5 Easy Ways to Clean up Your Music Collection


We often listen to songs in digital formats such as MP3, as they are small and convenient. Since many MP3 files often come with incorrect or missing song information (tags), organizing them in a playlist is a tedious experience – duplicates, inconsistencies in artist or song names, etc. The problem is further compounded when your music library is huge – searching the web for song information individually becomes a chore. Here are some tips on how to obtain tag information and album art for your songs.

1. How to obtain album information and art from the Internet

1 mediamonkey

MediaMonkey is a freeware all-in-one media player. It has an automatic MP3 tagging and album art lookup function which will automatically search sites like Amazon.com for song information such as artist name, song title, track number and more. It can do this automatically for all songs in a same album, so you won’t have to edit them individually.

2. How to tag songs with forgotten names

2 musicbrainz

At some point we might have an MP3 file lying around the computer with absolutely no song information in its tags or filename, and its tune wasn’t able to evoke a memory of its title nor artist when played. Picard by Musicbrainz solves this by using a highly accurate ˜acoustic fingerprinting’ technology. Just click on scan and the program will generate a fingerprint of your music file, matches it with one in its database, and automatically rename your nameless song.

3. How to massively tag or obtain song information for your MP3s

3 mp3tag

Want to change the artist name of your entire Beethoven collection from œBeethoven, Ludwig van to "Ludwig van Beethoven"? MP3tag does mass renaming and tagging for common song information using a rather straightforward interface. The software is also hooked up to song information databases such as freedb.org and Amazon.com, so you can search for missing song information and tag them on the fly. This program can also embed album art images.

4. How to accurately search for album art and covers

4 AllCDCovers.com

With physical CDs being replaced by digital files, the album art feature in MP3s allow us to œsee the music we hear – a loose reminder of flipping through CD covers back in the days. AllCDCovers is a website with a huge collection of album art and cover images, which can be downlaoded and embedded into music files using software such as MP3Tag.

5. How to automatically tag songs while ripping CD tracks into MP3s

5 audiograbber

With the advent of the iPod and portable media players, there is no longer a need to carry CDs around. Those who want to convert their existing CD collections into MP3s will find it convenient to have a program that does both conversion and tagging. Audiograbber is a powerful alternative to Windows Media Player and iTunes which can encode CD tracks into a variety of formats while obtaining CD information from freedb.org, so that no CD rip goes untagged.

This has been a guest post by Chan HH, if you wish to write a piece for this blog, do drop me a line.

What programs do you use to organize your music library? Tell us in the comments!

768 Replies to “5 Easy Ways to Clean up Your Music Collection”

    1. @Francesco: iTunes doesn’t do a lot of these things with your existing music collection. These tools do a much better job :)

  1. So instead of taking 30 seconds on itunes we should just download many clunky platforms that then have to have songs uploaded to them and then changed accordingly and then uploaded back to itunes. You can do pretty much everything there on itunes and it isnt difficult to bodge your way round these exceptions on itunes if there isnt a button specially designed. Just learn how to use that one awesome programme.

  2. @Charlie: iTunes only does a good job of sorting out your music collection if you start adding CDs directly to it. If you are talking about an existing Mp3 collection, or adding songs you have downloaded it cannot do all those things mentioned above.

  3. Gimmesometune is a simple addin for iTunes on the Mac that does a lot automatically. Every time you play a song it fetches the album art and lyrics and inserts saves them in the mp3 or aac file.

  4. James Yeang: I’m going to have to disagree. iTunes can’t replace Picard but it does do everything else mentioned here.

    1. Use Picard.
    2. This is Picard.
    3. Select multiple tracks, then right-click -> Info.
    4. Right-click -> Get Album Artwork (if the ITMS doesn’t have that album, you can drag an image straight from your browser into iTunes)
    5. iTunes does this automatically.

    These programs might be handy if for some reason you detest or can’t use iTunes.

    MediaMonkey is a limited version. There is a paid version with no limitations. All the extra “advanced” features are available in iTunes (and practically every other MP3 player) for free.

    AllCDCovers is a good idea but their website sucks.

    Lastly, and most importantly, only Picard works on anything other than Windows. (OK, fair cop. iTunes doesn’t work on Linux but Amarok does and I have iTunes everywhere else.)

    It should also be mentioned that you CAN get iTunes for Windows without getting it bundled with Quicktime but it’s not obvious on the website. I wish Apple wouldn’t do that. It’s unseemly.

    1. Thanks for your input Dave, To be frank – my program of choice would be: TuneUp. It’s paid software – but it does the job incredibly well.

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  6. I use a mac and there are a few I’ve come up with:

    TuneUp- This generally works really well. It syncs directly with iTunes. You put in your music 100 songs at a time and it will tell you who it is by, what its called, what album it is from, and the album artwork. It also tells you how confident it is about what it has just told you. Some of the “Likely Matches” are usually wrong, so you will want to read through what it tells you before you hit save. Generally speaking though I find it does a good job.

    SongGenie- I tried this out and found it to be just terrible- maybe thats just me, but it couldn’t find most songs in my collection. I wouldn’t even consider my music collection to be rare or unique or anything.

    FixTunes- I’ve never actually tried this one, but it might be worth looking into.

    AutoRate- This one is pretty neat too- it analyses your iTunes library and automatically rates every song. Usually pretty acurate, and it does half stars which is neat.

    iClip Lyrics- This is a great one, but needs a better solution for batch proccessing. If you keep it open in the background while you play songs in iTunes, it will add the lyrics to iTunes. You can’t drag and drop songs though so you basically have to play through every song. It also has trouble finding lyrics for less common songs. It still beats adding song lyrics manually though.

