Add Explicit and Clean Tags to Songs in iTunes

If you take pride in how neatly categorised and ordered your iTunes library is, having collated it from physical media, the iTunes Store and other retailers, you may have found inconsistencies among them.


Credits to artists featured on tracks may be displayed differently, and there’s a long-running argument about whether “ft.” or “feat.” is more suitable for music, but there’s one bugbear exclusive to iTunes: the ‘explicit’ and ‘clean’ tags. Those tiny little icons found beside some song titles in your library and on any iOS device you own, apart from the songs you have carefully curated yourself.

Luckily, a solution is at hand, and it’s far from difficult to replicate.

1. Begin by downloading MP3Tag, whether the most recent version or a portable version.


2. Open iTunes and find a song that you’d like to mark with an appropriate tag. Click the song once, so that it is highlighted, and then press “Ctrl + I.” The next window will have a button marked “File.” Under it you can see if the track is an AAC or MP3 (iTunes calls MP3 ‘MPEG audio’). Unfortunately, adding these tags to an MP3 file is not possible, so any track you wish to mark must be AAC.


3. Right-click the track and choose to “Create AAC Version.” In our case, we’ll use a copy of Hard-Fi’s “Suburban Knights.” iTunes will play a tone when the AAC version has been created, and it will appear alongside the original version in your library. Use “Ctrl + I” again to double-check which file is the AAC version if you are unsure.


4. Open MP3Tag at this point, and right click the song in iTunes to see a list of actions. Choose “Show in Windows Explorer,” then drag the song into MP3Tag.


5. Right-click the entry within MP3Tag and select the “Extended Tags” option. The tag is not part of MP3Tag by default, so you’ll have to add it via the first of the three buttons.


6. After clicking the first of the three buttons, another window will appear asking for two properties: the tag name and the tag value.


7. Call the tag “ITUNESADVISORY” (without the quote marks), and choose the correct value. Entering “0” will mean that no icon appears, just as before. Entering “1” will give the song the “Explicit” tag, and entering “2” will give it the “Clean” tag. Leaving the value blank will give no tag.


7. After modifying the details for the song, press “Ctrl + S” in MP3Tag to get a window informing you that the changes have been saved.


8. Remove the songs you’re changing from iTunes. As iTunes cannot register changes to the song, you’ll have to remove and re-add them. Make sure you choose to “Keep Files.”


9. Drag the modified tracks back into iTunes, and you’ll see the corresponding tag. Sync them with an iOS device and the same remains true.


Although this solution may seem complex, in practice it is far from difficult. Not everyone may feel it benefits their library, but being able to mark specific versions of songs could be convenient depending on social situations.