Do you let iTunes keep your music folder organized?
March 10, 2007 5:29 AM   Subscribe

Do you let iTunes keep your music folder organized?

I'm staring at my music folder, which has been kept in order by iTunes since who knows when. It's all well and good, but I'm itching to reorganize it. For example, if I were to do it myself, I'd put OK Go in Music>>Indie>>OK Go, because I discovered them organically instead of on the radio, but..they're on the radio now. And it's not that I look down on anything that's on the radio, it's just that I found OK Go through a friend, and so I considered them an "indie" discovery.

All this, of course, is in lieu of organizing things by very specific genres...I'd rather have Brendan Benson in an "Indie" folder and labeled as "Pop/Rock" in the genre tag of iTunes than create a "Powerpop" genre.

What are your experiences with either side of the coin? Should I just let iTunes keep organizing my folders, or should I just make these calls as I go and try a reorganization?
posted by sjuhawk31 to Computers & Internet (34 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: More to the point: where the heck to I put my Ben Folds?
posted by sjuhawk31 at 5:31 AM on March 10, 2007

I let iTunes do its thing. Quite frankly I don't see the point of reorganizing it myself; the beauty of the setup is that I never look in the folder anyway! If you're playing your music through iTunes/an iPod, it doesn't matter where/how the folders are organized. I prefer to use metadata (the genre field, tags, etc) if I need further categorization.
posted by web-goddess at 5:45 AM on March 10, 2007

I'd just let iTunes do it's thing. What you need to do is start using the "Grouping" tag (just look at the Information for the song in question, the same place you change the artist and album and etc). Then you have Brendan Benson wherever iTunes puts him, with Genre=Pop/Rock and Grouping=Indie or Grouping=Powerpop or whatever you want. Then you can search by grouping or make playlists based on grouping or whatever you want.

Why would you even be looking at your files behind the interface anyway?
posted by The Michael The at 5:51 AM on March 10, 2007

You can use more than one genre, e.g. "Indie, Pop/Rock, Powerpop" and make smart playlists including any one of those terms, so Brendan Benson would appear in all three lists. The problem with this approach is that the mixed genres become a new genre to iTunes, so if you try to search by genre on your iPod you will get a messy list including every combination that you've assigned to any particular song. You'll have your Indie folder, but you'll also have one called Indie, Pop/Rock, Powerpop. This can be a bug or a feature, I guess. (I consider it a bug.)

If changing the genres isn't enough, just use the Comments field for tags that are meaningful to you, and then use Smart Playlists to sort stuff the way you want it. You can have an "indie" or "I discovered this before it was on the radio" playlist or whatever.
posted by bink at 6:01 AM on March 10, 2007

Yes. For all I care, iTunes could throw all my files in one massive folder and assign them all a number based on the order in which they joined. I just organise everything through the program itself.
posted by chrismear at 6:02 AM on March 10, 2007

There are more important things in life, to me, than keeping my iTunes folder organized.

But some music freaks (and I say that with much love) need to reorganized their stuff exactly as they want it for whatever reason. This sounds like you.

So it comes done to "how valuable is your time" vs "dammit it needs to be this way because I want this way"

And that's for you to decide. Either way is valid, whatever makes you happy.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:07 AM on March 10, 2007

Response by poster: Bink, making multiple genres like you suggest makes a mess of the "Genre" list in the dropdown menus and on the iPod. The rest of you: thanks, I've never actually had a problem with how iTunes organizes my folder, but I was testing the waters of anyone who might have taken the time.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 6:23 AM on March 10, 2007

Didn't anyone ever read/see High Fidelity? Some peeps simply have to take control of these matters.

I say move it around however much you want in order to be comfortable, but it will be a much bigger pain in the ass than if you just ignored the files and did it all via itunes.
posted by nevercalm at 6:26 AM on March 10, 2007

I used to organize it myself, but realized how much simpler it was to let iTunes do it.
posted by grouse at 6:33 AM on March 10, 2007

I organise it myself, using Artist>Album folders. It's a holdover from when I used WinAmp, but it also means if I ever need to migrate to something other than iTunes I know where everything is. Plus I just like organising my stuff I guess.

