All this relies on a regular, standardized databasing effort. This can be a major undertaking on its own, and having multiple users entering metadata on their own can create more problems than are being solved.
Audio editing systems, from the most basic to the most advanced, often do not have the tools to search metadata. Files can be manually tagged with metadata, and a separate database can be created to include the same information, but this would require entering the data twice. Consumer media storage systems, such as iTunes and Zune, can read or write some of this data, but can only sort files based on a few fields. Neither is very elegant, but can be implemented for little to no cost. An Access or FileMaker database (or even one in Excel) can store the data for searching.
Netia Media Asset Management provides a heirarchical organization of content.
There are several content management or media asset management systems available that will interface into existing editors, automation and newsroom systems. Some of the systems that tout this capability include Myers Information Systems ProTrack Radio, Cube-Tec Quadriga and Netia Media Asset Management. The more flexible the search and indexing, the easier it will be to locate audio files, which make a more efficient workflow.
Your current audio asset management plan may work well for your situation, but it's worth talking to the production and on-air staff to see if there's room for improvement.
With all the effort put into creating a station's audio assets, it makes sense to ensure they are protected and easily accessible. Hopefully the ideas presented here will help you reevaluate your current procedures and possibly spark some ideas on areas of improvement.
Different audio files have different methods of storing their metadata. Most standards have several common fields, which aid database entry, but a field specifically for keywords does not exist. However, there is often a field that can accommodate a larger chunk of text that could be used for keywords.
The Broadcast Wave File (BWF) container has a description field. The Cart Chunk standard (AES46-2002) has a Tag field. The ID3 tagging standard, which is used for MP3 and MP4/AAC files, has a comment field. These would be suitable for keyword use.
Like any keyword effort, using the right terms is, well, key. A music bed could have "guitar," "heavy," and "140" (for beats per minute) as keywords, but users need to know the common standards in place to maximize their search efforts.