Adding lyrics to your tracks -- why you need to do it and how to get it done
[This is an update to a blog post that ran on January 12, 2010]
Adding lyrics to your MP3 files’ ID3 tags makes the lyrics available for you to view and use in your media player software (including iTunes, MediaMonkey or Windows Media Player).
There are at least three great reasons why you should add lyrics to your mp3 files' metadata.
- "Hold me close, Tony Danza" -- that's what my little sister thought Elton John was singing in Tiny Dancer when she was about five years old. If she had had lyrics embedded in her MP3 of the song, she might have known better.
- Karaoke -- sing along with your songs. You can do Karaoke with your MP3s using special software.
- Creating playlists -- this is the best thing you can do with lyrics and my favorite reason to add lyrics to my MP3s. Using the lyrics in your songs, you can create lyrics-based playlists. Want to make a Halloween party playlist? All you have to do is create a playlist with songs whose lyrics include the words "scary", "ghost", "goblin", "candy", etc.
Now that you know why you might want to add lyrics to your MP3s, you need to know how to actually do it. There are many software applications that will do this, but before using one, you need to decide which type of tagger will work best for you.
There are two primary types of MP3 lyrics taggers -- single-song taggers and batch taggers.
- Single-song taggers allow you to lookup lyrics and add them to your MP3's tags one song at a time. Single-song taggers are best suited for the cases where you're just curious about a song's lyrics, or for getting a song setup for karaoke. The best program I've found for retrieving lyrics one song at a time is Mini Lyrics (http://www.crintsoft.com). It works with your existing media player software, it's free and it's easy to use.
- A batch tagger gets lyrics for all of your songs in one continuous process. Batch taggers can look up lyrics for many thousands of songs automatically, without human intervention. I've successfully tagged over 8500 songs using a batch tagger called Zortam (http://zortam.com/). In my opinion, Zortam is the best batch tagger available. It was much faster than other taggers I tried and it didn't overwhelm my PC while it was working. It tagged my 8500+ songs in just under six hours and did it all without slowing down my computer, crashing or having other problems that plague other applications. You can download a limited free trial at zortam.com. A lifetime license for Zortam costs $29.95, or you can get just version 11 for $21.95. Installing Zortam and letting it run in batch mode for a few hours was definitely worth the $29.95 for a lifetime license.
I’ve tried a half dozen other lyric taggers and all of them have major drawbacks compared to Mini Lyrics and Zortam (see original blog post below for details). I can always see the lyrics to my songs, since I added lyrics to my MP3s about a year ago. I’ve also been able to create lyrics-themed playlists for parties, my family and for my own listening pleasure.
The winner: Zortam Media Studio Pro 10
Zortam Media Studio Pro 10 does quick lyric lookups for MP3s. It took about six hours to do all ~8500 of my MP3s, which was much faster than the rest of the tools I tried. It costs about $22 for a license of version 10 and about $30 for a lifetime license.
- Scary little program pulled down from thread on a message board. I normally wouldn't run a program that is just posted on a message board, but this seems to work. "iTunes Lyrics" (download from this linked message). Very simplistic lookup -- only looks at artist name and song name. What about artists that have the same song on multiple albums like live versions, etc? The lyrics can vary. It didn't choke on large numbers of tracks (it did 100 no problem, but I didn't try more than that), but the potential for incorrect lyrics concerns me.
- I tried the updated version, but it didn't work at all. I posted a message to their issue tracker about it.
MediaMonkey plugin "Lyricator" has been broken for at least six months and no one seems to be fixing it.
Songbird has an included plugin, LyricMaster, that seems to work, but is very slow and chokes when the batch is bigger than ~100. What am I supposed to do, download lyrics all day?
Mac has lots of options, but I don't have a Mac
- Using GimmeSomeTune and NeedleDrop: blog #1 and blog #2.
- iTunesLyricsLocator 2.0.4
- iLyric 2.0
Nice program, but no batch mode (can only add lyrics one song at a time)
In summary, I only have a PC, so none of the Mac versions work for me. I found one solution that really got the job done and two solutions that kind of work on the PC, but they could be a lot better. "iTunes Lyrics" has good performance, but the lookups maybe suspect. Songbird's LyricMaster plugin works, but has major performance problems. Finally, there was one program that was very easy to use and got the job done: Zortam MP3 Media Studio. In order to do lyrics lookups on more than about 10 tracks, you have to buy a license. Two options: