Help me organize my iTunes library!
June 15, 2008 1:53 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to organize and re-tag my enormous MP3 library? (iTunes, Mac 10.5, 20k+ songs)

My goals for this project are to have every song in my library properly tagged (artist, album, year, track #, etc.) in a consistent format, with artwork where applicable. I'd also like to be able to distinguish sub-genres of music (i.e., neo-soul vs. new jack swing, or west coast g-funk vs. backpacker rap, or arena rock vs. shoegazer, or...), while still being able to browse by genre at large (r&b, hip hop, rock).

I've tried to do this manually using the allmusic database and infinite amounts of patience, but I have more than 20,000 songs and it's getting impractical. I have no idea what software I should use for a library this size--in the past I've used MPFreaker, but I doubt that's the best option any more.

So my questions:

1. What are some good software options to help me? I'm more than willing to pay a shareware fee to support the developers if it's a good program (again, I'm on Leopard, and I'm not willing to give up iTunes). For the most part the songs I have are already tagged, just not consistently. The songs are also a fair mix of MP3/AAC.

2. How have you tackled the subgenre issue in iTunes? Right now I have in the genre column "Main Genre: Subgenre," but I'm willing to hear other suggestions (I have no classical music to speak of, so the "category" and "grouping" info fields are up for grabs).

3. Practical suggestions about how to go about this? In the past when I've tried to organize my library, I've made one big playlist called "FIX," put the whole library in, and removed songs/albums when I was satisfied with their tags. Is there a better way?

posted by cosmic osmo to Computers & Internet (21 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
Start with music brainz. It recognizes each song by each song's unique "signature."
posted by Pants! at 2:02 PM on June 15, 2008

Thanks, going to try this in Linux too with the Music Brainz Picard.
posted by so_ at 2:25 PM on June 15, 2008

The answer to my version of this question was MediaMonkey. But it's mostly a Windows program; I don't have much confidence in the Mac version.
posted by Nelson at 3:58 PM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ditto MusicBrainz. If you're ridiculously picky about your genre information and stuff, you'll still have some hand curation to do, but it will give you a good start.
posted by chrisamiller at 5:34 PM on June 15, 2008

Mp3 tagger utility: It's not automatic like Music Brainz, but very powerful (be careful!).
posted by roofone at 5:41 PM on June 15, 2008

This might sound ridiculous, but I bet you can set up a shared folder and pay someone on a service like to tag your music by hand.
posted by ejoey at 6:02 PM on June 15, 2008

I have a PC and my mp3 organizing regimen is as follows:

1) Put all improperly tagged mp3s in a folder.
2) Use Musicbrainz to tag all files in that folder.
3) Use Musicbrainz to automatically move all properly tagged mp3s to the music folder according to the appropriate system of subfolders (/artist/album/song.mp3)
4) Use iTunesLibraryUpdater to synchronize my iTunes library with the files in the music folder.
5) Keep doing steps 2 through 4 as the Musicbrainz database increases and more files are identifiable.

I don't know what to do with a mac, however. Good luck.
posted by billtron at 6:11 PM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I've used iEatBrainz (OS X client of music brainz) in the past and was semi-satisfied with it; but apparently it's not compatible with Leopard/Intel Macs (I'm on a MacBook).

I downloaded Jaikoz (the new? OS X client) and am having a hard time figuring out how to get it to interface with iTunes (i.e. pointing it to a specific iTunes playlist rather than the actual MP3 file in my music folder) there a Jaikoz-for-morons guide out there? I'm a little confused by the interface...
posted by cosmic osmo at 7:22 PM on June 15, 2008

I use Musicbrainz to tag my new music. I then use media monkey to pull the album art from amazon. It works well.
posted by gergtreble at 1:01 AM on June 16, 2008

I use iEatBrainz as well and share your semi-satisfaction. Surprised to hear it doesn't work for Leopard though - yet another reason not to upgrade. I'll check out Jaikoz.

For your genre problem:

I used to have both "Grouping" and "Genre" showing for songs and used "Genre" for the main genre and "Grouping" for the subgenre (e.g. Grouping: 80s Genre: pop). Useful because I could sort both on 80s music and on pop of all periods. Or downtempo music of all genres and electronica of all subgenres.

This was quite satisfactory, but I eventually got bummed out because I slapped the (sub)genre on per artist, not per song. "This artist mainly makes Grouping: downtempo Genre: electronica", you know. It wasn't enough. And I didn't want to do genres per song manually.

Then I asked this question here and found an applescript that fetches the genre tags for an mp3 from I link to it at the end of the thread. It basically puts the most popular tag in "Genre" and then fills the "Comment" field with that tag and some other popular ones. So:

Genre: electronic Comment: 'electronic' 'downtempo' 'slow'

Not perfect but I've come to like it. I say at the end of that thread that it's mighty slow but discovered later that it really isn't that bad. The script, again, fetches these tags per artist, so I've adapted it to fetch tags per song. This works fine as well.

Though the crowd have a nasty tendency to use the tags "beautiful" (if you say so) and "seen live" (no I haven't). That sucks - not that they don't have the right to use whichever tags they want, of course... I should add something to the script that filters these out, because it's a pain to do it afterwards.

Oh, and the script breaks if the artist name or the song name -depending on which one you're getting the tags for- contains a special character.

Not your cup of tea, maybe, but it's a suggestion.

