Cleaning up messy music folders
October 11, 2009 10:11 AM   Subscribe

Help me clean up my messy music files

I am embarking on a clean up of my enormously messy MP3 folders. After several computer switches, and crash+restore jobs I have approximately a dozen different folders containing between hundreds and thousands of MP3s each. The issue is each folder is at least a partial duplicate of several others. Each of these dozen folders contains subfolders in various organizational formats. There's far too many files for me to devote the time to manually eliminating duplicates. Confounding matters slightly is that many of the MP3s have woefully inadequate tagging/ID3 data.

This motley collection lives on a Macbook pro running 10.5. I'd like to find an app/script/method that does the following

1) Eliminates all the dupes
2) Cleans up the ID3 info

The cleaned up collection will then be put into an iTunes library which I will let keep things from getting too messy in the future. I would prefer to use iTunes due to ease of syncing with my iPhone, but if there is a truly compelling alternative that will take care of everything, I am willing to consider it.

I'd prefer a free method of doing this, but would shell out a little bit of scratch if there were an app out there that did exactly what I wanted.
posted by 1024x768 to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Part of the solution: Turf any existing iTunes library, then configure iTunes with "Keep iTunes Library Organized" and "Copy Files to iTunes Folder when adding to Library" both selected. (Prefs > Advanced).

Now drag all your files into your new empty library. iTunes will take a copy of each and place it in a nice Artist > Album > Song organized folder structure.

Once that is all done, choose your Library and pick "Show Duplicates" (File Menu). All the duplicate copies of songs will be shown. Select all and Shift-Delete them for good.

Now you have a tidy folder structure and iTunes library without dupes. You can work on your other sorting and tagging steps next.
posted by rokusan at 10:20 AM on October 11, 2009

There are lots of programs out there that promise to sort out your files without the hassle, but I find that none of them work perfectly. I have used tagscanner for years, but I like to manually handle all my music and have always done so, keeping everything tidy along the way. Tagscanner is robust, but you'll have to work at it.

Lifehacker has a lot to say on the subject of organising your mp3s. Check them out here
posted by 0bvious at 10:26 AM on October 11, 2009

I let iTunes organize my files and that does help a lot.

It's not free, but I've found Dupin to be a big help in finding duplicates, including four DVDs of SXSW free samples that were inconsistently tagged.

Also not free but very helpful in fixing the tags: MPFreaker. My library was, at its fattest, over 90 GB, and MPFreaker has done a great job of chasing down album names, artwork, and lyrics. I'd rather use Musicbrainz than Discogs for tagging, but the current Musicbrainz taggers for Mac are java-based and pretty nasty UIwise, so I've stuck to MPFreaker.
posted by immlass at 11:00 AM on October 11, 2009

Best answer: I've been using GimmeSomeTune for a while to grab album art and lyrics from online for me. It's not 100% able to find everything, but it does a pretty good job at keeping all that organized.

Oh, and be careful with the previous suggestion that you "select all and delete" in the Show Duplicates function in iTunes. That may result in you losing ALL copies of the songs. The last time I used that function, it would show every iteration of duplicates, based on title and artist information, but not based on album name, and it would give me all of them, not holding back one as an original-not-to-be-deleted. It's a great feature, but isn't intelligent at all.

Otherwise, I second rokusan's advice about having the Mac search for music on your various harddrives and then consolidating the library. You can also use the File -> Library -> Consolidate feature to do this without throwing away the current iTunes library, although a fresh start may be what you need. You'll still have to go through all your harddrives and delete all the files from where they were living before you consolidated, because that only copies, does not move, the files.
posted by hippybear at 12:04 PM on October 11, 2009

When I went through this a few years back, I used Tag & Rename, which worked great, but I'm sure there are other choices for software that will do the same thing. What it does is write ID3 tags based on file names, and rename files based on ID3 tags.

So the process is this:

1) For each of your differently structured folders, write the ID3 tags based on its file and folder structure.
2) Once the ID3 tags are in place, rename all of the files based on the ID3 tags. Now you have a standardized structure.
3) Import into iTunes. You can "Show Duplicates" in iTunes, but I don't think it has an automatic way to remove duplicates. It will at least point them out for you, though.

You could also try something like Musicbrainz to tag all of your MP3s, and then have iTunes organize them. I personally don't like iTunes managing all of my music. I like maintaining my own file structure.
posted by team lowkey at 12:15 PM on October 11, 2009

Hrm. Apparently it's now called "organize library" not "consolidate library" under the File -> Library menu item.
posted by hippybear at 12:18 PM on October 11, 2009

Dupin is great. I have it running now. Much better than the iTunes "remove duplicates" function.
For cleaning up your tags, I recommend Jaikoz. Fast, powerful, and will do a lot of the work for you automatically. Also nice is a thing called TuneUp, which is a bit more user-friendly than Jaikoz.

Course none of them will help you with things like MP3s ripped from 78 records and the like...

--signed, over 100K songs in iTunes and I'm still working on organizing the A's
posted by bink at 1:36 PM on October 11, 2009

Best answer: Trying it out for myself, it looks like Musicbrainz Picard will take care of everything for you, for free. It looks up the tags and can rename the files in whatever format you want (look under Options->Options->File Naming->Rename Files and Move Files). It's a confusing at first, so make sure you read the documentation.

I don't know how it deals with duplicates, but once you have everything tagged and organized, iTunes can find the dupes for you.
posted by team lowkey at 1:49 PM on October 11, 2009

Another thing that's neat with Picard and the most recent version of iTunes is setting its move destination to the 'Automatically Add to iTunes' folder in the iTunes library. That way you can just worry about the tagging and as files are saved, they will turn up in your library.
posted by Mil at 2:26 PM on October 11, 2009

Jaikoz uses Musicbrainz...
posted by bink at 6:22 PM on October 11, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the great answers, all. I'm definitely going to have to try out Musicbrainz, and will look into the other suggestions.
posted by 1024x768 at 4:58 PM on October 12, 2009

« Older The Accidental Docent   |   Help this 外国人 figure out how to get to 日本. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.