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How To: Clean Up Your iTunes Library

As the new year approaches, it’s time to make some resolutions; you know, those things you say you’re going to do but forget after a few weeks… Well, I have a suggestion for a useful resolution that won’t take long: you could clean up your iTunes library. You could weed out duplicates, find missing album art, and check up on your tags. In this article, I’ll discuss how you can do these tasks, quickly and easily.

Get Rid of Duplicates

As your iTunes library grows, you may end up with a bunch of duplicates; some tracks that you bought, others that you “downloaded,” and even some that you ripped, either recently or way back when. It serves little purpose to have these duplicates in your iTunes library, so it’s a good idea to weed them out from time to time.

iTunes lets you find duplicates in your library. Choose View > Show Duplicate Items. You can then manually delete any dupes you don’t want to keep. If you want to find exact duplicates – those that might be on two different albums – press the Option key (or the Shift key if you’re on Windows), then choose View > Show Exact Duplicate Items.

But iTunes’ duplicate finding is limited. A much better tool to find dupes is Doug Adams’ $15 Dupin, a simple app that lets you find and sort duplicates according to a number of criteria. You can choose which ones to keep, according to their date, play counts, bit rates and more. It can find exact duplicates, as well as songs that appear on, say, a regular album and a best of collection.

Dupin portrait tight yos

If you don’t need all of Dupin’s powerful features, you can try the $6 Dupin Lite 2, which offers many of Dupin’s features, but has fewer power-user features.

Find Tracks Without Album Artwork

If you have lots of tracks without album artwork, it might be a good idea to sort them in your iTunes library so you can add artwork to them. In some cases, you may have an album where not all tracks have artwork; in others, full albums may be missing artwork.

Doug Adams’ Tracks Without Embedded Artwork will find all tracks that don’t have artwork embedded in their files. This may find some tracks that do have artwork; when you purchase music from the iTunes Store, the artwork is not embedded in the files, so if you copy it to another computer, the artwork won’t be there.

Embedded artwork

After you run this script, you’ll want to embed the artwork in the tracks that have artwork that’s not embedded, before you start looking for artwork that’s missing altogether. There’s a script for this: Re-Embed Artwork. This exports the artwork, then adds it to the files.

To find tracks without any artwork, you can use Doug Adams’ $4 TrackSift, an app which contains nine useful tools for working with your iTunes library, its files, and its playlists.

The Find Tracks Without Artwork module creates a playlist of all tracks that have no artwork at all.

Tracksift3

As for the rest, you’ll want something that can help you find missing artwork. You can use Google, but if you have a lot of files, you might want to get a dedicated app, such as Equinox’s $30 CoverScout. This app examines you files, finds the ones that are missing artwork, and then searches for the missing graphics and adds them to the files.

Get Rid of Dead Tracks

“Dead” tracks are those tracks that iTunes has lost track of. You may have deleted them, and there may still be entries in your iTunes library; or you may have lost the original files. TrackSift, which I mentioned above, can find and delete dead tracks.

Tracksift4

It’s best to check Dry Run at first; this creates a text file with a list of dead tracks, and you can scan this to see which ones you want to keep, then look for their missing files.

Find Tracks with Missing Genre, Artist, Album Tags

In order to find music in your iTunes library, sort it, and funnel it into smart playlists, you need to have good tags. It’s a good idea to scan your library from time to time and find tracks that are missing some of the essential tags, such as Genre, Artist or Album.

This is easy to do with smart playlists. For example, to find all the tracks with no Genre tag, make a smart playlist where Genre is [blank]:

Genre playlist

Do the same for other tags: use Artist, Album, or any other tags you want to fill in. The advantage of these smart playlists is that, when you save them, they’ll continually show you tracks matching their conditions. You won’t have to update all the tracks right away; you can do a handful whenever you have time.

Another app from Equinox, the $30 SongGenie, can fix tags, even find tags for your music, add lyrics and more. SongGenie and CoverScout are sold in a bundle at a discount.

