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.

14 thoughts on “How To: Clean Up Your iTunes Library

  1. I recently purchased Doug’s “Sundry Info to Comments” script. It does numerous things, but I got it to write the artwork dimensions to the Description field.

  2. Hey Kirk – iTunes Show Suplicates doesn’t seem to do doops so good. Check out just a few below, which came from both Show Duplicates & Show Exact Duplicates.

    Album One

    Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140 – 1. Chorale. Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme 1411 kbps Bach Collegium Japan Bach – Cantatas Vol 52 HiRes & FLAC Converted to AIFF 11/2/14, 10:55 PM AIFF audio file 6:54 70 MB 3/24/14, 9:09 AM

    Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir, BWV 29 – 5. Aria (Soprano). Gedenk an uns mit deiner Liebe 1411 kbps Bach Collegium Japan Bach – Cantatas Vol 52 HiRes & FLAC Converted to AIFF 11/2/14, 10:55 PM AIFF audio file 5:50 59.1 MB 3/24/14, 9:09 AM

    Album Two

    Laudate pueri – Largo 1411 kbps Chanterelle Ensemble Bononcini – Sonatas / Cantatas HiRes & FLAC Converted to AIFF 11/2/14, 10:55 PM AIFF audio file 3:50 39 MB 3/1/14, 8:56 AM

    Laudate pueri – Adagio 1411 kbps Chanterelle Ensemble Bononcini – Sonatas / Cantatas HiRes & FLAC Converted to AIFF 11/2/14, 10:55 PM AIFF audio file 4:06 41.9 MB 3/1/14, 8:56 AM

    Laudate pueri – Vivace 1411 kbps Chanterelle Ensemble Bononcini – Sonatas / Cantatas HiRes & FLAC Converted to AIFF 11/2/14, 10:55 PM AIFF audio file 2:52 29.3 MB 3/1/14, 8:56 AM

    Laudate pueri – Largo 1411 kbps Chanterelle Ensemble Bononcini – Sonatas / Cantatas HiRes & FLAC Converted to AIFF 11/2/14, 10:55 PM AIFF audio file 3:10 32.3 MB 3/1/14, 8:56 AM

    Album Three

    Concerto in B flat major, La Caccia, RV 362, for violin, strings and basso continuo – II. Adagio 1411 kbps Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble/Galli, Tullo The Musical Treasures of Leusta Bruk HiRes & FLAC Converted to
    AIFF 11/2/14, 10:55 PM AIFF audio file 2:08 21.7 MB 1/6/13, 6:07 PM

    Concerto I for 2 flautes, 2 oboe and basso continuo – III. Adagio 1411 kbps Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble/Galli, Tullo The Musical Treasures of Leusta Bruk HiRes & FLAC Converted to AIFF 11/2/14, 10:55 PM AIFF audio file 1:59 20.2 MB 1/6/13, 6:07 PM

    Sonata No.4 for two violins and basso continuo – III. Adagio 1411 kbps Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble/Galli, Tullo The Musical Treasures of Leusta Bruk HiRes & FLAC Converted to AIFF 11/2/14, 10:55 PM AIFF audio file 1:22 13.9 MB 1/6/13, 6:07 PM

    Concerto in G minor for violin, strings and basso continuo – III. Cantabile 1411 kbps Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble/Galli, Tullo The Musical Treasures of Leusta Bruk HiRes & FLAC Converted to AIFF 11/2/14, 10:55 PM AIFF audio file 3:30 35.4 MB 1/6/13, 6:07 PM

  3. Doug’s Scripts are vital to iTunes. My library clean ups happen so much quicker because of Put Track Prefix, Remove N Characters, De-Genre….. oh never mind, there’s a lot of good stuff.

  4. I’ve long wanted to remove dups and sometimes I can, but most of mine exist in playlists and so far I have found no way to identify all playlists that exist for a given song. Delete the song and your playlist gets messed up.

    I’ve always found dups the easiest by looking at all songs by a given artist or group. Dupin sounds great but it still wouldn’t solve the playlist issue…

    • Right-clijc on any track, and the conextual menu has a Playlists sub-menu tvat shows you all the playlists a given track is in. Nut you’ll habe to do this manually fir each track.

  5. “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; …”

    I noticed that iTunes itself produces such dead tracks. Very often, when I delete an album, one track remains in the media library, which I then have to remove manually. I have no idea, why iTunes is not able to delete everything in a clean manner.

  6. I have for years been downloading mp3 files, mostly NPR podcast interviews, and placing them into an iTunes folder of my own naming. I might add that with the exception of renaming these files with more pertinent and memorable titles, I have not been paying much attention to any of the other metadata contained in these files, until very recently.

    What I noticed in more than a few of these mostly vocal mp3s was that their iTunes genre was “blues”.

    My question is: how or when had this genre been assigned to these files?

    Am currently on iTunes 12, mid-2010 Macbook Pro running Mavericks.

    P.S. From an earlier Kirkville posting I was reminded of SongGenie, for which I am a licensed user. I was able to manually alter the genre to a more apt “vocal”, but this process appears to demand individual editing of all files effected.

    • I don’t know how they got that genre applied. But you can change the genre of multiple tracks by selecting them in iTunes, then pressing Command-I to open the Info window. Choose a new genre, then click OK.

  7. Thanks for the added info on iTunes, Kirk. Having done as you suggested the issue I’m running up against is that the file titles in iTunes aren’t what I’d renamed them as; they’re from the original downloads, with the original date stamp and NPR program abbreviation (e.g., fa for ‘Fresh Air, totn for Talk of the Nation), with no way for me to visually identify them.

    Add to this problem is that when hitting the space bar (to incur QuickLook to listen to mp3 files), iTunes is unable to locate them, or the dozen or so chosen out of a list of four or five dozen in the folder list.

    As a subscriber to both of your iTunes Take Control of series, may I presume resolving this issue with iTunes 12 might be included in an updated but yet-to-be-released Take Control of publication?

    • Two things. You can’t Quick Look in iTunes using the spacebar. Do you mean to play them by pressing the space bar?

      As for my book, it’s not meant for troubleshooting. If it were, it would be twice as long, and I don’t think anyone wants a 400 page book about iTunes. That’s why I publish lots of stuff here on my blog.

  8. Yikes! Before you remove all of your entries with missing items, consider that their files might be in your iTunes folder still but it has just forgotten about them. One of the things that the app Song Sergeant does is offer to reunite these guys, and you don’t even have to buy it to do that.

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