Beets – music tagger and library organizer using the MusicBrainz database

Last Updated on September 1, 2020

The music scene is where I’m happiest. As an amateur musician, I devote an inordinate amount of time developing my technique, practicing, practicing, and practicing. I also love listening to music, both live and recorded. Linux is my other passion. It’s endowed with a bewildering arsenal of open source multimedia software, so I’ve invested a lot of time reviewing a fair chunk.

Over the years I’ve amassed a bountiful eclectic music collection. In my formative years, that was mostly pop music but over the years I’ve progressed to classical, jazz, blues, techno, and even a smattering of heavy metal. While I have a large collection of vinyl and CDs, I mostly listen to FLAC files these days. FLAC is an audio coding format for lossless compression of digital audio.

Where does beets step in? If your music collection is in a sorry state of affairs with missing or incomplete track details, metadata, duplicate tracks, missing tracks, then beets might just fit the bill. Besides metadata, the software also grabs album art, lyrics, transcodes audio to a wide variety of formats, and much more. It’s a library that’s designed to be as flexible as possible.


Beets is a popular program well supported in distro’s repositories. For my Arch box, there’s a package in the Community repository.

If there’s not a package for your distro, it’s probably easiest to install the software with pip:

$ pip install beets

pip is a package-management system used to install and manage software packages written in Python. Yep, you guessed it, beets is written in Python.

There’s a bit more to do. The application is highly configurable via a config.yaml file which on Linux resides at ~/.config/beets/config.yaml. I needed to create this file for myself with the command:

$ beet config -e

And you’re strongly recommended to create that file.

I cannot possibly describe even a tiny fraction of the options that can be defined in the config file, as beets has such an extensive configuration system that lets you customize nearly every aspect of its operation. It would take a month of Sundays! But you’ll definitely want to define options for your music directory, music library, define defaults for the import function, as well as telling the software which plugins to use such as the essential fetchart and lyrics plugins.

Next page: Page 2 – In Operation

Pages in this article:
Page 1 – Introduction / Installation
Page 2 – In Operation
Page 3 – Summary

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