Changing to a new iTunes-like program?
August 5, 2015 1:23 PM   Subscribe

I am in despair. iTunes is the worst software in the world, and I want out. Help me shed its evil from my life!

For probably 10 years or more, I've been using iTunes as my primary mp3-playing method. I have an 8GB iPod Nano (the little square one) that still works well. My husband uses the iPod Classic, the somewhat phone-sized one that is now discontinued as well. We run Windows 7, and have an external hard drive that has all of our physical mp3 files on it - we connect the external drive, launch iTunes, and attach our iPods and add playlists. We haven't updated iTunes in forever because I'm afraid the layout or folders will change somehow (or some other idiot Apple decision) and alter our set-up. We've had several data losses over the years and it's been a pain getting iTunes up to snuff again. We have at least 500 playlists and I don't even want to know how many artists/files.

My question is this: going forward, how can we still use this set-up, with mp3 files on an external hard drive while DITCHING ITUNES FOREVER? Is there anything that will let us transfer our playlists and files into a non-iTunes yet iTunes-like program? Has anyone successfully done this? What is the process of transferring music to a new program like? We'd like to use our iPods until they stop working, but if we need to also get new players as well as a new system, please recommend something too (also, I know there won't be any iPods left to use in the future). We are tired of iTunes, need a better interface to handle our playlists, and don't know what to do. Every time I use iTunes, I am worried about the future of our music library.

DO NOT suggest that we listen to music in a different way, like Spotify, etc. That is not my question - if at all possible, I want to continue to use a music player, NOT a cell phone to listen to music on the go, and I want to continue to use my playlists and library of music - what I want to listen to, when I want to listen to it. If this is not possible, I am flabbergasted, but that might be the answer. There HAVE to be people out there in our same boat, right? Everyone didn't change over to random-playing songlist web services, did they? HALP
posted by agregoli to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure if this will fit your setup, but Music Player Daemon is a simple, lightweight music player that will play playlists and folders and so on.
posted by grobstein at 1:40 PM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Media Monkey and Music Bee are two players I have used that work well. I know MediaMonkey can handle your iPods and MusicBee might be able to as well.

I'm afraid the layout or folders will change somehow
The layout of the software may change, but your folders should not move as long as you don't let iTunes manage your music. There is a setting you can uncheck to stop it from trying to manage your music.
transfer our playlists and files
Your files are not inside of the iTunes software, even if the folders they are in have iTunes in the name. Playlists can be exported to an m3u file (right click on the playlist and select "Export").
What is the process of transferring music to a new program like?
You don't have get rid of iTunes in order to try out another mp3 player. I have MM on my PC right now along with iTunes and have had Music Bee installed at times as well. Because the music isn't inside the software, you don't have to choose. When you install the new player, you tell it where your music files are and it catalogs them for you.

We've had several data losses over the years Are you backing up the playlist files? They should be somewhere in your Music folder.

When you plug the iPods in to a computer, iTunes will still want to open and you may get errors if it can't. You can just let it open, stop the syncing and then close/ignore it. I'd keep an old version of it installed on any computer you want to plug your devices into.
posted by soelo at 1:45 PM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Take a look at MediaMonkey. There's a $19 Gold version, but most people will be well-served by the Free version. You will still be able to sync with iPods and other players.

One issue you are going to have is that iTunes playlists are not in an exportable format by default. You will need to use an application such as iTunes Export to convert them to .m3u files.
posted by bgrebs at 1:49 PM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I use Foobar2000 to play mp3s. It is an extremely simple and lightweight freeware program. You can link it to the folder where all your mp3s are stored and it will automatically list them. It won't do anything to the folder structure or the files themselves, nor create any annoying new folders. Unfortunately you still need iTunes or one of its exporter alternatives to export to your phone.
posted by picklenickle at 2:12 PM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

I use also use Foobar2000, and have been for over 10 years. Not only it is lightweight, but also extremely customizable. I have it looking like this, and rarely goes over 50MB Memory usage.

So, to import things, you can add a folder path to library (like F:\ or ) and it will keep track of what is deleted and added (sometimes it may take a few seconds to update).

Playlists, you can either do them manually (drag and drop files to the playlist, or autoplaylists based on metadata: for instance the year playlists fetch the year using %date% IS 2014, the "novidades" lists things added last 4 weeks (%added% DURING LAST 4 WEEKS), singles gets single MP3s I stored on a folder named 0singles (just 0singles on the autoplay properties).

