Tidy Up iTunes MP3 Collection – Fix ID3 Tags And More

Update: I have written an updated guide to tagging mp3 files. If you want to tidy up your iTunes collection then carry on reading, but if you only want to add ID3 tags to your files read the new guide.

If like me you have a big music collection gathered from lots of sources, then you are probably having the same problems with the awful metadata that some tracks have. A lot of my tracks had weird or missing track details, errors and for some tracks I have no ID3 tags at all for the artist and album.

I also have a lot of duplicates which have happened from mistakenly importing the same CD twice, or when I’ve added a friends collection to mine and they have the same track but with a slightly different filename, so it slipped through the net.

Given that my collection is continuing to grow, and I am increasingly accessing my library via other PCs, devices and my Xbox via Xbox Media Centre I decided it was time to tidy things up before it became an impossible task.

Below are the steps I went through, which I will now do with all new tracks before they get into my library.

Step 1 Tagging

Even if your tracks have been imported directly from CD the ID3 tags can still contain errors, especially if you are importing old CDs or non-mainstream CDs. The best tool I have found to fix tags is MusicBrainz Tagger. This great tool scans your various music files and writes clean metadata tags (ID3 tags or Vorbis comment fields) to your files.

For files that MusicBrainz doesn’t recognize, MB submits acoustic fingerprints (TRM ids) of the files back to the server and asks the user to manually edit the track information, so that the next time someone uses the tool these tracks will be identified.

MusicBrainz allows you to set the threshold at which it thinks it has a match. For my collection I found that very few mistakes were made with a threshold of 80% and I was able to automatically update the tags on around 50% of my 8,000 track collection this way.

For the other 50%, MetaBrainz Tagger still made a pretty good guess as to what the correct tags were. In some cases I was able to automatically accept MB’s best stab, but in other cases I had to use the tools within MB to find the correct details. This took quite a long time, but was worth the effort as MB helped me identify a lot of previously unknown tracks and artists. Sorting by album proved to be the quickest way to process my tracks as once I’d confirmed what album a particular track came from I could usually process another 10 tracks from the same album immediately.

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62 Responses to Tidy Up iTunes MP3 Collection – Fix ID3 Tags And More

  1. Gareth.ky October 18, 2005 at 10:14 am #

    I too had problems with my library, especially when I had re tagged a large number of songs. Importing the songs is tedious and dead tracks remain if you rename the songs. I wrote a script to automate this. Its a 1 click deal, it imports all new music & removes all the dead music. If you have simple updated the MP3 tags your play counts and other data will not be lost. You can even specify the folder(s) where you store your music if need be.
    check it out: iTunes Folder Sync

  2. Anonymous October 18, 2005 at 12:20 pm #

    What do you do about backing up your music library? I now hate the idea of organizing albums simply by genre/artist or whatever… I make backups of everything to MP3 DVDs so I've organized it as:
    \DVD001 – Alternative, Rock Pop\
    \DVD002 – TripHop, Chill, Jazz\
    \DVD003 – [whatever is on the dvd]\
    I think it's a good way of backing stuff up, and even locating it since i hate itunes .. I use winamp so simple file browsing to mp3s.
    What do you think?

  3. Anonymous October 18, 2005 at 1:13 pm #

    Can you please share some of your music so that I can go out and later buy the CDs *innocent*blink* dextroz (at) jee mail . comm

  4. Anonymous October 19, 2005 at 2:53 am #

    If you want to force iTunes to re-read your collection without losing playcount and ratings and such, try this little script:
    http://ottodestruct.com/itunes/update.txt
    Usage is fairly obvious.

  5. Link-Fu October 19, 2005 at 7:29 am #

    Tidy Up iTunes MP3 collection…

  6. Lifehacker October 19, 2005 at 9:37 am #

    The blogger at Connected Internet spent a few nights cleaning up and de-duplicating an out-of-control iTunes library and came out with a fully tagged and pruned collection of songs all with album art.Using the previously-mentioned MusicBrainz song tagg…

  7. tribe.net: www.connectedinternet.co.uk October 19, 2005 at 10:35 am #

    Found this article via Lifehacker: http://www.connectedinternet.co.uk/blog/_a

  8. Savage Nomads November 18, 2005 at 1:42 am #

    I got a Ipod shuffle, I tried to use the winamp plugin to sync MP3 to the shuffle, but I couldn't get it to work. So I installed Itunes. I really don't care for Itunes but I'm giving it a…

