces or software clients. (I would also rather rely on my storage and backups than on the unbelievably complex licensing arrangements between streaming services and publishers). For me, staying on team “offline library” was the obvious choice.

Investigating an issue with my MP3 player last year led me to an interesting program called Bliss, which I’ll give its own post in future. In short, Bliss manages your music library based on rules that you define. You set rules about how you want files to be labelled, named, and organised, and Bliss either highlights files which don’t fit the rules so that you can edit them, or adjusts them to meet the rules automatically.

Although Bliss is overkill for my relatively small and wholly-offline library, I really liked its rule-based approach. So I’ve taken the rules I decided on within Bliss and recreated them inside my desktop software of choice, MediaMonkey.

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