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CD ripping, digital music, music streaming, iPod / iTunes / Sonos - various thoughts, suggestions, ideas, odd ramblings ….

Box Sets, CD Ripping and Feedback

Let’s not call it a complaint, it’s really feedback. When dealing with boxed sets, how do we convert those CDs into a digital music library?

The comment was that the client has a box set, yet when he looked at the music library we’d created he couldn’t see those discs where he expected them to be. After a little digging he was happy to see they were all in his library, just not annotated the way he’d thought we’d do it.

Why were we “wrong”?

When we lookup each CD in our online databases the system looks for a digital fingerprint - essentially the total length of the CD, number of tracks, length of each track. These numbers are sufficient in the vast majority of cases to uniquely identify each CD correctly.

Our databases register the first pressing of each CD.

In real life this is what happens. An artist records some music and it’s released under a name - let’s call it Beethoven 1. A little later the same performers release another, perhaps that’s Beethoven 3. Two discs, each uniquely tagged and entered into the databases we use.

Then a bright spark at the label realises if the same people record Beethoven 2 they can realise a small box set called Beethoven 1, 2 & 3. each piece of plastic is repainted to provide a consistent image and off they go to market in a neat little box.

How were we “wrong”?

Without any intervention when we rip those three CDs the client will see in the music library:-

Beethoven 1

Beethoven 3

Beethoven 1, 2 & 3 - (Disc 2)

All the music is there, correctly listed and tagged, with appropriate cover art to the original pressing. What the client expected to see was:-

Beethoven 1, 2 & 3 - (Disc 1)

Beethoven 1, 2 & 3 - (Disc 2)

Beethoven 1, 2 & 3 - (Disc 3)

Why did we do it “wrong”?

When I started ripping CDs I was concerned that people would be able to see what we’d done for them and we could justify our charges. It seemed unfair to me that if people had two copies of the same CD we’d charge them twice for it - after all, you only want one version in your library. I know from experience routing out the duplicate albums can save clients £25 or more on a reasonable sized CD collection.

What is a boxed set anyway?

For me, it’s a construct that makes some sense. The first type of sense is one that relates to the performer or the composer. Going back to Beethoven a collection of his symphonies makes sense, as does a collection of piano or violin compositions, or indeed all the music he composed.

The second sense is essentially for packaging or economic purposes. As an example I present the boxed set of The Smiths CDs. Each is available singly, each released singly, they stand on their own but the label helpfully offers fans the chance to save the bother of buying each on its own.

The Customer is Always Right …..

So this is how we plan to tackle boxed sets going forward. If we pick up the disc on its own, it will be ripped as a single CD. If we find we have the box set (that is, a set which in my terms “makes sense”) then that collection of CDs will be ripped as Disc 1, Disc 2 and so on - even in the case of the Mozart Complete set, all the way up to Disc 170.

Where the set is put together primarily for marketing reasons then each disc will be ripped as a CD on its own.

Any downside to this?

Well, there could be, and it’s simply financial. Some clients may end up being charged once when the first disc is ripped then again when it appears in the boxed set. As clients have said, for them it’s not the end of the world, and for some it is what they would prefer. We do have a way round this so if it’s a huge financial issue for any client we can address that.

Be it a complaint or feedback we want to get your CD ripping right.


© Jeff Underwood 2011–2015 Contact