I never bother with genres (in iTunes everything is in the vaguest categories possible: Rock, Electronica, Hip-Hop, etc) since I have no idea what genre most of the stuff I listen to is supposed to be. In any case, I never think "Hmm, I want to listen to some electronica", I think "Hmm, I want to listen to [Artist]".

Why would you even be looking at your files behind the interface anyway?
To move music on to my phone or (non-iPod) mp3 player, or to email it to someone.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:16 AM on March 10, 2007

It's not terribly difficult to manage a library manually. I just drag and drop the files into the appropriate folder and "Add to Library" in iTunes.

Perhaps things are better with iTunes nowadays, but I once (years ago) had a terrible experience when I allowed the app to organize my files. It duplicated everything and dumped compilations and "various artist" tracks into unintuitive places. This was undoubtedly due to user error on my part, but it scared me into manual library management. I've sworn by it ever since.
posted by aladfar at 8:00 AM on March 10, 2007

Depends on the library -- on the DJing laptop and the secondary drive where I have strated to rip the CD collection, I let itunes organize me.

My main library (for the most part) gets archived off to CD (tracks) or DVD (albums) by genre when that genre folder fills up to a disc's capacity. In that case, it would not work at all to have iTunes to organize the tracks by artist.
posted by omnidrew at 8:13 AM on March 10, 2007

I'm very anal about my 90+gig library, and for years I kept it all organized myself. Then it just got to be too much and I gave up and let iTunes take over. I haven't been happier since. My only wish is that iTunes would let you customize file names. For example, I wish the year, artist & album names were present in the actual file names as well, instead of just the folder name.
posted by afx114 at 8:17 AM on March 10, 2007

When iTunes first came out... I was SO pissed that it wouldn't base the library on the existing library. Well, you know, I was using SoundJam after all. :)

But over time, yeah, I ultimately came to understand why iTunes was better at managing it that I was. Mainly because as much as I love music and listening to it, I won't take the time to manage the libraries myself. Frankly, why should I? The operating system is a lousy database manager. You're basically left to create all your own categories, genres, etc. and that takes time. It's more an illusion of control than actual control when you start to think about the very small amount of data categories available in the OS itself.

I've also turned my photo management over to iPhoto as well, so, there you go. :)
posted by smallerdemon at 8:46 AM on March 10, 2007

Why would you even be looking at your files behind the interface anyway?

Well, to send to friends. But goodness! Isn't that illegal? ;) Or to use in GarageBand, etc.

This is easy enough to deal with anyway. Just right-click and select "show in finder" (not sure exactly what it says in Windows, but same principle).
posted by smallerdemon at 8:53 AM on March 10, 2007

I've got itunes set to use an external hard drive for storing the music files, it copies the files to it when I add them to the library, and I organize them myself because I can't stand the way itunes organizes compilations into a "compilations" folder, even if the compilation is a "best of" collection for an individual artist.
posted by disclaimer at 8:54 AM on March 10, 2007

+1 to letting iTunes manage my music for me. My library is just too large to worry about manually filing everything away; it's much easier to just drop a folder into the library and have iTunes do it for me.

As per the compilations issue, I never mark things as part of a compilation. As long as the songs all have the same album title, it's just as simple to pull up that compilation in the albums pane, and sort it by track.
posted by phaded at 9:21 AM on March 10, 2007

My library is only about 30gig, but I'm all for organizing it myself. It's not terribly different from how iTunes would do it, actually, but I like having the year in the folder name (to sort chronologically in Explorer) and I separate single tracks into an 'mp3' folder rather than in a folder labelled with its album title.