Remove Unwanted Genres

Another feature of TrackSift, which I mentioned above, is the ability to remove or merge unwanted genres. You my have an iTunes library with dozens of genres, such as Electro-dubstep-cool-jazz. You may want to move all of these genres to a single, more encompassing genre, such as Electronic or Jazz. TrackSift can do this. Select a genre, tell the app which genre you want to merge it with, and it will quickly change all the tracks in the selected genre.

Note that you cannot remove the two dozen or so genres that iTunes includes by default. So even if you never use Jazz or Soundtracks, they’ll always show up in the list.

And More

There’s lots more you can do to tidy up your iTunes library. If you use a Mac, check out Doug Adams’ website in the Managing Track Info category for more useful AppleScripts. See also his Recommendations by Task page, which groups different AppleScripts by the tasks they perform.

And as part of your New Year’s resolution, try to tag your files better when you add them to your iTunes library; you’ll avoid having to do a massive clean-up later.

Music Vault Releases Dozens Of Grateful Dead And Jerry Garcia Band Concerts On YouTube

Earlier this year, Music Vault announced the release of 13,000 archival videos on YouTube, ranging from The Who to Ken Kesey to The Allman Brothers to St. Vincent. The group opened their collection to the general public, graciously restoring and preserving these legendary performances.

Music Vault has been at it again, steadily uploading a stream of Grateful Dead and Dead-family concerts over the past week and a half. Their collection includes several full Dead concerts, including:

-6/18/76, 4/27/77, 11/24/78 at the Capitol Theatre
-08/05/79, 12/27/79, 12/28/79, 12/30/79, 12/26/80, 12/30/80 and 12/31/81 in Oakland
-12/30/77 and 12/31/77 at Winterland
-9/24/88 at MSG
-10/29/80, 10/30/80 and 10/31/80 at Radio City Music Hall
-12/31/90 at the Oakland Coliseum with Bradford Marsalis
-12/30/83 and 12/31/83 at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium
-5/28/82 at Moscone Center
-10/13/80 at Warfield Theatre
-08/04/76 at Roosevelt Stadium

The full collection also includes some Jerry Garcia Band performances, as well as a Jerry Garcia & Bob Weir show from 12/04/88. The full collection can be found on the Music Vault video page. Here are a few choice selections for you fine Deadheads on this fantastic Friday:

via Live For Live Music – Music Vault Releases Dozens Of Grateful Dead And Jerry Garcia Band Concerts On YouTube.

This is from about a month ago, but it’s the first time I spotted it. The video quality isn’t great for most of them, and a lot of them are simply black and white fixed camera recordings. But since there are so few videos of the Dead, this is a great resource. If only they had some from 1972…

New Book: Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession by Ian Bostridge

WintereisseTenor Ian Bostridge has a new book out, Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK; out now in the UK, out next month in the US) Here’s the publisher’s description:

“Schubert’s Winterreise is at the same time one of the most powerful and one of the most enigmatic masterpieces in Western culture. In his new book, Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession, Ian Bostridge – one of the work’s finest interpreters – focusses on the context, resonance and personal significance of a work which is possibly the greatest landmark in the history of Lieder. Drawing equally on his vast experience of performing this work (he has performed it more than a hundred times), on his musical knowledge and on his training as a scholar, Bostridge unpicks the enigmas and subtle meaning of each of the 24 songs to explore for us the world Schubert inhabited, bringing the work and its world alive for connoisseurs and new listeners alike. Originally intended to be sung to an intimate gathering, performances of Winterreise now pack the greatest concert halls around the world.”

I very much like the way Bostridge sings Schubert’s lieder, but I’ve never read any of his writing, such as his first book, Witchcraft and Its Transformations, C. 1650 – C. 1750, (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) or his later A Singer’s Notebook (Amazon.com, Amazon UK).

I’ve ordered this book, to accompany Graham Johnson’s Franz Schubert, The Complete Songs, and a few wonderful interpretations of Winterreise released in the past year, which will be the object of a future article.

