Help me reign in iTunes
January 8, 2011 2:19 PM   Subscribe

Please help me reign in iTunes! I want iTunes to automatically organize almost all of my music into folders of its choosing, but I want to prevent it from organizing certain folders/albums of music that I have. Is there an easy way to do this that I'm missing?

For most music, I like the way that iTunes organizes things (Artist>Album>Name...). The problem is that I have some folders of music that I want to access through my iTunes library, but I don't want them to be reorganized. For example, I have the Billboard Top 100 songs per year, for the past 60 years. If I let iTunes organize this, it makes thousands of folders (which might be ok if I wanted to use iTunes forever) and it also seems to lose the ranking of the songs for that year on the chart. And if I ever wanted to re-group these songs and burn them on a cd, I'm not sure that I could re-create the original structure since the Billboard naming wasn't terribly consistent to begin with (for example, sometimes there is no Artist name, but instead, the artist is listed as part of the track name: Artist ="" Name="Artist-SongName").

I know that I can tell iTunes not to organize my stuff, which is what I did in order to keep the songs where I wanted them, but if I enable iTunes organization so that other cd's can be automatically handled, it goes back and re-orgs the billboard songs.

Is there a way that I can make it only organize songs as they are added to the library, but ignore the some of the existing structure?
posted by Dr. ShadowMask to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Short answer: No.

Long answer: You can finagle it. For example, if you take your Top 100 Songs, and retag the information to make them a compilation album, or put them in a playlist. If you're gonna be burning MP3s to CD, you may as well do it from within iTunes anyway.
posted by SansPoint at 2:37 PM on January 8, 2011

I don't know of a way to let iTunes organize half your library, but I have an alternative suggestion.

I have the Billboard Top 100 songs per year

If you mean you have CDs (several volumes per year) with the songs in some order, this is what the compilation checkbox is for. It sounds like the CDs were badly tagged when you imported them. You could retag them, manually or with a utility. Ideally you'd set the correct artist for each song and the artist for the album as "various artists".
posted by immlass at 2:41 PM on January 8, 2011

I may be wrong, but I think this can be done by keeping the separate folders somewhere other than your main iTunes music folder. Then you can add it to your iTunes library using ctrl/cmd-o, and iTunes should be able to play it without changing any file structure. A quick test of this seemed to work for me, but double check it first before you try!
posted by auto-correct at 2:45 PM on January 8, 2011

I agree, this is not going to be easy to do. Instead, I would try to recreate your organizational logic inside iTunes as playlists. If you do that and decide to quit iTunes, you can select all the tracks in a playlist and just drag and drop them into a directory to copy those tracks out.

I would also try to sanitize the metadata. There are some scripts that can help with this. Explore the whole site—there's a lot of useful stuff for managing iTunes there.
posted by adamrice at 3:15 PM on January 8, 2011

If you set the Album Artist field to "Billboard Top 100" then iTunes will keep all the files together. I think they all need to have the same Album field for that to work, so maybe you could have an Album Artist of "Billboard Top 100" (or maybe "Various Artists") and then set the album to "Billboard Top 100 2010". This would create a file structure of Billboard Top 100>Billboard Top 100 2010>Track 1.mp3, etc. If you set the "Part of a compilation" check box, it will put it in the Compilations folder: Compilations>Billboard Top 100 2010>Track 1.mp3, etc.

And like adamrice says, even if iTunes does split everything up into artist>album, you can still drag and drop from iTunes to a Windows/Mac folder. This is probably a pain if you want to stop using iTunes altogether, but works OK for one-off things like using a different program to burn a CD.
posted by AlsoMike at 4:04 PM on January 8, 2011

As others have said, with iTunes it's all or nothing—you can't tell it to just organize a subset of your collection.

If there's only a few folders you're trying to keep iTunes from splitting up, retagging the files so iTunes sees them as an album is the easiest solution. I have a few of those compilations myself and depending on how badly they were tagged by the creators, they can be a pain to wrestle into shape without losing things like a visible chart position. A more powerful tagging tool like MP3Tag might help.
posted by Lazlo at 4:50 PM on January 8, 2011

That "Compilation" checkbox is exactly what you're looking for. You can do them all at once with a Get-info command.
posted by olecranon at 5:29 PM on January 8, 2011

olecranon has it - if you mark tracks as "part of a compilation", it organizes them as "Compilations > Album Name > Track" instead of "Artist Name > Album Name > Track"
posted by russm at 6:27 PM on January 8, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I think this will help.
posted by Dr. ShadowMask at 6:29 PM on January 8, 2011

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