As for how to go about it, I just selected my whole library and set the script to work, checking in occasionally to see if it had choked on a special character again. I had 6000 songs and it took about 6 hours (with some time between the checks). I have to note that I only did the artist-genre script for the whole library because it only checks on the genre of an artist once and then copies the fields to all the songs you have by that artist. I finetune per song for a whole album every now and then, to keep my load on the databases within the boundaries of fair use.
posted by Skyanth at 2:01 AM on June 16, 2008

I would like to apologise for the bad structure, grammar and quality of that answer. If things are at all unclear and you're interested in this solution (still), feel free to contact me by (m)e(fi)mail.
posted by Skyanth at 4:01 AM on June 16, 2008

Wow - this is timely, I've almost, nearly finished getting my small (38gb) music library in order... (Yes, I am the old foggy who has still been carrying around CD binders)

While I use iTunes/iPod Touch on Windows, admittedly I prefer keeping everything in MP3 and accessable to "other" programs/players. So - while this may not help cosmic osmo, it may help future questioners...

Windows tools:
- Mp3Tag

- Album Art Downloader
-- Simply amazing for music - it searches Amazon internationally, as well as other sources... and then, it is a 1-click download - sort on size, etc...
-- Unfortunately not so good for AudioBooks... (the AudioBook collection is slightly larger... it is my wifes and nearly 180gb...)

- WinAMP
-- There is finally some iPod Touch/iPhone support via a mlipod Plug-in
-- I tried it, and while still rough... it works!

But... after painstakingly ensuring I manually pulled artist names out of titles (Soundtracks, "Various Artists") and adding the best album art I could find manually, I realized that somehow - most of my Genres got blanked! So, thanks for the link to MusicBrainz...
posted by jkaczor at 4:10 AM on June 16, 2008

I'm doing the same thing, fixing the tags in my non-small (>50K songs) library. It's rough going, but I've found that the Applescripts on Doug's Applescripts page have been invaluable for the many poorly-tagged files I have.

I haven't used MediaRage but I've used its earlier version, MP3Rage and that was an extremely powerful tool.

There used to be a program called Clutter for finding album art, but I understand it's incompatible with the new iTunes--I presume you've tried the built-in "Fetch album art" function and found it lacking?
posted by bink at 10:50 AM on June 16, 2008

The best thing about Media Monkey is that it actually makes playlist like lists of mp3s that AREN'T tagged. You can select the list "no album art" and it will show you every mp3 missing album art. So on and so forth for just about everything.

As a player you can take it or leave it, but I'm a metadata nerd, and Media Monkey is amazing for tracking down the data and applying it correctly and easily.
posted by toekneebullard at 1:41 PM on June 16, 2008

Skyanth --

I, too, have been frustrated by how the the tagger script goes by artist and not by song! Unlike you, however, I don't know the first thing about how to write code, so I couldn't adapt it as you have.

You don't happen to have your version of the script available anywhere for download? I would project many warm and appreciative thoughts your way if you did!
posted by patnasty at 2:33 PM on June 16, 2008

If you're super picky and want ultimate control of your mp3 tags, I would go with Tag&Rename from Softpointer ( I've been using this program for the last couple years because it gives me a lot more control over the quality of my tags versus apps like MusicBrainz. It links directly to Amazon and can pull all tags from any CD that you specify from their library. I highly recommend it.

~ D
posted by deeman at 2:53 PM on June 16, 2008

I catalog my music in that way:

-Music Library and Player: MediaMonkey
-Tagger: MusicBrainz (and internal "Auto-tag from Web" on MediaMonkey)
-Lyrics and Album Art: for lyrics I use a plugin for MediaMonkey called Lyricator and display the lyrics with the Lyrics and Comments Viewer script. And for album artwork I use another script called Batch Art Finder that pickup covers from: Google, RateYourMusic, Juno, AlbumArt, AudioScrobbler and locally. Also I use Album Art Downloader for those hard-to-find albums.

And then I catalog my music online on RateYourMusic so I can get recommendations from friends and automatic recommendations.
posted by Leech at 3:07 PM on June 16, 2008

Ummm - so now that I've had some time...

MusicBrainz does not support Genre...
posted by jkaczor at 6:10 PM on June 16, 2008

Seconding deeman's suggestion of Tag&Rename. If you have access to a PC, I'd recommend it.
posted by phaded at 8:09 PM on June 16, 2008

Dittoing the above recommendations of Mediamonkey.

I catalogue my collection using AMGs main genres:

Avant-Garde, Blues, Classical, Country, Electronica, Folk, Jazz, Latin, Rap, Reggae, Rock, Soul, Soundtrack, World.

I use a mediamonkey plugin Web Sources Tagger (with an older version of MM - MM2) to download subgenre, mood, theme, reviews, label and other information from each release.

That way I can use the ipod's genre browser to navigate through my collection without having hundreds of microgenres to wade through. If I want to, I add one of the nested autoplaylists I've created to the ipod. These contain the mood, theme and genre informations.

The playlists are named so that they all fall in the same place in the ipod playlist screen. For example, 'st: Pop Rock'; 'st: Deep Soul'; 'th: Outdoors'; 'th: TGIF' and so on.

Thanks to Leech for the MM recommendations - been checking them out.
posted by letsgomendel at 6:55 AM on June 17, 2008

Musicbrainz Picard? I've tried to check that a few times and I find the interface more inscrutible than Japanese TV.
posted by srboisvert at 8:02 AM on June 21, 2008

« Older How stupid would it be to trash the old financial...   |   I'm starting to get tipped off. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.