How does the Z/IPStream handle album art for music?

Updated by Bryan Jones


A customer asks, "how can I add album cover metadata to the Z/IPStream R/2?


The manual mentions, "The metadata subsystem gives you the option to tag your audio stream with “now playing” text, album covers, and other graphic information."

However, it's essential to add some context to this. Note that it says to "tag" the streams with now playing text.

There is nothing specific in any ZIPStream products to handle album art specifically. How it works specifically will vary greatly depending on who the streaming host is and what the player platform is. The Z/IPStream can not store, serve, lookup, etc.; anything about artwork for album covers.

So, how does it work?

As you might imagine, there is no way for your Automation system to send a picture of the album cover to the Z/IPStream, have the Z/IPStream send it to your streaming provider, and then have your streaming provider send the file to each person that is listening. It's just not possible and would be inefficient.

The player usually shows artwork in one of two ways.

  • One option, the automation, sends a link, usually in the form of a URL, passed through to the streaming player that instructs the player where to obtain the file for display. Here is one example; . You would need to supply this for each album cover you wish to display.
  • The other option is the player does a "lookup" based on the title and artist information you send. Some systems provide you a way to match songs not matched automatically.

In most cases, these are paid services.

A note about copyright: in most countries, you do not own the album cover's rights. It would be illegal for you to scan the album cover and build your system to display this album cover without obtaining permission from the original author and/or arranging some compensation for its use.

In the SHOUTcast and Icecast world, the standard metadata format has few options. Presently Title - Artist|URL. Most generic players (like Winamp or VLC Media Player) can break that down and display them as separate components.

  • Title - the song tile
  • Artist - the performer, band name, etc
  • URL - in this example, maybe the link to the album cover

The actual URL information will again depend on your provider. In some cases, you might be able to pass a specific ID. In some cases, they might require you to give the entire URL.

Other text formatting options, although non-standard, can be used to communicate special information. This format and the information in it would be specific to each streaming provider.

Options for automatic lookup

This information usually comes right from your automation system. Whatever you see on your screen is what will be passed to the player. Generally speaking, it helps if you keep these as close to the original as possible.

Some songs will have "Radio Edits," or unique versions where the singer might mention your station or town. It's usually best to keep it simple.

  • "My Town (WXYZ Version)" vs. just sending "My Town"
  • "Some Song - Radio Edit" vs. just "Some Song"

Additional text might make it harder for the lookup engines.

Check with your provider for best practices.

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