How to Organize Your iTunes Music Library

My iTunes library was a mess. It was littered with broken song titles, artist names, and album art. At first I didn’t think having a disorganized library was such a big deal. I could usually find what I was looking for when using iTunes on my PC. But an unorganized music library is a nightmare on a mobile device like the iPod. If your iTunes library isn’t organized, music tracks can be scattered across many different artist names and genres.

After this realization, I finally decided to organize my iTunes library. It took an entire weekend for me to figure out the best plan of attack. So I thought I would write this post based on my experience in the hopes that it may save somebody else the trouble I went through.

Note: There are many software applications that can fix your iTunes library automatically without performing these steps. These utilities often cost money and I’ve found that they don’t always fix every possible problem. This tutorial is meant for iTunes users who wish to save their money and fix all of their library problems manually.

What you’ll need for this tutorial

  • Download and install MusicBrainz. The software is available for Windows and OS X.
  • Currently iTunes 11 is the most recent version at the time of this post, so that’s what we’ll be using.

Organizing your music

Track Name, Artist names and Genre

First we’re going to make sure we have consistent artist names and genres. I decided to fix album names and album art later.

1. From the Songs view, sort your music by Artist. Make sure the Album by Artist/Year and Genre columns are view-able.

2. Starting from the top, start scanning each item to ensure the Name, Artist and Genre are correct. If you’re really picky, check the Year as well. When you find a problem, take one of the following actions that best suit your situation:

a. If there is a single error, simply click once on the problematic text. iTunes should then highlight the text and allow you to correct it.

iTunes edit single text

b. If there are several errors on tracks, you may want to edit them all at once. Below we have a situation where the artist AC/DC is showing as spelled several different ways (AC/DC, ACDC, AC-DC, and ACDc). Some of the tracks also show a different genre. Some say “Hard Rock” while others just say “Rock”. The Artist Name and Genre for all of these tracks should be the same. So we will need to highlight them all by Shift-clicking or  CTRL-clicking each item. From there you can right-click one of the items, then select Get Info. A dialog may appear prompting you that you will be editing information for multiple items, you can select Yes on this warning.

iTunes Get Info on multiple items

A Multiple Item Information screen will appear where you can make a multiple problematic files at the same time. In the above example we want to make the Artist and Genre consistent. So from the Info tab, we will fill in the Artist and Genre fields with “AC/DC” and “Rock” respectively. Change any other problematic information as you see fit to make all items consistent. Leave fields blank on information you don’t wish to change. Click OK, when you’re done.

Change multiple files iTunes

Now all music tracks for AC/DC look consistent.

c. If there are some major problems where multiple things are broken with any item or group of items, it may be a good time to utilize the MusicBrainz Picard software. You can drag and drop broken items directly from iTunes to the MusicBrainz Picard window to fix them. For more information on using this awesome utility, see our post “Free Program Fixes iTunes Song Title, Artist and Album Info“. The reason why I don’t recommend this software to simply fix everything is that it is sometimes wrong at guessing albums.

When fixing artist names, it’s important to be mindful of bands that can start with “The”. “Smashing Pumpkins” and “The Smashing Pumpkins” are the same band. Choose between using “The” or not, but be consistent when renaming the artist in a group of items.

iTunes Bands with THE

Repeat these steps until all your music shows the correct Name, Artist and Genre.

Album Name and Album Art

I like to listen to entire albums in one sitting. So it’s important to have the proper Album Name showing on each track. Album art is also an important part of your music listening experience as it provides a clear, visual way to find music. Since Album Art is dependent on the Album Name, we’ll tackle organizing these two items together.

1. Switch to the Albums view.

2. Starting from the top of the list, look for any albums that don’t have any artwork and only show the music note.

Blank album artwork in iTunes

3. Once you locate an album that does not contain artwork, you can do one of the following depending on the situation:

a. Click once on the album title text, then edit it.

iTunes Edit Album Name

b. Click once on the album icon to view all tracks listed for the item. From there you can edit individual tracks by right-clicking/CTRL-clicking each one, then selecting Get Info. From the Info tab, correct the Album name, then click OK.

iTunes Edit Album From Get Info

c. Drag and drop an individual track or the entire album over to the MusicBrainz Picard application. The application doesn’t find album titles for everything, but it can correct most album titles. For more information on using this awesome utility, see our post “Free Program Fixes iTunes Song Title, Artist and Album Info“.

If you are having trouble finding the proper album title for your music, a Google or Amazon search is probably the best method for finding what you need.

4. Once you have the proper album title added, you can then try to get album artwork by right-clicking/CTRL clicking the album icon, then selecting Get Album Artwork.

iTunes Get Album Artwork selection

5. In most cases, iTunes will automatically find the proper album artwork. If iTunes doesn’t find artwork, you’ll need to add it manually.

iTunes Album Artwork populated

Conclusion

After going through these steps, your iTunes library should now be organized. If you have a large library, it is likely you missed a few tracks. That’s OK. Continue to fix errors in your library whenever you find them. Your well on your way to a perfect library.

What is your experience in organizing your iTunes library? Share your experience in the Comments section.

Comments

  1. Audolf says

    I didn’t know where to begin with this mess. I had a lot of mp3s that were from the 90s all without proper artist and songs. your method worked and I thank you.

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