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Organizing Your Music On a Server Print E-mail
Sunday, 01 May 2005
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Organizing Your Music On a Server
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Many people who use iTunes are oblivious to the file hierarchy and have no idea where their songs are actually being stored. With hard drives becoming bigger and bigger, the quality of them seems to be going downhill. It is becoming much more common for me to hear about my friends or co-workers’ hard drives failing, so backing up files is more and more essential.

If you are using iTunes on Macintosh OS X, the files are saved in a folder on the hard drive on the users “home folder” called “music.” The folder called “iTunes” is where the songs are saved. If you want to move your songs over to a different hard drive for the sake of backing them up, or simply storing them and accessing them from a different hard drive, you’ll simply need to copy this folder over. If you do this and decided to delete the versions that are on your computer’s hard drive, you’ll need to go back into your iTunes and tell it to look for the songs on the new hard drive. If iTunes no longer sees the correct path to a song, it will grey the song out on your playlist and you won’t be able to select it. You will then need to find the song and redirect iTunes to it. I have found the easiest way to do this is to simply drag the folders from the new hard drive and set them on top of the old library on iTunes. It will then access the files from the new hard drive.

The iTunes software will burn the songs into the iTunes music folder and will list the artist first and then, inside that folder, will list the album titles as another folder. Inside each corresponding album folder, the individual song files will be listed in order as they appear on the CD. If you have five Madonna CDs and you burn all of them, a folder called “Madonna” will be placed in your iTunes folder and each of the albums will be inside that folder. Some albums, however, are designated as compilation albums and these are archived in a slightly different way. A folder called compilations will automatically be created. The album titles will then be placed in this compilations folder, essentially taking it one level deeper than the rest of the artists’ albums that are in the iTunes folder. This is done because often the compilation albums have so many artists that it would be pointless to try to choose one.

If you own a fairly decent computer, the ripping process does not take too long and the application does not affect your ability to work on other tasks while the disc is ripping. I have a dual processor Apple Macintosh G4 and I have noticed that the thing that helps speed more than the processor is the speed of the drive. The new Apple super-drive on a single processor will burn a CD faster than my 48x speed CD-ROM. If you plan on doing lots of CD ripping and burning, you won’t regret spending a little extra dough on the drive that you put in your computer. Generally the price to upgrade the disc drive when purchasing a computer is not dramatic and if your time means anything to you, the hours this will save you will be more than worth the cost. Depending on the speed of your computer, the sampling rate and the size of the files, it can take a minute or less to up to 10 minutes or more per disc. Turning off options like “play disc while ripping” and “error correction” will help speed the process along as well.

Creating Playlists
There are countless ways that you can archive and store your music in iTunes and, in turn, on your iPod. I found that the best way to archive my collection of CDs was by artist in alphabetical order. Whitesnake would be filed under W. However, I would rename the folder for an artist like John Mayer so that it reads Mayer, John. This makes finding his albums much easier than trying to sort through any other artists who also have the first name John. Artists like Iggy Pop and Marilyn Manson might seem to pose a little problem, but I went with the theory that if the name is a real one, then I would use the last name first, and if the name is a stage name that people know more as a band, then I used the first name first. The problem with my method is, in order to get my collection organized like a record store’s bins, I have to fight the way that CDDB wants to create folders inside my main music folder. In addition to the time it takes to change the names of the Jimi Hendrix folder to Hendrix, Jimi, you also encounter another problem. Let’s say that you just found a copy of Cry of Love at a CD store and you rip it to your hard drive. You previously changed the folder name to Hendrix, Jimi, but CDDB rips it as Jim Hendrix again. Now your collection is potentially disorganized. I wouldn’t fault you if you just accepted the default the CDDB database came up with for you as your main method of archiving, but if you are inspired to go deeper, you now know how.

As much as I enjoy classical music, I decided to create a folder in my master list of artists that is simply called Classical. I then took all of my classical albums and put them into this folder. I did this because, when looking for pop and rock artists, I didn’t want to have to scroll up past through the names of various orchestras and other musicians that I may not specifically be familiar with enough to recognize by name. Generally, if the London Philharmonic does a Mozart album, the CCDB database will list Mozart as the artist, but on some occasions, it lists the London Philharmonic instead. Sometimes two different options will pop up, one with the orchestra’s name first, the other with the composer’s name first, so you will be able to choose the one that fits your format better.

The extent of sub-categorization that you get into is up to you and how much time you have on your hands. In a recent demo of the QSonix server system, which is a hardware-software-touchscreen package for home theater systems, I was impressed by the level of sub-categorization from their music database provider. You could search and archive by hundreds, if not thousands, of subcategories from Art Rock to Female Vocals and so on. With some elbow grease, you can make this happen to a certain extent on your own with a system as I am describing it.


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