  9. Geek Habitat February 21, 2006 at 2:20 pm #

    Christmas time brings new iPods and other MP3 players to many, many people — even those of us who've already owned three or more generations of the little white (or now, black) beauties. A new portable music player always seems to make me feel a litt…

  10. dem May 2, 2006 at 10:47 pm #

    im very new silver surfer ,thanks for all the info ,just done the double killer and now on the Music tagger.;35300 tracks and still going a lot of work to get them right

  11. Anonymous May 24, 2006 at 9:10 pm #

    If you really want to clean up your mp3 collection use Zortam Mp3 Media Studio. (http://www.zortam.com). I managed all my files within day and left it over night to download lyrics and covers for my iPod.

  12. Bill June 8, 2006 at 2:32 am #

    Anyone know how to import home-recorded MP3 files into iTunes? I have 1000’s of home recordings which are all neatly filed in sub-directories by artists, venue, and dates. I would like to script that info to populate this into iTunes.

  13. Everton Blair June 8, 2006 at 7:26 am #

    I would use mp3tag. You can use it to automatically add tags to files based on how they are stored on your computer e.g. Artist/venue/date and also by the filename.

    It will take one minute and then all have to do is just use the usual file/import function in iTunes.

    Whole process shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes.

  14. matt kowalski June 25, 2006 at 5:29 pm #

    the link under the article to other itunes article, doesn’t work
    http://www.connectedinternet.co.uk/blog/_archives/2005/11/24/1420681.html

    ps: new themes … suck a bit

  15. Avatar of Everton
    Everton June 25, 2006 at 6:19 pm #

    Thanks for pointing this out Matt. For some reason the file on the server which redirected all my old links to the new site links got deleted. Without this file every external link before the move (including from search engines…) would be broken.

    Luckily I made a backup so everything is ok now. thanks again

    What don’t you like about the new theme?

  16. Phil November 21, 2006 at 7:57 pm #

    [Comment ID #213 Will Be Quoted Here]

    this file if 404’d now. anyone else know this?

  17. Anon August 19, 2007 at 8:59 am #

    If you really want to get all the songs you want without begging for downloads over the web (and its a slow process), go fly to Bangkok, Thailand or Manila, Philippines and buy a stack of Mp3 CDs. They sell em for 30 cents a CD. Each CD has some 300-500 tracks.
    If you saw my collection, you’d drop. I have more songs than the average retail outlet

  18. Anon August 19, 2007 at 9:59 am #

    If you really want to get all the songs you want without begging for downloads over the web (and its a slow process), go fly to Bangkok, Thailand or Manila, Philippines and buy a stack of Mp3 CDs. They sell em for 30 cents a CD. Each CD has some 300-500 tracks.

    If you saw my collection, you’d drop. I have more songs than the average retail outlet

  19. edebiyat August 30, 2007 at 7:08 am #

    I think it’s a good way of backing stuff up, and even locating it since i hate itunes .

  20. edebiyat August 30, 2007 at 8:08 am #

    I think it’s a good way of backing stuff up, and even locating it since i hate itunes .

  21. Ashish October 15, 2007 at 4:43 pm #

    nice tip .. i think it will help me a lot to organize my music collection. thanx a lot ..

  22. Ashish October 15, 2007 at 5:43 pm #

    nice tip .. i think it will help me a lot to organize my music collection. thanx a lot ..

  23. cwright October 23, 2007 at 5:08 am #

    thanks for this post, I will try it one of these days. But wondering if anyone knows how I can easily get back my recently accidentally deleted ‘recently added’ list? on itunes?

    I really miss it!

    thanks
    cw

  24. cwright October 23, 2007 at 6:08 am #

    thanks for this post, I will try it one of these days. But wondering if anyone knows how I can easily get back my recently accidentally deleted ‘recently added’ list? on itunes?

    I really miss it!

    thanks
    cw

  25. Everton October 23, 2007 at 5:43 am #

    @cwright

    Create a Smart Playlist rather than a normal playlist

  26. Avatar of Everton
    Everton October 23, 2007 at 6:43 am #

    @cwright

    Create a Smart Playlist rather than a normal playlist

  27. cwright October 23, 2007 at 6:41 am #

    Ah! Thanks Everton!

