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.