More Efficient Way to Organize New Music/iTunes/External HD?
March 15, 2010 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Looking for the most efficient way to manage new music I download with iTunes and my external hard drive.

I have a PC. I download music to my desktop and put my music in the My Music folder. My Music folder is broken down into Artist Name folder and then Album Name. I then go to iTunes and add the folder/file from My Music folder. Then I connect my external hard drive and drag over the new music into the appropriate folder set up the same way on my PC.

I download so much new music every day and this becomes tiresome. Is there an easier way to do this while keeping it organize by Artist--Album Name--Songs.
posted by foreversport to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, I do not have Keep iTunes Media folder organized and Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library checked.
posted by foreversport at 11:01 AM on March 15, 2010

foreversport: Also, I do not have Keep iTunes Media folder organized and Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library checked.

This is exactly the problem those features are meant to solve.
posted by mkultra at 11:19 AM on March 15, 2010

Your folder hierarchy is also the way that iTunes would organize your music if you DID have the 'keep organized' box checked.

Is the external drive essentially a backup drive? So that you have a complete set of your music on both the external AND PC drives?

If so, then letting iTunes organize your music is about all you'd have to do, although you would still have to copy the new files over to the external drive. If that's the part that's tiresome (keeping track of what's new and copying only those files) then some kind of incremental backup software solution may be in order.
posted by DandyRandy at 11:20 AM on March 15, 2010

You really should let iTunes keep your music library organized. iTunes does an amazingly good job with it. For example, my library has thousands and thousands of songs in it. If I want to find one of those mp3 files in my library, the fastest way is to find it in iTunes and then choose "show in finder" (there might be a different term for it in Windows).

But if, for whatever reason, I feel the need to find the file by surfing through my hard drive, iTunes has it filed by artist and then by album. I used to have my own system for filing my music before iTunes came along, and my system worked for a library of a few hundred songs... but once you've got thousands and thousands... it just makes more sense to have a system that automatically files them. iTunes does that for you.

Best of all, if you let iTunes file them all for you, you KNOW everything is in the same place. So, if, like me, you decide to create a system for automatically backing up your library, you know everything will be backed up. And I do mean everything.

P.S. for any Mac folks who might be reading this. I use SuperDuper! to back up my stuff and it's been awesome! I have another external drive for Time Machine. I'm pretty OCD about backing up my stuff, especially since external drives are so cheap these days.
posted by 2oh1 at 11:58 AM on March 15, 2010

Yes, like the others have said - let iTunes organize for you. To make adding music easier, iTunes has an automatically add to iTunes folder. Move your music to that folder and iTunes will rename and organize your files, as well as put your music into your library. No more need to manually add music in the program itself.
posted by puritycontrol at 12:22 PM on March 15, 2010

Let me disagree with the posters above. Yes, Apple's software (iPhoto, iMovie, iTunes) is there to add a layer of abstraction between you and your actual files. And for some, perhaps it's enough to be able to go to iTunes and do "Show in Finder/Windows Explorer". However, I like to have my data logically organized irrespective of any application I choose to have access that data, and not give up all control TO that application. (And I'm almost exclusively a Mac I'm rare).

So do not listen to the people above and check that "keep my music organized please, Mr. iTunes" box. It has even been rumored to delete some songs if you do... (link 1, link 2, link 3)

Now it's easy to add music to iTunes once it's put in its new home in your "My Music" folder. If you just keep adding "My Music" as a folder to iTunes (File, Add Folder to Library...) iTunes is smart enough to search that directory and only add songs that weren't already in your iTunes library, so it won't make duplicates of everything in your iTunes playlist (so you can still use iTunes for song rankings and the like).

The last part of your question though, that is tricky. Yes, iTunes will put everything in pretty much the order you want...but it's inconsistent, especially for albums that have multiple artists on them, such as soundtracks and compilations. I personally find it annoying that if I have, say, the soundtrack to Beverly Hills Cop there's a 50/50 chance that the songs will all go in one folder, such as:

Various Artists\Beverly Hills Cop\The Heat Is On.MP3
Various Artists\Beverly Hills Cop\Emergency.MP3

or each song will be split out by artist putting about 1 song in each of 10 different folders, such as:

Glenn Frye\Beverly Hills Cop\The Heat is On.MP3
Oingo Boingo\Beverly Hills Cop\Emergency.MP3

But if you don't want iTunes to do it, how can it be done easily? Well, my recommendation is just spending a little bit of time as you listen to the music sorting it by's the ONLY sure-fire way to make sure every song is where you want it to be (unless another poster has a silver bullet solution that I have missed)

There is another option if you're familiar with a little programming. It would be relatively easy to write a program that would read your MP3's ID3 tags and then move them per your specifications. I wrote a program in Microsoft Excel's VBA that goes through my directory of songs and pulls the ID3 tags into a spreadsheet; it's only three extra lines of code to make that program then copy the songs to a new location based on those ID3 tags.

The drawback is that you would have to be very strict to ensure your ID3 tags were correct (and not have some tracks as Glenn Frye some as Glenn Fry and some as Frye, Glenn, etc.) If you're going to put that much work into the ID3 tags it seems just as easy to move the files to where you want them to be.

Sorry for the length of this post but I hope it helps.
posted by arniec at 12:32 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I never use the 'Add Folder' control in iTunes. Instead, there's a simple trick (in windows, not sure about mac) that reduces time and bother when adding new tracks: have iTunes and Explorer open alongside each other and simply drag and drop the album folder onto the playlist (or main window if the playlist is already selected). Tracks are immediately added in order without the need to fish them out of Recently Added or the main Music Library.

As a proudly capable manager of some 30,000+ immensely disparate audio files, I heartily agree with arniec: NEVER cede any organisational power to iTunes. You will lose tracks and then go insane trying to fathom it's Moriarty-level brilliance for obfuscation.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 1:15 PM on March 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

Arniec, iTunes can organize compilations very easily and efficiently. All you need to do is select "Part of a compilation" on the get info dialog, and iTunes will sort the album folder as Compilations\Album. Or, if it's not a various artists compilation, set the Album Artist field for the tracks and iTunes will sort the album as Artist\Album.
posted by revrii at 2:52 PM on March 15, 2010

arniec: "But if you don't want iTunes to do it, how can it be done easily? Well, my recommendation is just spending a little bit of time as you listen to the music sorting it by's the ONLY sure-fire way to make sure every song is where you want it to be (unless another poster has a silver bullet solution that I have missed)"

Completely agree that in the age of hierarchical filesystems, you'd be a fool to rely on a media library offered by iTunes (or any other application, for that matter). You don't have to sort it by hand though - just use mp3tagstudio, Tag&Rename or similar.
posted by turkeyphant at 4:15 PM on March 15, 2010

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