  7. Interesting idea. When I started using TuneUp, I just did all my music. Now I can go in once a month and fix up anything since the last date. You idea is easier to keep track of though.

  8. yo this is all good and everything but use tune-up companion. it works with itunes and changes names/ searches album art. however, it doesnt rename the original files..

  9. TuneUp – I just bought this to cleanup my 15,000 song library. It sucks! Very slow. Complex. Not well integrated with iTunes. I’d recommend avoiding it!

  10. Nice article. I have some alternatives for you though. IMO for tagging, Tag&Rename is far better than MP3Tag in both interface and features. For covers, AllCDCovers can be an option but you gotta have MuvUnderCover (integrated Google Images search, custom Cover art size, Drag & Drop, etc…), the best Cover search software, period. Tune Up is good with missing tags but you can’t trust it all the way. So, some manual cleaning is still needed after running a batch in Tune Up.
    I’ve been a heavy user of MP3 cleaning software because I have a huge library of music and often times get promos from labels before release. So, a lot of them comes with missing artwork and info. Quite frankly anybody saying iTunes can do what all the combining software mentioned above has not been in deep MP3 cleaning land, cause iTunes CAN’T.
    For people who like me gets a lot of singles and would like to have the corresponding covers or at least a custom: check out coverlandia.blogspot.com and musiccoverart.blogspot.com

  11. I do it all manually, because I have a ridiculous amount of time on my hands. Of course a lot of my stuff is Polish and doesn’t show up in programs like that too.

  12. Sorry but I would rather just download viruses onto my computer than ever have to use iTunes again, I will never install an apple related product on computer as they act like malware themselves – always running for no apparant reason no matter how hard you try to stop them, even a full uninstall leaves several background applications running….

  13. Really good concise article. You asked for what we use to rip and tag songs. To be honest, I have not done this for a while because I buy & download from Amazon but when I do have to rip I still use MusicMatch even though it has long gone. Tagging is a problem as the database is no longer linked so I let Windows Media Player do it for me. I know I could do both in one go but I have issues with the way WMP rips tracks, (long story).

  14. So I came across this list today at the beginning of my research to obviously clean up my music. I’m a couple years out of college and I feel like every music file I own is completely unorganized (aka I have dupes, random file names from old p2p programs at school, itunes format and mp3s). One of my goals for 2011 is to get everything organized under one file format so it can be used across multiple devices. I have my own wireless network in my apartment and my Sony laptop is my home base for everything. I just got an iPad for christmas so I will still probably need to use itunes, but I want to get a Droid phone which will have to use mp3s. I also have a LG internet TV that I would love to stream music to as I have a good speaker system hooked up too and not having to plug in an ipod or my laptop.

    Are there any suggestions you may have? any blog posts? I’m willing to put in some time and have looked at TuneUp as a starting point, but not sure where to go after that. Thanks for anything

  15. I enjoyed this article because having a fairly substantial music collection it is hard to maintain a neat organized file naming system. An aspect of MediaMonkey that I think was overlooked in the discussion is MediaMonkey can read just about any audio codec and for an audiophile like myself this is very useful because I do not have to worry about my lossless files being in .ALAC format (the only lossless codec that iTunes reads)

  16. i just have a folder for all of my itunes music, it is all labelled with the band name, the album name and the song name. every day i do a check to ensure that i have the same amount of music in this folder as i do in my itunes. and if i don’t i just delete all of my itunes, and re-add the music from this folder, and all works out. i have ocd tendencies when it comes to my music and keeping it all in order.

  17. For me, Tune-Up has been a disappointment. With its penchant for creating as many Albums out of a group of songs as physically possible (in many cases, placing literally one MP3 in each album, even though all 10 songs do in fact belong on one album. This creates 10 albums with 1 song each, rather than giving you one album with all 10 songs on it. Usually the outcome is somewhere in between this extreme (which does happen more often than one would like) and getting a complete album (which also happens on occasion).

    For the most part, you’ll be manually placing many tunes into their correct albums after it does a lookup on them. But be warned, I’ve seen it take 56 songs, all from the same artist but all physically different songs, and create 56 different albums (All with the same name and album art) from it, placing every song under the same title on each album. So what you get is 56 separate albums, each containing only 1 song, and all are the SAME song (even though they’re truly different as easily demonstrated by listening).

    It also does not de-dupe well at all. After running Tune Up’s de-duper twice through my collection of some 9000 songs (Using iTunes as the media player), Media Monkey, when aimed at the same Music folder, found over 1200 duplicates still in existence. And these weren’t subtle ‘Digital Fingerprint’ misses. These were blatantly titled and track tagged as identical songs.

    Using Microsoft Media Player with Tune Up is even more fun, as Media Player gleefully automatically begins searching in the DUPLICATE TRACK folder that Tune Up created, happily re-adding all the songs you managed to get separated, back into your music library where you JUST removed it.

    For my money (And free is good) I like Picard on Linux. It has two major downfalls.

    1) Not as deep a collection of cover art or tune identification as the engine behind Tune Up

    2) Its track tagging methodology is not compatible with iTunes, as iTunes seems unable to even locate tracks that were cleaned up through Picard, even though they’re still in the Library path that iTunes is aimed at.

    If you don’t mind sticking with it though, it’ll give you better and more manageable results, with a more powerful (though somewhat less intuitive) interface than Tune Up has. And, it focuses on building complete Albums… making organizing your collection, much easier.

  18. You know if you are looking to convert your audio files to .mp3 or .flac or any other format there is a program called Switch you can also compress your files to save space. I really like this software and have used it alot, it has saved me time and money. the free version works exceptionally well for those on a tight budget. go to http://www.nch.com.au and see for yourself.

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