I’ve been wondering for a while now how those little Explicit or E tags that show up in iTunes. It turns out it’s a relatively simple ID3 tag added to the song, but it does require some setup.
Before getting started
You’re going to need the following software packages installed:
Also, you’ll want to be aware that this tag only works if applied to AAC formatted music. iTunes does not show the icon in iTunes with MP3 formatted music even if the tag is there.
Converting to AAC
If you want to add these tags to your music so that the music shows up as E for explicit or C for clean, you will need to convert your music to the AAC format which produces an .m4a container. How do you convert your MP3s to AAC in iTunes? Here’s how you do it…
- In iTunes go to iTunes menu => Preferences
- Under General, click the Import Settings button
- Change the Import Using drop down to read AAC Encoder.
- Click OK, then click OK again to close preferences.
The above sets your import and conversion settings to AAC.
To convert a song, use these steps:
- Find a song you would like to convert in iTunes
- Click on the song so it is highlighted
- File menu => Convert => AAC Version
- Conversion will start immediately. You will see up and down arrows appear in the status bar at the top.
- When conversion is complete, it will be in the same folder where the original song is located.
- iTunes will also automatically import the song into your library (but not into the any playlists).
- If you wish to find the song, search in the upper right search panel and you will find two of the same songs in your library. One of them is the AAC version, probably the bottom one.
Adding the ID3 Tag
Open up kid3 from your Applications folder (or wherever you put it). Here are the steps…
- In the left panel, navigate to the newly converted AAC song and click highlight it.
- Make sure the Tag 2 is open and you’re seeing the metadata for the track (i.e., Artist, Title, etc)
- Under Tag 2, click the Add button.
- In the Add Frame window and in the Select the Frame ID field, type in Rating (or drop down and select). Click OK
- When the Text panel opens next, add what rating you want from this list:
- 1 = Explicit (E)
- 2 = Clean (C)
- (Meaning… from the above list type in the number ‘1’ or the number ‘2’ only)
- Click OK to finish adding your tag with the rating.
Note that you will need to save your tags and completely quit out of Kid3 before iTunes will play the song. Kid3 leaves the file open after editing preventing iTunes from getting access to it until kid3 is closed.
Open up the Subler app. Perform the following steps:
- File menu => Open…
- Navigate to and select the *.m4a music file, then click Open
- When the metadata area shows up below in the Subler window, click the + at the bottom of the window
- Choose Content Rating from the drop down
- On the highlighted Content Rating line
- Click on None and change it to Explicit or Clean
- Save the file with File menu => Save
Subler does not leave the file open after editing like kid3.
Once finished adding the tag to the file, double click the AAC version of the file in iTunes to begin playing it. iTunes automatically re-reads ID3 tags on play and the ‘E’ or ‘C’ should now appear on the song’s listing.
MP3 versus AAC
I convert all of my music to MP3 for one very good reason… compatibility. If I choose to move out of the Apple camp for another music player, I don’t have to worry about converting all of my music back or in any having any weird AAC incompatibility issues. While I like having these flags on the songs, I prefer compatibility over tying myself to Apple. I started with mp3’s in my library and I’m continuing that trend. It’s not that AAC is a bad format, it just started out badly because Apple had to create their own.
It irks me just a little that iTunes doesn’t respect this tag on MP3 files even though they could. I also don’t relish the thought of having to convert all of my music from mp3 back to AAC. That process is like copying a copy. It will degrade the music even more simply by converting an mp3 to AAC. I also don’t want to dig out all of my CDs and re-import them as AAC. That’s also not an option. It took me several months just to import my collection to mp3. So, I’m not anxious to revisit that process a second time.
For me, I will convert or use this tagging for limited one-off purposes. That is, if the song is truly explicit, I may convert it to AAC just for that song just so I can add that tag. For songs which are not explicit, it’s way too much effort just to add that little C when I already know the song is clean without it.
Please leave a comment below if you found this tutorial helpful.
iTunes 12 has been out since just about the release of Yosemite. In the fall, out of the box iTunes 12 looks like iTunes 11, with that horrible all new interface that Apple foisted onto us. Well, all is not lost. You can now make iTunes 12 look and act a whole lot more like iTunes 10. Though, keep in mind that it’s not a perfect reincarnation of iTunes 10, for most purposes it is still very functional. Let’s explore.
