iTunes Hygiene

Instead of working on a site redesign that I have a tight deadline on, I am dealing with a long-standing peeve I’ve had: iTunes hygiene.

This isn’t really a problem with iTunes so much as it is a problem with normalizing band names. iTunes’ search is quite smart, and matches similar items even when there are minor differences between them. So “Sigur Ros” and “Sigur Rós” will show up when I search for “ros”.

Its sorting in displays of music is clever as well. If I’m sorting on artist iTunes will cleverly show me “The Doors” intermingled with “Doors”.

The place that inconsistent artist names starts to bite me is on my iPhone. Sometimes I want to pull up an artist and just play all their music. When there are inconsistent names for the artist I end up with multiple entries and can’t get the mix of songs from them that I might want.

It’s easy to spot. Just scroll through the artists list in my iPhone and I find them quickly:

“Deee-lite” or “Deee-Lite”?
“Devotchka” or “DeVotchka”?
“The Doors” or just “Doors”?
“Flaming Lips” or “The Flaming Lips”?
“Iron & Wine” or “Iron and Wine”?
And is it “Gaga” or “GaGa”?

Sometimes she’s “Annie Lennox”, sometimes she’s “Lennox, Annie”.

Don’t even get me started on “Death cab for cutie”.

Then we have accented characters as in “Sigur Rós”.

Siouxsie and the...But the worst of the worst: “Siouxsie & the Banshees”. Or “Siouxsie & The Banshees”. Or “Siouxsie and the Banshees”. Or “Siouxsie And The Banshees”. At least “Siouxsie” was spelled the same each time.

Underworld Underworld
Then we’ve got this one:

I realize that some Unicode characters probably crept into one of those names – in fact, I’d love to know what happened. But it’s really not worth the time to me to pry the names out of iTunes and check their bits.

Some of these are my fault. Back in the bad old days I would enter artist, album and song names by hand. I’m sure I wasn’t as consistent as I might have been. Then MP3 rippers started using CDDB (eventually to become Gracenote), and you were at the mercy of whatever some random person had entered for the CD you were ripping. Still, it was usually better than having to enter it all yourself.

Now most of the music I get is through Amazon (once in a while iTunes but Amazon’s generally got my business). And the band names still aren’t always consistent across tracks or albums. Sometimes I think the bands aren’t even sure what their names are.

(For the record, all my music is either purchased for download or ripped from CDs which I’ve purchased.)

The problems are easy enough to fix, once you’ve identified them. Go into iTunes, find and select the batch of songs you want to fix, hit CMD-I, fix the info and you’re set. The next time you sync your i-device, it’ll be updated with the fixed artist names. iTunes deserves plenty of criticism, but that’s for its bloat and random hangs, not for its ability to actually manage music, assuming you can get it to stop hanging.

Then over time the names will start to drift again. I’ll probably never buy another album by “The Doors”, so they won’t be a problem. Maybe Siouxsie will release a new album when she turns 60.

The real solution is to use a database like MusicBrainz to normalize all the artist names in my library. I haven’t tried their Picard product. I am a bit chicken about letting random software loose on my too-large music library or my iTunes database. In this case, chicken wins.

Battlestar Galactica: Both Back and Ending

The new episode will apparently run 3.5 minutes long, so set make sure your DVRs are catching that because I suspect you’ll be very unhappy about missing the last few minutes of the new episode. … If you’re looking forward to BSG returning and you haven’t watched the most recent ten “webisodes”, you really should take a look at them. … They’re also available from the iTunes Store for free, so you can carry them around on your iPod if you want to as well as watch them on your computer or Apple TV. I’m not certain that the webisodes are vital for seeing tonight’s new episode – my understanding is that they take place concurrently with it – but they do look like they set up something important.

Apple’s iPod Event on September 9th

Tuesday September 9th 2008 (today as I finish this; I meant to get this out sooner) is a special Apple event called “Let’s Rock” – although they haven’t specified, it’s clearly related to the iPod/music side of their business. … The unfortunate downside for all of us who already have iPhone 3Gs is that I can’t see us being able to buy a new, bigger phone at the normal price because AT&T is now subsidizing the phones up-front. … Rumors hold out for a new ‘grid view’ in it, a new music suggestion feature (of course advising you to buy from the iTunes Store), HD TV and movie support (currently only available on the Apple TV). … The long-rumored Apple tablet could be marketed as a Mac or as an iPod… if it’s marketed as an iPod it might be introduced at an event like today’s, but I doubt it as it’s clear the focus of the event is music.