Note also that Bostridge’s three Schubert song cycles, recorded with pianists Mitsuko Ichida and Leif Ove Andsnes, will be released in a bargain set in January. This set also includes a filmed version of Winterreise that Bostridge made some years ago; this is not a recital, but a somewhat theatricalized film of the songs. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

BBC Documentary Blames Apple for Chinese Labor Conditions, Ignores All the Other Companies

I’ve worked at a lot of different jobs in my life, but there are a few I’d never like to try: picking crops on a farm, working in a chicken processing plant, and working in any kind of factory. The relentless assembly lines and the noise of the machines would be hard to deal with. Even those factories without deafening machines still seem like harsh places to work, if only because of the cadence they impose on employees.

Whatever device you’re reading this article on was built in a factory, most likely in China. In this country, not known for its pleasant working conditions, all the major computer manufacturers have their devices built and assembled. Including Apple.

Apple has been publishing Supplier Responsibility Progress Reports on its website since 2007, detailing the efforts the company has made to improve the conditions of workers. (You can read this year’s report right here.)

But has it made a difference? This is what journalist Richard Bilton set out to find. The BBC ran a documentary last night on its Panorama program (roughly the British equivalent of 60 Minutes, except each show is a full hour about a single topic). He wanted to know whether the conditions in Apple’s plants had improved since the company promised, following a series of suicides at a Foxconn plant in 2010, to improve them.

Read the rest of the article on Macworld.

The iTunes Guy Finds Your Lost Ringtones and More

itunesguy-thum-100004188-gallery.jpgAnother iOS update, another round of bugs. This time, a recent update to iOS 8 deleted ringtones and alert tones. I explain how to get them back. I also look at using multiple Apple IDs in the iTunes Store and App Store, discuss not being able to block iTunes Radio, and look at a question about moving an iTunes library to a new Mac while retaining metadata.

Read this week’s Ask the iTunes Guy at Macworld.

Apple’s Chinese Factories: Did the BBC Pass Off China Labor Watch’s Reporting as Their Own?

The BBC broadcast a scathing documentary about working conditions in Chinese factories last night, in a documentary on its Panorama program called Apple’s Broken Promises. In researching this story for an article that will be published on Macworld later today, I noted that China Labor Watch, an advocacy group fighting for better working conditions in China, published a report, Apple’s Unkept Promises: Investigation of Three Pegatron Group Factories Supplying to Apple.

This report discusses exactly what the BBC documentary did, and discuses the same problems that the BBC documentary highlighted. I’m curious as to whether the hidden-camera footage in the BBC documentary comes from that report, or if the BBC did, as the journalist claims, send three reporters into Megatron factories. The BBC gives no credit to this group (though it does interview one of its spokesmen), and the report dates from July 2013; if the footage the BBC showed last night is more than 18 months old, it would be useful to know if things have changed since then.

While you’re waiting to read my Macworld article, read this article on Macworld UK, by Karen Haslam, who discusses many of the same points I make.

The Loudness Wars and Classical Music

Cover600x600I got a new recording yesterday that I’m quite enjoying: Philip Glass’s latest release, The Complete Piano Etudes, on his own label Orange Mountain Music. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) I started listening to it last night, in bed, on headphones; I was surprised at how low I needed to turn the volume on my iPhone.

This morning, I decided to look at the tracks and see how loud they were. I was quite surprised. Here’s one of them:

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 10.26.30 AM.png

There is clipping from beginning to end of the track, and that final section is brutal. This is a recording of a single piano. Pianos can be loud, and if you record too close to a piano, it will result in clipping. But this is a world where, ever classical music has to be loud.

Perhaps that’s the point, though. In trying to make this music accessible to non-classical listeners – much of Philip Glass’s audience may be genre-agnostic – the producer of this recording felt it was necessary to increase the loudness, so, when a track comes up on shuffle after a Lady Gaga or Taylor Swift track, those with hearing damage can hear the music.

It’s great music; while there’s a lot of Philip Glass’s music I don’t like, this is the kind that does work for me. But this heinous loudness makes it sound horrible.

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