Tuesday, May 03, 2005

There are almost as many reasons to visit The Spoonbender as there are people that visit. I'm talking about tens of reasons. For example, some people want to know, as have many recently visited Googlers, whether American Idol's Scott Savol is an African American or an American. Others hope to find an example of the proper usage of the racial slur "fandango." Some visitors to The Spoonbender would like to see a nude photo of Marilu Henner, and others want to become emotionally involved in a blog fight over which 25-year-old girl in Brooklyn is fattest and whether she's neglected her moral responsibility as a high-profile blogger. And still others come because they'd like to know how to organize their iTunes library correctly. As you, regular readers all, know, I've covered all but one of these topics recently. Today, I will take on the remaining.

And so it is that I present to you, this: The Spoonbender's Guide to the Organization of an iTunes Library.

Though I am a great fan of Apple's iTunes software, I discovered a few major shortcomings while undertaking what was a task of great magnitude -- importing my library of CD's into said. The below is primarily a discussion of how I addressed these shortcomings. It should be noted, however, that I have what I think is a relatively large collection of CD's -- about 600 -- and that I am rather particular when it comes to the organization of this collection. Some knowledge of my organizational preferences will inform your understanding of the iTunes choices I made, and so I have provided that background here.

First, I believe that the proper organization of a CD collection must be primarily alphabetical, secondarily by date. There are those who would argue that a collection should be organized by genre, then alphabetically, and then by date, but these people are stupid. The genre system is a slippery slope. Where is John Zorn filed? And what of Frank Zappa? Should Spain's second record be in country and the first in jazz? The unsatisfactory answers to these questions lead to one conclusion: Genre is for suckers.

Second, I believe that solo artists should be filed by last name. Exceptions are few, but they do exist. For example, fake names, such as Jethro Tull or Cat Power, should be filed by first name. In the rare case of an artist such as Will Oldham, who records under the various Palace monikers, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, and his own name, all records should be filed under O for Oldham. Within that section they should be organized chronologically. Records on which Oldham is featured, such as The Anomoanon or Superwolf, such be filed as though they were any other band.

Third, I believe that motion picture soundtracks should be organized by movie name. Exceptions are made when the entire soundtrack is authored by a single artist, such as in the cases of Badly Drawn Boy's work on "About A Boy" or Toto's score to the film version of "Dune."

Let us now return to our discussion of iTunes. When importing your collection, you must be aware of some things. First of these is that iTunes searches for the name and track listing of your CD on some online database. This database consists of user generated content and, therefore, it is unreliable. Be ever vigilant for misspelled track names.

Now, about 90% of the time this database lists solo artists first name first. In order to accomplish proper organization, it's necessary to rename all of a solo artist's imported tracks in the follow format:

Lightfoot, Gordon

Please note that exceptions should be made when dealing with the likes of Cat Power. In the case of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, you should rename as follows:

Cave, Nick (and the Bad Seeds)

This prevents separation of works by artists like Elvis Costello who recorded albums with and without named backing bands such as the Attractions.

Another naming conundrum is presented by soundtracks. In all cases, the album name should appear as follows:

"Pretty in Pink" Soundtrack

This insures that, when sorted by album name, all soundtracks appear together (alphabetized by ").

Finally, after you've imported your collection you will find that you have a number of duplicate songs. To find these, use iTunes "Show Duplicate Songs" command -- a very handy tool. Economy and good sense dictate you remove these. In this situation, you must respect the primacy of the album. So, if you have Alice in Chains' "Would?" on both Dirt and the "Singles" Soundtrack, delete the version from the soundtrack. The same rule applies to greatest hits collections, singles, and EP's. Whenever possible, attribute songs on any collection to the album on which they first appeared. That is, Jim Croce's "Operator" should be attributed to Don't Mess Around with Jim rather than whatever greatest hits collection you might have imported it off of.

Now that you've properly named your music, it's time to get the album artwork. I suggest MPFreaker. It allows you to select your entire library, hit go, and return in some time to an iTunes library complete with artwork. Some of you may also have music trapped on your iPod. For this, I highly recommend Senuti. It will copy all music and any playlists you might want to save from your iPod on to your Mac.

It's that simple. I welcome your questions and suggestions, though both will likely be ignored.

Analogcabin @ 10:21 AM
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