Clean Up And Organise Your Music Library

So you've spent a lot of time discovering and downloading new music, but your library's a mess. You're still using the same player you used five years ago, the files are in 10 different places on your hard drive and your metadata looks like a cyclone hit it. Take some time this weekend to clean up your library once and for all.

Photo remixed from Charlotte L

Step One: Pick Your Player

Before you start messing with your music, take a look at what you use to play it and decide whether it's really what you want to use. Windows users have a ton of choices, from the all-around Winamp to the super-customisable foobar2000 and the insanely organised MediaMonkey (not to mention Windows Media Player, Zune Player, MusicBee, Clementine and a whole host of others). Mac users have fewer choices, but that doesn't mean you have to settle for iTunes — take a look at Sonora, our new favourite music player for Mac, or the cross-platform Clementine. Linux users, you're lucky — you've got some of the best music players out there today, so dig into those repositories and try them out.

When it comes to portable players, most of you are using your phone these days. If you're an iPhone user, you're probably using the default iPod app — and with good reason, it's pretty solid and feature-filled. However, there are a lot of other fantastic apps you should try out, too. Android users have a ton of great apps, too, like the fantastic and powerful PowerAMP. If you aren't using iOS or Android, be sure to check out our five favourite digital music players for more inspiration.

Step Two: Clean Up That Mess You Call A Library

Alright, now it's time to dig into the good stuff. Step back and take a look at your library. Before even looking at the metadata, start searching for songs you don't want and delete them. Take a look at the bitrate of your files, too — are they really low quality? You might want to throw them out and re-import higher quality versions. Are you using lossless files? Find out whether it's really worth the effort by taking an ABX test. There's no reason to cultivate multiple music libraries at once if you don't have to.

Next, roll up your sleeves and start fixing all that messed up metadata. A lot of programs like TuneUp will do the legwork for you, but if you really have a certain way you want things done, it's going to be a multi-step process. You'll probably have to use a combination of programs like MusicBrainz Picard and Mp3tag to get things just the way you want them. Check out our start-to-finish guide to whipping your metadata into shape for more, and don't be afraid to experiment with different apps and techniques to find something that works for you.

Step Three: Sync Your Mobile Devices

Now that your library's in shape, it's time to sync it back down to your mobile device. Lots of programs — especially Windows ones — will have syncing built-in, which means you're already ready to go. If you're using Android, check out which desktop player is best for syncing. iOS users are mostly stuck with iTunes, but that doesn't mean you can't use another player for day-to-day listening. If you're a Mac user that doesn't use iOS, you're going to have a bit more trouble — check out iSyncr, Winamp and DoubleTwist if you want to sync to Android, or Middleman for syncing to just about anything else. Lasly, iOS users should remember that even though iTunes doesn't support it, there are a lot of ways to get your music off your iPod and back on your computer if need be.

Don't stop at the mobile devices, either — if you have other computers in your house, you can sync your music library across all of them with Dropbox.

It's worth mentioning that streaming your library across the house is also a pretty cool way to enjoy your music. We're big fans of Apple's AirPort Express and AirPlay here. And, even if you aren't an Apple fan, you can still make your entire home AirPlay compatible, no Mac and iOS loyalty required. Of course, there are a lot of AirPlay alternatives you can use, too. Whatever you decide, it shouldn't be hard to have your music handy wherever you go, even if your library's safely stored on your home machine.

Got any of your own tips for crafting the perfect music library? Share them with us in the comments.


Comments

    Do people still sync music to their mobile devices?? Upload your music to something like Google Music via Google Music Manager (if you have <=20,000 tracks)will not only give you a cloud backup of your media for free (always nice to have) but also access to all of your tunes when on the move.

    As Google Music on Android caches songs as you play them your favourite tracks become 'synced' by virtue of having been played once. There's no need to manually sync things anymore as far as I'm concerned.

    If you're anti-Google, just use something like Subsonic/PLEX etc. to get a similar experience from your music held at home.

      Yes, people do still sync music to their mobile devices.

      Personally, I wouldn't want to rely solely on cloud-based music. I listen to music a lot at work on my iPhone, and a lot of the time I tend to lose reception while I'm inside the building, which can cause streaming to be a bit of a hassle.

      Plus you're forgetting the obvious: Google Music isn't available in Australia yet.

      All very nice if you have the bandwidth but not very practical for those of us who rely on 3G for internet access. With my current data plan I would use up 6 months worth of access just getting my music onto the cloud. Worse still, streaming music onto my phone would probably use a month's worth of data on my phone plan in a week. i.e. It is a very expensive way of keeping your music organised.

      I don't have the largest library, but ~70GB of MP3s is a lot to store in the cloud and pull down over often-unreliable 3G.

      Much easier to have a local copy.

    Broken image by the 2nd step, something about XML
    Otherwise, great advice, i'll start looking through my bitrates now.

    I wouldn't use tuneup to find and get rid ot duplicates because if you a original version of a song and an extended dance mix of the same song, it will delete the extended version and keep the original version.

    SO USE TUNEUP AT YOUR OWN RISK

    I cannot recommend TuneUp either, though not just for the duplicate issue. While it was fantastic when I first got it, you're paying for one use on one computer - my mobo got fried and since I couldn't get the same model, TuneUp detected it as a new PC and I would have to pay again for continued use. I really liked the design and wanted to support the devs, but this was a jerk move in my opinion. I'll stick to Picard from now on.

    I am probably intensely anal-retentive about it, because nothing in my life is more important to me than music, but Zune organises my music really, really well. Editing metadata is easy - I only use 7 genres and three of those are ones I've made up myself - and everything lives inside one folder on an external USB drive. Within that folder it can get a little disorganised - I discovered that when I ripped CDs with Zune, it was often ripping the first track to an "Unknown Artist" folder before it found the metadata on-line but I fixed that by not allowing it to automatically start ripping - but once I discovered the problem I sorted it out easily enough.

    What I like about Zune is that it feels like something made by someone with as deep a love of music as I have, whereas iTunes, WinAmp and the rest feel more like spreadsheet applications that would be equally adept at keeping track of your grocery shopping. I just hope MS don't ruin it in Win8, because the Metro music app preview in Win8 is horrible.

    I definitely recommend storing your music in lossless form. Even if some of your players don't play it, you can transcode easily, and if you are ripping CDs you retain the original quality. Who knows what the future brings? You might as well keep the quality you paid for!

    The biggest challenges with large music libraries are enforcing intra collection consistency and also, once your music library is sorted, keeping it fixed and retaining those same 'rules'. I've written a little about this before, see a guest blog I posted here: http://www.dmp3digital.com/the-3-cs-of-music-library-mangement-completeness-correctness-consistency/

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