To integrate with iDevices, you need a component (warning: never tried, all my MP3 players were MSC, all I needed to do was a "copy to" inside F2K).
posted by lmfsilva at 2:41 PM on August 5, 2015

I don't use iTunes and don't own any iPod but it seems there are two main obstacles here:
1. Finding a way to copy files from your external drive to your portable devices without using iTunes;
2. Transferring your iTunes specific playlists to your new software of choice.

I have no idea about 1, but with 2 it should be a matter of simply exporting your iTunes playlists to m3u format, as already suggested above, and importing using your new software of choice.

I have nothing but praise for foobar2000 as an audio file management and playback program. It does only what you ask it to, has sane defaults, and, despite its reputation, I've always found it easy to use and intuitive.

One other thing that may prove a hurdle in your migration is if some or all of the metadata (artist names, titles, track numbers, etc) is actually stored within iTunes and not on the files themselves.
If the former, then you will also need to find a way to transfer that information, or else tag all relevant files again (and this time do it properly and store the metadata in the audio files, to prevent future grief).
posted by Bangaioh at 3:34 PM on August 5, 2015

I gave up and stuck with iTunes. The problem I couldn't adequately solve was seamlessly transitioning my song ratings and the smart playlists built on those. And then keeping that info sync'd with my iPod.

Music Bee came closest.

If it helps at all, here's a funny tweet about iTunes.
posted by mullacc at 4:00 PM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I also use the iPod Nano and I've used Floola with minimal issues since day 1, as I have an undying hatred of iTunes. It's a standalone app you keep in the iPod so you can use it wih any Windows computer. It hasn't been updated since 2012 though so use at your own risk. I too can see my iPod's days being numbered, so I'm looking for possible replacements. Will let you know if I find one.
posted by satoshi at 6:42 PM on August 5, 2015

Forgot to mention... If you have bought a lot of music through iTunes you may have a lot of music in the iTunes-exclusive .m4p format, which needs to be converted to mp3 to be recognized by your new music software (another reason why iTunes is terrible... Ugh.)

There are a billion and one free converter programs out there, you just have to be savvy about finding one on a reputable site that doesn't have adware/spam snuck in. I haven't bought anything on iTunes for years so maybe someone can chime in for a suggestion.
posted by picklenickle at 7:21 PM on August 5, 2015

The problem I couldn't adequately solve was seamlessly transitioning my song ratings and the smart playlists built on those.

My only playlists are smart playlists based on ratings. I 'back up' my ratings by setting the comment field of each group of songs to 111, 222, etc., based on their rating, then you can create smart lists based on that field. This field is stored in the song file itself, any any MP3 player can read them, unlike iTunes' star ratings and other metadata. I also have a smart list that picks up new songs that haven't been rated or tagged yet. I use an MP3 tag editor (MP3Tag is really good) for this too.
posted by Evilspork at 8:16 PM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I get a lot of mileage out of Clementine.
posted by ead at 8:59 PM on August 5, 2015

I've been using J River Media Center for years now after having taken one look at iTunes for syncing my old ipod and running screaming. It does everything well and it's fantastic.
posted by merocet at 9:47 PM on August 5, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far. I have set playlists for everything, and we've bought nothing from the iTunes store...only copied our own CDs into it. The amount of music we have makes this stuff scary to try to change.
posted by agregoli at 6:59 AM on August 6, 2015

Well, you already have all the music in your external drive backed up somewhere else (other than the original CDs), right? If not, rectify that ASAP before doing anything else.

Good software shouldn't interfere with your setup but to play it safe copy a gigabyte or so of music files to a test folder outside your external drive, pick one or more audio players from the many suggestions here, and point them to the test folder (optionally disconnecting the external HDD for extra peace of mind) to see how they work and which suits your needs best.

Then pick some of your iTunes playlists exported to m3u and try them on your test music library. m3u playlists are plaintext files containing a list of filenames, open one with Notepad and bulk modify the paths so they point to your test folder instead of your external drive, eg, search & replace "E:\music\" > "C:\users\username\testfolder\".

Once you pick an adequate alternative and feel comfortable using it (and found a way to sync your library to the iPods) you can safely point it to your external drive, use your unmodified exported playlists, and ditch iTunes.
posted by Bangaioh at 2:11 PM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

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