Ever wonder how your computer knows the song titles when you insert an audio CD? The answer is more complicated than you might think. Ideally, that information would be written onto the disc itself, but the creators of the CD format weren’t so forward-thinking. CD-Text, a later development, does just that, but few players can read it (nonetheless, I still encode it on every disc I master).
Usually, the information comes from CDDB (short for Compact Disc DataBase), owned by a company called Gracenote. When iTunes or another compatible software application sees you’ve inserted an audio CD, it uses the durations of the tracks as a “fingerprint” to calculate a proprietary disc ID. It then queries CDDB with that ID to receive the artist name, CD title, and track list.
So how does Gracenote get the information in the first place? From whoever submits it first. So if you’re an artist, could someone submit your CD as The Poop Show Variety Hour? Yes they could, though you could always submit corrections (UPDATE 9/6/10: Maybe not! The link to the corrections page went bad). You might as well beat them to the punch by doing it yourself.
In iTunes, you just fill in the album information and select “Submit CD Track Names” from the Advanced menu. As you can see from the screenshot below, the “genre” needs to match one of their predefined choices.
There’s no need to wait until your pressed CDs come back from replication. The reference burn your mastering engineer provides is bit-for-bit identical to the final product, so you might as well use it.
I won’t detail the entire history of CDDB, but in 2001 Gracenote banned all unlicensed applications from accessing the database. That motivated the freedb project, which basically does the same thing for free. I used Exact Audio Copy to submit my album’s info to freedb. I routinely use EAC to rip CDs and encode the absolute best quality mp3 files, but I’ll talk about that at a later date.
Two other similar databases are MusicBrainz, which is community run, and AMG LASSO, maintained by the same folks who provide artist and album information to music sites like Pandora and Last.fm. I could download the MusicBrainz Tagger software and submit album information myself, but I’m going to trust the community to do it right, as they’ve done with all my previous releases. I’ve already sent a copy of the album to AMG, so I trust it’ll get into their database. I’ll explain what they do soon.