I would never organize by genres, anyway - I have a hard enough time trying to pick genres for the tags itself. I'm thinking about resorting to the default tags, but I can't help feeling like it would all end up in 'Alternative & Punk'.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 10:06 AM on March 10, 2007

I use iTunes to organise it. Someone mentionned that they like to see the files if they ever want to migrate stuff. I just use the following to get my files and dump them in a new folder, in a giant, unorganised mess (on a Mac, in the Terminal, all one line):

find "source directory path" -iname '*.mp3' -exec mv {} "destination directory path" \;

I'm sure there are better ways (like ones that also find other filetypes you specify), but this works for me.

If someone wants to tell me how to properly use regex to find m4as etc as well, I will be hugely grateful.
posted by djgh at 10:18 AM on March 10, 2007

You could use regular expressions, but for this use it would be easier just to use the -or option of find:

find "source directory" -iname '*.mp3' -or -iname '*.m4a' -print0 | xargs -0 -i mv {} "destination directory"

Also, find -print0 | xargs -0 is frequently more efficient than find -exec, but you can change it back if you want.
posted by grouse at 10:42 AM on March 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

While it's a fine thing to want to do what djgh and grouse suggest, it can be dangerous since many times files will have the same name within their various subfolders - for instance there are many 01 Intro.m4a files in my collection.

As far as sharing with friends, you can usually select whatever you want in iTunes and drag-copy it into the Finder (or Windows Explorer) into a folder. Unfortunately, iTunes/Applescript/Finder seem to fail silently if it encounters these filename collisions.

A better way is probably burning a Data CD or DVD with the playlists you'd like to give them. I imagine iTunes would then burn the subset of the directory hierarchy that it manages.
posted by tomierna at 11:04 AM on March 10, 2007

I organise it myself, using Artist>Album folders.
That's how my iTunes folders are, and I just let iTunes manage everything.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:33 AM on March 10, 2007

I let iTunes do its thing.

I do mess with the default genres, and I've created some applescripts that make it easy to add tags into the Grouping field (this is not a canonical use of the Grouping field, but I'm OK with that). But other than that, I almost never look at the files themselves—I always access them via iTunes.
posted by adamrice at 12:24 PM on March 10, 2007

Hierarchichal organization is starting to become obsolete. As search algorithms get faster and metadata gets better, it's much faster to search for the info you need. This is especially true when you consider how much data the average PC user creates and stores, even in a few months.

In iTunes, I can type ok go, and have an easy to read list pop up almost instantly, or in explorer, I can browse to Music>Bands>O>OkGo>AlbumName>Song. The former is certainly more convenient. Picasa makes searching for pictures faster, google desktop searching for files.

Concentrate on updating the ID3 tags if you really want to organize your library. Then you can search and sort to your heart's content, no matter where it's stored.
posted by chrisamiller at 12:35 PM on March 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Media managers more advanced than itunes will let you assign your own org schemes to some or all of your files, based on selections or expressions and derived from your tags. I find I have several different schemes for organization based on the context. Being able to append org schemes with optionals such as years and locations is good with lots of concert tracks and gigs.

You could have, for instance:

[Label]/[Catalogue #]/[Album]/[Artist][Track#]

for those tracks with label/catalogue entries... usually a good indicator there is something special about this set.



for any tracks with genre=classical.



for anything with genre=spoken word

etc etc
posted by meehawl at 1:11 PM on March 10, 2007

I used to do it myself, organized by genre then artist, but then I'd go and reinstall windows or get a new hard drive, and forget what genre I had an artist in. Letting iTunes organize itself makes it so much easier to restore a library... you don't have to worry about finding songs that have been moved to another folder.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:14 PM on March 10, 2007

