Track markers to facilitate playback navigation in MP3 files

I have some large MP3 files containing numerous music tracks. I’ve already split them into multiple smaller files, but a lot of the tracks are ‘live’ and it’s not really appropriate to chop them up any further. So I was wondering if it’s possible to set some sort of track ‘marker’ in the file, that typical playback apps would recognize and allow me to do a ‘next’ / ‘previous’ type navigation within a given file.

I’ve figured out how to set labels at various time points in the file with Audacity, but these don’t seem to be recognized by typical players. I’ve done a quick test using VLC and Windows Media Player, and the only navigation offered seems to be ‘next file’.

Before I go too far down the path of setting labels, am I on a fools errand here - is it simply not possible to set markers within the mp3 file because typical playback apps don’t support such markers? On my phone (where I plan to ultimately use these files) I have started using Eon music player, simply because it has good ‘offline music’ support.

If the problem is my choice of MP3 format, I’m happy to change to any other ‘well supported’ standard file type. So I guess the question then becomes - are there any standard compressed audio file types that support multiple track markers within the file, markers that standard audio playback apps can understand? (and how would I set those markers in Audacity)?


Audacity doesn’t do markers currently, though you can export the labels and convert them to cue sheets:

I think VLC supports cue sheets.

Cue sheets were originally designed for burning CDs (setting the track markers). That’s the only thing I’ve used them for.

A cue sheet is just a text file so it can be created or edited with Windows Notepad. I’ve never made one with Audacity labels… I start with a known-good example and edit it.

…Tracks or chapters are not standard on any common audio/video “computer” formats. From what I’ve read MKA and MKV does support them. The “shiny disc” formats also all support them.

If you download an album from Amazon or iTunes each song is a separate file.

Thanks for the input.

After posting my original question above, I continued searching and it appears what I’m looking for is generally referred to as ‘chapters’, and there’s a fair demand for ‘chapter markers’ thanks to the popularity of podcasts. Apparently, there’s also support in the MP3 file format for such things, though no one has actually implemented a solution.

I found this old Audacity forum post from 2016 that describes exactly what I’m looking for - and in it, there’s a reference to ‘chapter and verse’, and also to ‘auphonic’. There’s a suggestion that AAC supports chapter markers natively. I will read further down those paths and report back if I find anything useful.

I guess I could just split all my files into individual ‘one file per track (chapter)’ chunks and experiment with playback. Since my current music files represent ‘live’ recordings, I’ve avoided this due to un-natural gaps being heard at the transition points from file to file, but I know some playback tools offer ‘gapless’ playback. I’ve also never understood the sequencing logic of my car audio playback system; it doesn’t offer any control over playback ‘sequence’, and as far as I can tell, it does not play back in ‘file name’ sequence, so even if I carefully name all the files in alphanumeric sequence there’s no guarantee it will play them back in that order. But I will experiment further and maybe I’ll figure out their logic.

Update - I’m getting good results using Audacity to attach ‘labels’ at the start of each track (each piece of music), and then using the ‘File/Export Multiple’ feature to automatically generate the split files. I label my tracks ‘T-01’, ‘T-02’, etc so that the auto-naming feature will generate appropriate file names. The playback is seamless on my Android phone, which is great. I have yet to see how playback is in my old 2011 Prius, which just plays a USB flash drive; if it plays each successive track in the correct order (that is, alphanumerically), and without gaps, I will be happy. I just have to process approx. 140 source files, and generate approx. 1,000 individual mp3 files, and learn how to manage the associated label files.

Quick question - I have original ‘wave’ (.wav) files for the source, but they are archived on a NAS somewhere. I presume I should go back to the source ‘wave’ files before doing the above process because the act of ‘exporting’ to MP3 (necessary as part of the splitting process above) will re-compress the music, which would result in degradation if I started working on the MP3 file as the starting point. Or is audacity smart enough to see that the actual music content has not changed, and it will just re-write the ‘mp3 content’ as is, without re-compressing it?

But there is software which can edit MP3 without loss of quality …

My old 2011 Prius sound system inserts a short gap between every individual MP3 file that it plays, so that’s not ideal but tolerable. My Android phone plays them without any gap so that’s great. The jury is still out on the ‘ordering’ of play on my car; it’s clearly NOT playing files overall by alphanumeric sort on file name, but a short test on a collection of 10 files did seem to play them in file-name order. Will have to create more files to get a better read on that.