    That WAS easy!

  28. cwright October 23, 2007 at 7:41 am #

    Ah! Thanks Everton!

    That WAS easy!

  29. Wii June 25, 2008 at 10:53 pm #

    I share the same problems as you and am a bit obsessive about getting tags right. I’d previously used Tag&Rename and spent ages, will give this a try though.

  30. Wii June 25, 2008 at 11:53 pm #

    I share the same problems as you and am a bit obsessive about getting tags right. I’d previously used Tag&Rename and spent ages, will give this a try though.

  31. Julien August 31, 2008 at 11:20 pm #

    Nice tips !
    Did you know ITLU (for Itunes Library Updater) http://itlu.ownz.ch/wordpress/
    A nice tool for keep the itunes database up to date an clean orphans files … and more :D

  32. Julien September 1, 2008 at 12:20 am #

    Nice tips !
    Did you know ITLU (for Itunes Library Updater) http://itlu.ownz.ch/wordpress/
    A nice tool for keep the itunes database up to date an clean orphans files … and more :D

  33. PS3 Addict September 3, 2008 at 11:11 am #

    Does anyone know how i can stop itunes importing files within a folder twice. I’ve worked out why its doing it, it imports all the mp3 files and then imports them again with the m3u file.

    I really dont want to have to delete all my m3u files if i can help it !

  34. PS3 Addict September 3, 2008 at 12:11 pm #

    Does anyone know how i can stop itunes importing files within a folder twice. I’ve worked out why its doing it, it imports all the mp3 files and then imports them again with the m3u file.

    I really dont want to have to delete all my m3u files if i can help it !

  35. free 3g iphone October 7, 2008 at 2:54 pm #

    That musicbrainz tagger is a great tool – thank you!!

  36. Avatar of iphone
    iphone October 7, 2008 at 3:54 pm #

    That musicbrainz tagger is a great tool – thank you!!

  37. jimmy October 12, 2008 at 4:27 pm #

    all my music files were deleted and i only have them on my ipod anyway i can still do this?

  38. jimmy October 12, 2008 at 5:27 pm #

    all my music files were deleted and i only have them on my ipod anyway i can still do this?

  39. Everton October 12, 2008 at 5:05 pm #

    @Jimmy

    Yes, but you have to be very careful and it’s a bit messy. I think if you’ve selected ‘use ipod as a hard drive’ you can connect your iPod to your PC and see the files in windows explorer.  All you have to do is configure explorer to show hidden files and folders and you will then see a series of folders like F0, F1, F2 etc on your ipod.  Copy (not Cut so you have the originals if you make a mistake) these files to your PC and let musicbrainz scan and organise them, and you’ll have your library back on your PC.

    This is a good method for copying files from multiple iPods to a PC btw

  40. Everton October 12, 2008 at 6:05 pm #

    @Jimmy

    Yes, but you have to be very careful and it’s a bit messy. I think if you’ve selected ‘use ipod as a hard drive’ you can connect your iPod to your PC and see the files in windows explorer.  All you have to do is configure explorer to show hidden files and folders and you will then see a series of folders like F0, F1, F2 etc on your ipod.  Copy (not Cut so you have the originals if you make a mistake) these files to your PC and let musicbrainz scan and organise them, and you’ll have your library back on your PC.

    This is a good method for copying files from multiple iPods to a PC btw

  41. Apple Macbook November 11, 2008 at 12:35 pm #

    This is a great post as my iTunes library is compeltely messed up with wrong track names or missing artists.

    I’ll give this program a good run through when I get home.
    Thanks again.

  42. Apple Macbook November 11, 2008 at 1:35 pm #

    This is a great post as my iTunes library is compeltely messed up with wrong track names or missing artists.

    I’ll give this program a good run through when I get home.
    Thanks again.

  43. Free iPods January 10, 2009 at 7:24 pm #

    Thanks for this.

    It is possibly the best thing I could have found for my itunes.

    :)

  44. Free iPods January 10, 2009 at 8:24 pm #

    Thanks for this.

    It is possibly the best thing I could have found for my itunes.

