iTunes Rules

On January 11, 2007, in Computers, by psu

iTunes told me today that it has 440 albums in its database. That number seemed high to me, but I have been ripping the occasional disk once in a while ever since I got my iMac two years ago. And, every new disk I buy generally goes into the machine. After bootstrapping the one true indexing system, I have been more motivated to actually rip and catalog the disks. While iTunes is not the ideal catalog database, you can muddle through by following some simple workflow rules. The goal is to have the music be easy to browse and search on both the main iTunes machine and in the iPod.

The first rule is that there are only three genres of music:

1. Pop

2. Jazz

3. Classical

I reject the ludicrous and neurotic over-categorization of music. Especially popular music. So, R&B is pop. Blues is pop. Electronic Trance Drool Dance Laser Techno Jerk-Off Ska Vocal Sampling … is pop.

The reason for this is simple. It makes it easy to construct shuffle playlists, party shuffle lists, autofill lists, and so on. I don’t have time to sit there and write complicated queries to match against every freak’s idea of what the correct set of genres is. Having only three makes this easy.

The second rule is: the iTunes data model is fairly simple, so aggressively de-normalize the data. This is especially true for Classical music where the single artist single song model really breaks down. If you are not careful, you’ll go and browse albums or songs on the iPod and see 50,000 titles called “String Quartet XYZ in B Major” and so on. This is useless. The solution is to put the key artist or composer in every field of the database so they will show up in all major views in both iTunes and on the iPod. Of course, you have to do some work to be careful and keep your de-normalized formats as uniform as possible. Life is hard.

Sadly, almost no one who uses the CDDB follows these rules, so for most Classical records, you have to completely rewrite the meta-data.

The third rule is: Multiple disk albums count as one album. Do not put the disk number in the title. This will make iTunes think it’s a completely different album, which is sort of stupid. Instead, use the “Disk N of M” meta-data fields. I forget about this rule from time to time and have to go fix things.

The final rule is: if you have a filing system for CDs, put the CD into the filing system immediately after you rip it. I never follow this rule, so my disks are all over the house in little piles and I can never find anything. It’s getting better though. I have about 140 disks filed now. So I guess I have about 400300 to go to catch up to my iTunes database.


8 Responses to “iTunes Rules”

  1. Kim says:

    I mostly agree about the categorization, but I like to segregate the kid music from everything else.

  2. Dr. Click says:

    Blues is pop? Tell that to bluesman somewhere in the Delta. They’ll never find your body.

    Hyper-categorization is insane, but so is over-simplification.

  3. psu says:

    Blues isn’t pop in the sense that it’s pop. I just don’t have enough of it to make bucket for it. And I want it in my car playlists, so it’s pop for that purpose. The categories are just for function, not any kind of aesthetic judgement.

  4. Doug says:

    So… 400 + 140 = 440?

  5. Kristen says:

    You should have a look at MusicBrainz – it’s what CDDB should have been.

  6. sdstone says:

    I mostly agree. Dr. Click is probably correct in that it’s a bit too much of an overgeneralisation. Have you heard XTC’s This is Pop?
    On their live album, Andy Partridge puts it nearly how you just did.

    I’m so tired of having to remove disc numbers from album title fields. They have their own field.

    I tried MusicBrainz, but silly me. I set it to download updated data for my thousands of sounds, read through the first couple hundred, thought they all looked fine and okayed the rest because I didn’t feel like sifting through the list for hours and once it was done, what do you know, lots of typos and incorrect data that I had to hand remove. I was finding incorrect tags for months. I was a little too trusting. Their data isn’t perfect either.

  7. psu says:

    I tried MusicBrainz and found it no better for Classical than CDDB. I think.

  8. Duncan says:

    Having still not moved to a significant program, or library-based management program (like iTunes or Windows Media Player *shudders*) I wind up having to do a lot of management myself as well.

    I use a good program to rip the CDs (CDex) which can grab the generic CDDB data, and at least let me get the basic stuff set right.

    Then I use a simple tag editing program (MP3tag) to make everything all unified, and corrected.

    I agree that there should be a minimum number of genres, although I add a few more: Drama (for radio plays), Audio Book, Christmas, Halloween, Christian, Soundtrack, and a few more to break down the generalities of music.

    By not using something like iTunes, I seem to be missing the chance to get the cover art, and a few other extras. But since I use a non-pod player, there isn’t much call or need for the pictures anyway. I’ll update when I have to.

    Don’t you wish there was a better way?