how to create an iTunes "joint" library?
June 26, 2011 3:23 PM   Subscribe

Need a non-complicated method to merge 2 iTunes libraries while preserving playlists. Halp!

So mr. lfr and I got married recently, meaning we've merged households, checking accounts, taxes and last names. Now we would like to merge our separate iTunes libraries whilst preserving things like playlists and genius info. There has to be an easy way to do this...right?

Specifics: we are both on OSX 10.6.7, iTunes 10.3.1. We have a Core i7 iMac (last year's model), Core 2 Duo Macbook Pro (2 years old), plus 2 iPhone 4s and a first-gen iPad that runs iOS 4.3.3. Both Macs are setup to use both of our user accounts. I believe most if not all of our music now resides on our big western digital media server / external HD.

We would like to merge all of our music files into one library to make our joint music collection freely available to all of our devices regardless of user account.

We of course have the standard mishmash of files that were randomly acquired over the years via both legitimate and, er, not so noble means, meaning mp3, AAC, M4A, M4P, etc.

On a Google search, it appears that one can sort of kludge their way through this process by exporting one library onto an external drive, then re-importing it, however that looks as though it does not preserve playlists and soforth. We'd both like to avoid having to recreate the wheel in this regard.

If there's a way to do this, an explanation using small words written in crayon block letters would be most useful. I'm not terribly tech-savvy regarding Apple file & database structure or network management, and the mister does not yet have a MeFi account with which to ask followup questions.
posted by lonefrontranger to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Are you attempting to preserve playlists (lists of songs) only or are you hoping to preserve other metadata like play counts from both libraries? I can offer advice on the first but not so much on the second.
posted by immlass at 3:30 PM on June 26, 2011

Response by poster: hi immlass,

The answer is that we'd like to preserve as much metadata as possible, but playlists are definitely our top priority, mostly because we've both spent many hours compiling them and some have become analogous to treasured mixtapes, etc. I suppose we could just burn them to CD or something prior to merging the libraries but that kind of seems like a step backwards in technology.
posted by lonefrontranger at 3:34 PM on June 26, 2011

Best answer: I wouldn't want to lose all my playlists either! I lost part of them once when a drive failed after a lightning strike and it was a pain in the rear to try to remember them. Now I back up religiously just in case.

There are two ways to export playlists: exporting the entire library and exporting a single playlist.

You export a library using File > Library > Export Library.
You export a single playlist by selecting the playlist and using File > Library > Export Playlist. (You'd have to do this for each playlist individually.)

Back up (export) both libraries before you do anything to either of them and keep copies of the exported files.

What I did when I moved my music onto my current hard drive was:

1. Backed up my library.
2. Moved all the music files onto the new drive.
3. Used File > Organize Library and checked the Consolidate Media checklist so iTunes found everything and organizes it. (I let iTunes organize all my music.)
4. Imported the library using File > Library > Import Library. My playlists were preserved* and so were my play counts and last played dates, but I lost the date added.

* Smart playlists with dependencies on other playlists had to be fixed, like the shuffle list that picks from another playlist.

I don't know whether importing the second library file (as opposed to the songs) the same way would work. If nothing else you could export the playlists from the second library individually and import them using File > Library > Import Playlist. You'd lose the play counts and other metadata for the second library if you did things that way. But you'd still have the playlists.

Hopefully someone else can confirm whether you can import the second library file. Good luck!
posted by immlass at 4:41 PM on June 26, 2011

One way to preserve playlists without actually importing the library is to cheat the system a little bit by making all your playlists into smart playlists. For all the songs in each playlist, just type a unique comment (or genre, or any other field you want) specific to that playlist -- e.g. for a playlist of 'Road Tunes', select all songs in the playlist and edit the Comment field, adding the comment [+road] (or whatever unique marker you want), and then set up a smart playlist called 'Road Tunes' with a rule that says to include all songs whose Comment contains [+road]. I'm doing more and more of my playlists like this now; after my computer crashed and I had backed up the song files themselves but not the library file, those smart playlists automatically filled themselves up because the data to create the lists was saved in each song file, instead of in some other file somewhere, but the non-smart playlists I had to manually enter each song again, which was a huge pain.
posted by jef at 7:19 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used some software to do this, called PowerTunes. It deals with most metadata fine. Costs money though.
posted by acheekymonkey at 8:06 PM on June 26, 2011

Response by poster: Just following up to say that in the interim since this was asked, we've also added a new macbook air to the stable and both laptops now run Lion.

immlass' procedure was just the ticket for us.

I get what jef is saying and it isn't a bad solution if the entire database had been curated properly to start with, but to do that for the nearly 100 gb of music we currently own between us would be a daunting task to say the least.

mr. lfr may look into getting PowerTunes down the road; it seems a decent solution. Or best case scenario, it's possible that future iterations of cloud storage / iTunes may help users to deal with library sharing / tagging and it'll become a moot issue in future; who knows.

(off the subject but man, Airdrop is the current single best thing ever invented!)
posted by lonefrontranger at 3:36 PM on July 26, 2011

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