iTunes has never been great at automatically syncing new songs or folders of music, but with a little finesse and the latest version of iTunes, you can automatically sync any new music you download to iTunes, with relative ease.
Photo remixed from Shutr.
Love it or hate it, tons of people still use iTunes to manage their music library. Maybe it's because of your love for the iPod, the iTunes Music Store or whatever — we're not here to judge, we're just here to help you make iTunes work better.
When you're done with this guide, you're iTunes library will automatically sync up with any music you download, whether it's via BitTorrent, the web or even Dropbox. The guide will walk through how to set up automatic music-to-iTunes syncing on both Windows and Mac.
What You'll Need
How It Works
The basic set up is actually pretty simple. Apple quietly added an Automatically Add to iTunes folder in a recent release of iTunes 9, which means that while iTunes still doesn't support watching and syncing custom folders, it does give us a pretty slick avenue for hacking together our own solution. Here's how it works:
Belvedere (Windows) and Hazel (Mac) are automated file management tools that keep track of folders of your choosing and perform actions on files in those folders based on rules you set up. Basically, we're going to set up Belvedere (or Hazel) to monitor all the folders to which you download new music and automatically add those files to iTunes' Automatically Add to iTunes folder. (Note: By default, Belvedere only scans folders once every five minutes; if you want it to scan more frequently, just open the app, go to your Preferences tab and change the sleep time. It's a lightweight app, and I've never had problems running the scans every minute or less.)
You'll likely want the behaviour to vary depending on what kind of downloading you're doing, so I'll lay out a few different setups below.
Sync Music from Your Web Downloads Folder
Let's start simple: You occasionally browse the web's vast offering of searchable MP3s to snag a one-off single. When you download an MP3 from the web, it ends up in your browser's default Downloads folder. What we're going to do is set up your automated file manager to watch that folder for new MP3s and move them to the Automatically Add to iTunes folder. In Belvedere, such a rule would look like you see in the screenshot below:
(Note: If you're a Firefox user, you could also try an extension like Automatic Save Folder to detect and automatically download specific file types to specific folders. In this case, you could tell the extension to save all MP3s to iTunes' Automatically Add to iTunes folder.)
As you can see, Belvedere monitors my C:UsersUser_NameDocumentsDownloads folder for new MP3s, and when it finds them, moves them to C:UsersUser_NameMusiciTunesiTunes MusicAutomatically Add to iTunes. iTunes regularly scans that folder for new music, and when it finds it, automatically adds it to my library and organises it in my iTunes Music folder. If you'd like Belvedere to ask you before attempting to move newly downloaded files to iTunes, click the Confirm Action checkbox.
That was simple enough, right? Things get a slightly more tricky when you're dealing with BitTorrent.
Sync Music from Your BitTorrent Downloads
When you're downloading music via BitTorrent, you don't want Belvedere to attempt to move any tracks before they've completed downloading, and since BitTorrent downloads can sometimes take a while, you could potentially run into a situation where Belvedere might try moving a song before it's completed downloading. So to handle your BitTorrent music downloads, here's what I'd suggest:
(I'm using uTorrent as my example because it's the most popular BitTorrent client, but most have similar features.)
Set uTorrent to move completed downloads to a specific folder on your computer — for my example, I'll call it Completed Music Downloads — like so:
Next, set Belvedere to monitor that folder for new MP3s (or other audio file types you normally download) just like you did in the example above. When it matches, move the files to the iTunes watch folder. Make sure to tick the Recursive box to ensure Belvedere checks inside folders instead of just scanning the root, since most BitTorrent downloads will hold the MP3s inside a folder.
(Ideally we could copy files in this instance rather than move them so your BitTorrent client could continue seeding the download until you decide you don't want to seed it anymore [at which point you can manually remove it] . Unfortunately Belvedere doesn't yet remember files it's performed actions on [it's a feature we may add at some point in the future] , so we'll have to settle for moving at this point.)
Use Dropbox to Add Music Remotely
As coincidence would have it, this guide found its way into my newsreader last night while I was working on this very feature; the MakeUseOf author suggests remotely adding songs to your iTunes library with Dropbox using a very similar method. Basically you'd create a folder inside Dropbox (he uses iTunes Temp), monitor that folder for new music, and automatically move any new tunes to the Automatically Add to iTunes folder. Using Dropbox, you could add songs to your home iTunes library from any computer — even from work.
The methods I use in the examples above will still work with Dropbox, but the author's setup uses an Automator action that Mac users may want to consider trying. (Similarly, a MUO reader suggests using a previously highlighted method for syncing files and folders outside of Dropbox — creating a symlink between your iTunes Temp Dropbox folder and the monitored iTunes folder — to streamline the process even more. The upshot: A lot of roads lead to Syncville.)
Catch Whatever Falls Through the Cracks
If for some reason iTunes has a tough time adding something you've put in the Automatically Add to iTunes folder, you'll see a new folder inside that folder named Not Added. It contains date-stamped folders of the stuff that didn't make it through the import. In my experience, however, the only stuff that doesn't make the cut is album art and other items that weren't meant to go in that folder anyway, and I haven't had any problems with the items I've added using my automated method.
How Do You Do It?
If you made it this far, you've also realised that you can approach this task from a hundred different angles. I really like the Belvedere/Hazel method, but if you've got another tool you've successfully used to keep iTunes synced up with your new downloads, let's hear about it in the comments.