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How to clean your song library

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My colleagues have been posting quite a bit recently about their favorite songs or music videos of the year. As I am a musical Luddite who is just as happy to listen to Skrillex as to Beethoven, I’ve decided not to do that. What I will do is put up a few tips and tricks to improve your music listening experience on the other side of things – your computer.

Step one: Delete Duplicate Songs

I know what you’re thinking: ain’t nobody got time for that. When you have thousands and thousands of songs with hundreds of duplicates and weird long names because you got them from “alternative” distribution channels, it can be a daunting task to contemplate. Fortunately, there are a couple of  tools out that to help.

The first thing to do is to open up iTunes – I’m assuming you’re using iTunes for this, btw – and click the “File” tab in the top left. There, you can click a button that says “Display Duplicates.”

This will make iTunes only show songs that have multiple copies in your library. From here, you can delete ALL BUT ONE of the versions of the song. If you delete them all, then even the original will be gone. One thing to note about this: It’s possible that you have duplicate songs because you have two albums with the same song – if you delete the song from one of the albums, it will obviously be gone from there. As with anything computer related, ALWAYS check before you delete.

This can get tedious, especially with thousands of songs to delete. If you have that many, I’d suggest using a mouse if you’re not already, a trackpad quickly gets tedious for this sort of thing.

Also, there are many MANY paid tools out there that promise to fix duplicates automagically. I’m a cheap bastard so I don’t use those.

Step Two: Clean up your songs

So you’ve amassed a huge music library of 10,000 songs. Either you payed $10,000 for it, or you’ve “acquired” certain files along the way. Chances are, these files have no album art, or strange names, or whatever. So let’s fix that.

For the Album Art, iTunes has a nice built in utility to get that. Go to your main music library, then to go the album view (button in the upper-right). Then, select the album that you want art for, right click, and select “Get Album Artwork.” If iTunes recognizes the album, it will download the correct art. This also works for multiple albums at a time, so simply drag a big box around your whole library and repeat the process to do it all in one go.

Sometimes that doesn’t work though, because of the aforementioned bad names. Thankfully, there’s a nice free program for Windows and Mac called “MusicBrainz Picard.” Don’t ask about the name, no clue. Anyways, it’s a utility that goes through each of the songs that you tell it to, and scans them for a “fingerprint,” similar to how Shazam detects songs. It then fills out the information based on the fingerprint detected. It’s not QUITE that simple, but here’s a tutorial on their official site on how to use it. When it works, it works great. As always, back up before you make changes to any important files.

Now that your songs are all fixed, go ahead and re-do the Album Art part – iTunes will pick up a lot more of them this time through.

That’s about it. Hope this helped! Oh, and I wanted to plug one other product:

VLC Media Player:  — This thing is the Final Boss of media players. This thing can play anything. And I mean anything. I have never come across a music or video file that VLC can’t play. I’m serious. Also, it’s lightweight and free. Win-win.


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