The New Interface
When you first kick off iTunes 12 (or 11 for that matter), you’ll see that it shows your albums as large icons. If you click an icon, it expands and shows track listings below it in a split screen setup.
Here’s a tutorial video that shows what can be done. This video is HD, so you should expand it full screen to see the detail.
Obviously there are still differences between iTunes 12 and iTunes 10, such as the row of buttons moved to the top rather than in the left playlist sidebar. But, these are more cosmetic than a problem. As long as I can get to list mode that I am most familiar with using, this was my biggest gripe with the the new iTunes views. I’m glad they’re back.
Searching, Movies and Playlists
Searching has changed somewhat. When you search, you will get search results by song and by album. This is relatively handy when creating a new playlist. You simply drag the album over and drop it on playlists and it will create a new playlist. Though, the playlist info is shown on the right including renaming it. Once you click ‘Done’, it will be saved into the playlist sidebar and you can edit it there the normal way.
You can also create playlists that now contain movies. So, you can drag your favorite trilogies over and create a playlist of these films. It will them play the playlist in order. These will also show in the left sidebar under Playlists when on Movies. The Playlists view is in the center section.
If you highlight all of the tracks in list view then right click and ‘Get Info’, you can paste the art in the upper right corner with the keyboard (as long as it’s on the clipboard already) and then save. It will then apply the art to every selected track. This is not much different from iTunes 10 if you used the get info panel. However, if you used the drag and drop method in the lower left of the window, that method is no longer here.
Unfortunately, Cover Flow is still not back in iTunes 12. It’s funny too, because Cover Flow is still available as an option in MacOS X Yosemite in Finder. I don’t fully understand why it was removed from iTunes 11, but for whatever reason was left in MacOS X. This is inconsistent and odd. Apple is usually very consistent in UI design, mirroring whatever is in the OS in the applications. For whatever reason, the iTunes engineers have inexplicably removed Cover Flow from iTunes. I know that there was a lawsuit against Apple for the use of Cover Flow. So, it’s possible it was removed from iTunes 11 to satisfy that patent lawsuit. Apple, just pay the friggin’ patent trolls off and put Cover Flow back in.
While I still like iTunes 10 for many reasons (full screen artwork), the small art panel in the lower left, etc. These are small concessions when considering an upgrade to iTunes 12 when you need to manage your library and you need to sync your latest iOS devices. Most all of the functionality I used is now back in iTunes 12 and I’m glad that it’s there. The ugly horrid album view is, mostly, a memory for me. I use that view only for films because it makes sense. I want to see the movie poster to know that’s the movie I want to watch. For albums, I want the track lists in the original way that made it easier to manage.
So, there you go. It’s now easy to get your iTunes 12 install very close to the way iTunes 10 use to work. Of course, there are still some things that haven’t been added back in. Though, the list view that looks like iTunes 10 is the thing that allowed me to finally upgrade to this this latest version.
Update for iTunes 12.4+
As of iTunes 12.4, Apple has once again rearranged the UI interface in Apple’s never ending revisionist tendencies. So now they’ve have added more buttons and buried some functions. They also removed the drop down available on playlists to make for easy configuration. The option is still there, but it’s now buried in a menu.
To change the playlist look-and-feel, you must now use the View=>Show View Options menu selection or use the ⌘J keystroke to bring up the options window.
As you can see in the image to the left, the top most portion is what is most important for playlist setup. Click ‘View As’ to change the way the playlist looks. This drop down was formerly at the top of the playlist bar, but has now been removed. The only place where this option is now is in the View Options panel.
I guess Apple is now taking pages from Microsoft’s book of UI design. Meaning, they are now choosing to bury things under tons of mouse clicks which is extremely inefficient from a movement and time perspective. This does not in any way make moving around in this UI interface any faster. It is now firmly more cumbersome and pointless.
I just don’t even get what Apple is trying to accomplish here with these stupid and unnecessary design changes. If Jobs were alive, he’d be not only bringing some of these people to tears, but some of them might even see the door. It’s quite clear, there is no clear direction at Apple. If this is the work of Jony Ive, then please, let’s walk him to the Apple Campus door as fast as physics allows.
There seems to be no bad design depths to which Apple will now reach. I shake my head at just how far this malus domestica has fallen.