I manage things like EndsOfInvention does, and for similar reasons. Things are generally arranged Artist/Album/Songs. Compilations are in their own folders. Classical music is arranged by Composer/Piece/Performance/Songs, and other non-rock forms of music get similarly special arrangements. A few artists have special arrangements: under the "Acid Mothers Temple" folder, for example, there are folders for "...and the Cosmic Inferno," "...and the Melting Paraiso UFO," "...and the Pink Ladies Blues" and so on, with albums in the appropriate subfolders. Single tracks go in a special folder of their own. I don't divide things by genre (either in managing my file structure or in assigning id3 tags), since too much music crosses genres. I make sure that all of my mp3s contain, at a minimum, the song name and track number [generally also the album and artist names], so I have all the information I need. [Note that this what I use to maintain a fairly large music collection, more than twice the size of the largest one I see mentioned here.]

iTunes does a bad job dealing with compilations, classical music, and other music that's not arranged like a rock album. I'd like to be able to find the music I want to hear regardless of what music client I'm using: XMMS, WinAmp, iTunes, whatever. Since I manage my folders myself, I don't have to worry about this. Furthermore, depending on the source of and age of your mp3s, depending on id3 tags to be correct can be a pretty bad idea. A lot of old stuff was barely tagged, and those scofflaws who get mp3s from p2p networks can't necessarily trust their tags either. Software like MusicBrainz can help, but it's a lot of extra work if you have a large collection - and it's work that's not necessary unless you're dependent on id3 tags to find the music you want to hear. People who organize their own mp3s aren't.

In the end, it comes down to how you listen to music, how you like things organized, and how you prefer to use your music software. For me, maintaining my own organization system is much easier than dealing with something like iTunes, but that might not be the case for you.
posted by ubersturm at 1:50 PM on March 10, 2007

Wow. Do you guys write the bytes of your files by hand as well? Better than using an application to do it, after all?

For everyone who wants access to their files for sending/email/whatever ... Use iTunes! You can drag files right from any playlist on to the desktop and it will copy them. You need never go into that folder again.
posted by bonaldi at 3:12 PM on March 10, 2007

I used to organize my folders when I was using a PC and Winamp. The whole point of iTunes is that you don't need to organize as you have a good search system (which most other players do not).
posted by wackybrit at 3:20 PM on March 10, 2007

I can't stand the way itunes organizes compilations into a "compilations" folder, even if the compilation is a "best of" collection for an individual artist.

You can just tell iTunes that those aren't compilations. iTunes pretty much defines "compilation" to mean "album with tracks from more than one artist". As far as I can tell this is to avoid browsing screwups. If the album only has one artist, then unchecking "Part of a compilation" won't hurt anything.
posted by flaterik at 8:43 PM on March 10, 2007

Garageband (among others) has a beautiful iTunes interface that will let you search directly in iTunes and list the results in order of how long the music plays. For me this is a lot more valuable than being able to traverse a directory that certainly doesn't have those informations. Now if we could have the BPM too... :-)
posted by KimG at 9:12 PM on March 10, 2007

afx114 cites the MAIN REASON I haven't switched to letting iTunes taking over. (The other reason is that I go through phases where I hate iTunes and switch to winamp or mediamonkey but i think that's neither here nor there).

as for how i organize it: artist--> album
posted by mittenedsex at 10:07 PM on March 10, 2007

Bink, making multiple genres like you suggest makes a mess of the "Genre" list in the dropdown menus and on the iPod. The rest of you: thanks, I've never actually had a problem with how iTunes organizes my folder, but I was testing the waters of anyone who might have taken the time.

the way to do it is put the primary genre in the 'genre' field, and use the 'grouping' field for more general tagging, comma separated
posted by ascullion at 4:04 AM on March 11, 2007

-I organise it myself, using Artist>Album folders.

--That's how my iTunes folders are, and I just let iTunes manage everything.

True, but iTunes does weird things with compilation albums/soundtracks/etc and I like to do organise them in my own (weird*) way.

*I tag the tracks with the artist as [Album title] and the track name as [Artist - track name] because I like to see the soundtracks in the artist lists.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:30 PM on March 12, 2007

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