    :)

  45. Patrick January 26, 2009 at 3:54 pm #

    Thanks a lot for the tip. Great program so far. I’m currently deployed to Afghanistan, and the net here is rather slow. I’ve got almost 9,000 mp3’s to sort through, and hopefully this program will automate most of that for me. Luckily for me…I’ve taken the time to make my file structure by artist, then album. Will help take the guess work out of it. Anyways..I’m on step 2. Will write back when everything is complete and post my results. Cheers :)

  46. Patrick January 26, 2009 at 4:54 pm #

    Thanks a lot for the tip. Great program so far. I’m currently deployed to Afghanistan, and the net here is rather slow. I’ve got almost 9,000 mp3’s to sort through, and hopefully this program will automate most of that for me. Luckily for me…I’ve taken the time to make my file structure by artist, then album. Will help take the guess work out of it. Anyways..I’m on step 2. Will write back when everything is complete and post my results. Cheers :)

  47. Patrick February 1, 2009 at 12:42 pm #

    Ok, took me a while…but I was able to tidy up all my music. The program froze up from time to time, and i’d have to restart it…but it definitely did the trick. It may have been my crap internet that was hindering process. I must say the program is awesome.  I was able to weed out about 1000 duplicates I had that were improperly labeled. One flaw worth mentioning is that only about 2 of my albums had genre tags attached to them. The rest of my music shows up in itunes with no genre at all. If that’s the biggest problem I have to worry about..I’ll take it. Loved the program, thank you very much for the recommendation.  :)

  48. Patrick February 1, 2009 at 1:42 pm #

    Ok, took me a while…but I was able to tidy up all my music. The program froze up from time to time, and i’d have to restart it…but it definitely did the trick. It may have been my crap internet that was hindering process. I must say the program is awesome.  I was able to weed out about 1000 duplicates I had that were improperly labeled. One flaw worth mentioning is that only about 2 of my albums had genre tags attached to them. The rest of my music shows up in itunes with no genre at all. If that’s the biggest problem I have to worry about..I’ll take it. Loved the program, thank you very much for the recommendation.  :)

  49. HSN June 21, 2009 at 3:59 pm #

    I recently wrote a review of TuneUp that your readers might find interesting or helpful. My article is titled How to clean your MP3 collection. In the article, I recommend that people wipe clean the ID3 “Comment Tag,” and then use those tag cleaning applications such as TuneUp or Fixtunes.

  50. HSN June 21, 2009 at 4:59 pm #

    I recently wrote a review of TuneUp that your readers might find interesting or helpful. My article is titled How to clean your MP3 collection. In the article, I recommend that people wipe clean the ID3 “Comment Tag,” and then use those tag cleaning applications such as TuneUp or Fixtunes.

  51. staffing1 December 12, 2009 at 1:10 am #

    Thanks for this.

    It is possibly the best thing I could have found for my itunes.

    :)
    http://www.staffingpower.com

  52. Marvin March 9, 2010 at 2:31 am #

    My iTunes videos are showing up in the music library instead of the video library. Along with that problem, I'm also not able to view the videos on my iPod, because only the sound will play. However, I can view the videos on my PC from iTunes or from my iPod if it's wired to my PC. I don't know how or when this happened but would appreciate any help anyone could provide. In short my iPod vides think they're audio.

  53. Julian May 16, 2010 at 1:52 am #

    Has anyone tried out Tuneup Media? It's another great program that can fix mp3 tags.

  54. data recovery May 19, 2010 at 4:04 am #

    I like iTune MP3 collections, after all I love music

  55. Online Shopping Mall July 9, 2010 at 3:01 pm #

    Great tips!!! Thanks my iTunes is a ruddy mess!

    Mbop Megashop

  56. acekard 2 August 3, 2010 at 7:02 am #

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  57. gadgets kopen August 14, 2010 at 7:22 pm #

    Incredibly nice, I am working having a group of people to have a new studie going. your data was usefull! thank you!

  58. كازينو August 16, 2010 at 7:03 pm #

    Hi guys, tried loading this blog through Google RSS reader and got a strange error message, any ideas what could be the issue?

  59. Free PS3 September 26, 2010 at 9:17 pm #

    An interesting read, have learned a few new things that I will certainly try out.

  60. forexhug October 7, 2010 at 11:26 am #

    itune sux

  61. Belty January 18, 2011 at 8:59 am #

    Great site. This could probably have the refactoring tag added t it.
    http://www.buytiffany.org/

  62. Desktop computers March 29, 2011 at 2:35 pm #

    itunes is player to play mp3 songs..