I'm going to try and extract the artist and album from the meta data of an mp3 file with python but I need a little help.

This is what I get on the tag line when I open an mp3 file in vim:
----> ÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿTAGRooster^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@Alice In Chains^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@DIRT^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@^@1992

This is what I get when I tail the same mp3 file
������������������������������������������������������������������TAGRoosterAlice In ChainsDIRT1992

I need to know the structure of the file but when I tail the file ir runs everything together, when I open it in vim the artist and the album each of up to 30 characters and thereamining characters are padded with ^@

Any ideas how the file is actually laid out?

Why not search for tools that can read the metadata directly and use that API? If not, look at the MP3 file format and write a program that will parse that. Any open source tool that plays MP3s will have the logic to extract the information you seek - you can look directly at that code for inspiration.

Opening a binary file in an editor is not going to be very helpful (as you've discovered).

I don't want to use an API because that would take all the work out of it. Looking at existing OSS code is over my head, I tried to take a look at the code for rhythmbox once, it was a sea of confusion.

You could try installing and using the Tagpy library to tag the mp3 files.

Tagpy should be available in the repos of most distros - I think the package is called python-tagpy on Debian/Ubuntu based distros. Not sure what it's called on others.

Below is what I have so far. I'm getting the TAG which is what I'm looking for but I don't understand why it has b'' wrapped around it. It's coming back like this b'TAG'

#!/usr/bin/env python3

import sys

file = sys.argv[1]
f = open(file, 'rb')

f.seek(-128, 2)

char = f.read(3)


b is a byte string - I'm sure I mentioned these in one of your other python threads...I think it was one of your socket related threads.
Yup, here.

As long as you are happy using python 2 (tagpy isn't available for python 3 atm), the tagpy library will make your life a lot easier, you can just use the following syntax:

import tagpy

# open the file and read the tag
f = tagpy.FileRef("yourfile.mp3")
t = f.tag()

# print the existing tag info

# change the info
t.artist = "Tone Deaf and the Eh?"
t.title = "Blah blah blah"
t.album = "You what?"
t.year = 2014

#print the new info

# save the file with the new tag info