Less-than-amazing Gracenote

Have you ever not had to fix the metadata that your CD ripper gets from Gracenote/CDDB? Neither have I.

Besides the fact that the quality of their metadata is a crapshoot, there are other reasons that Gracenote is generally distrusted. Some don’t appreciate that they claimed all rights to a community resource built by users, and then closed it by migrating from an open to a closed API. Some find their tendency to sue firms that use FreeDB, an open equivalent, distasteful. Some find the bullying around their patent on the trival and obvious checksum method they use to uniquely identify a CD to be patently ridiculous.

No matter — Gracenote’s days are numbered. Although big companies like Microsoft use their services for identifying music ripped from CD, big companies like Microsoft are not only capable of replacing them but also highly motivated to do so. Because of Gracenote’s crude method of identifying music depends on having the CD, they’re irrelevant for music delivered online.

What will replace Gracenote? One possibility is MusicBrainz, an open source community music database. Because it can use both CD characteristics and acoustic fingerprinting to uniquely identify audio, it works no matter where the music comes from. The MusicBrainz database is mature (it’s been around since 1998), and moderators help ensure the quality of the metadata.

For those of you interested in the back-end, IBM is running an article that reviews technical aspects of MusicBrainz’s XML/RDF medtadabase, and their Compact Disc Query Proposal (CDQP) query service.