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Keeping Media Files Organized - Tips and Tricks Needed


Graeme
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My music files are a mess, and pretty much have been, but it kind of drives me crazy sometimes as I'd love to have everything clean and organized but can never really figure out how to do it well. So I'm looking for any tips that some of you with much larger collections that I.

 

This can also extend to video files as I have a large collection of those too that are all over the place. Video isn't quite an issue but it would be nice to have it better sorted.

 

My biggest issues are:

 

#1 - Sorting and Naming of the actual files themselves.

 

I used to have a main music folder, with a subfolder for each artist that I'd have full album(s) for with a subfolder for each albums and everything else in the main folder. The problem with this was if I had to move things around for whatever reason, my playlists or media player would have to be updated.

 

I switched to iTunes style of having everything in one folder and let the media player handle everything. this is ok except when I do want to search for an actual file and the names are just a mess.

 

I've switch the order and way I name the files (IE Track# - Artist - Title - Album, (Artist) Track# - Title - Album) so many times, I can't remember what my current way is

 

What would you all say is the best way of keeping the files organized in the folders, but also naming them so you can find what you're looking for easily?

 

#2 - Tagging

 

Tagging whole albums from a single artist is easy. It's when I have random songs from random artists and random albums that things get messy. This includes single songs I've got, songs from soundtracks of various artists.

 

The main problem here is if I'm sorting my music by Album, it's so full of single songs and things from here and there, that the actual albums that I'm looking for get lost. Should I have all my single songs listed as no album, or all one in particular.

 

This is especially bad on an iPod.

 

Which leads to..

 

#3 - Playlists

 

I've pretty much tried to make playlists of all my albums and keep that synced with my iPod so that I can find them easier. This requires a bit of manual organization that seems to be what current media players promise to solve.

 

I recently formatted my HD and lost all the playlists I had made within my media player as they were not kept as m3u files and there doesn't seem to be a terribly easy way for me to keep these all backed up (I'm sure I could have saved the files if I had thought of it).

 

#4 - iPod

 

I love my iPod, but I have a number of issues with it's interface and sorting or files that drive me to rely on playlists. I don't think there's much that can be done, but if anyone has any sorting tips for iPod, I might pick up something I don't know.

 

I'm currently using MediaMonkey for all my audio and I'm generally pretty happy with it, but I think I need to do some work to get it working how it should.

 

I've used iTunes in the past be really disliked it, and was having problems with it not syncing to the iPod properly, doubling up on songs in the list etc, and dealing with playlists was somewhat clumsy.

 

I used Winamp forever, but it's media Library was kinda lame.

 

Thanks for any suggestions, hopefully something will help out.

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I switched to iTunes style of having everything in one folder and let the media player handle everything. this is ok except when I do want to search for an actual file and the names are just a mess.

I let iTunes "keep iTunes Music folder organized", and when I need to get to an actual file I usually just find it in iTunes then right-click and do "Show in Finder" (I assume the Windows version has a similar thing).

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I don't let iTunes or any other library software handle my organization. My method keeps things organized (for my friends and I, at least). Here's what I do:

 

+ Music folder

--+ Artist name folder

-----+ Album name folder

-------+ Track name file

 

Tracks are named 01-name.mp3. Note the leading zero.

 

Now, there are three exceptions: Compilations, Soundtracks and Tribute. Each one of those gets its own folder at the same level as the Artist folders. I name them "# Compilations", "# Soundtracks" and "# Tribute". The leading "#" sign is so they stay sorted at the top of the directory view. Albums go in each.

 

This keeps things organized pretty well. When I want to burn some mp3's to a CD or dump it on my little Sansa Clip player for the gym, everything is easy to find.

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I let iTunes "keep iTunes Music folder organized", and when I need to get to an actual file I usually just find it in iTunes then right-click and do "Show in Finder" (I assume the Windows version has a similar thing).

 

I let iTunes do everything, and I think Im pretty anal about keeping it in order (and proper metadata artwork in place).

 

If you have files scattered all over the place, select "keep iTunes music folder organized" as Ryan says above, and then Consolidate your library. This will copy all of your music files that iTunes is currently indexing to your music folder. Im pretty sure this will actually rename the file for you as well.

 

The upside is that it moves and organizes everything for you. The downside is that you have to find and delete all of the original files.

 

As far as your tagging problem, even if I own only one song from an album, I still tag it with the proper album name. I dont have many of these so that may be why I prefer it this way. I think in your case, the only way to sort between full albums and partial ones would be to label the single song's album field as "No Album" or "Single" and they'd all show up under the same Album.

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I do it pretty similar to RobotMonkey, has worked for me well.

 

I have a lot of classical/orchestral/opera music as well.

 

 

I don't let iTunes or any other library software handle my organization. My method keeps things organized (for my friends and I, at least). Here's what I do:

 

+ Music folder

--+ Artist name folder

-----+ Album name folder

-------+ Track name file

 

Tracks are named 01-name.mp3. Note the leading zero.

 

Now, there are three exceptions: Compilations, Soundtracks and Tribute. Each one of those gets its own folder at the same level as the Artist folders. I name them "# Compilations", "# Soundtracks" and "# Tribute". The leading "#" sign is so they stay sorted at the top of the directory view. Albums go in each.

 

This keeps things organized pretty well. When I want to burn some mp3's to a CD or dump it on my little Sansa Clip player for the gym, everything is easy to find.

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I used the same naming & organizational scheme described by Robot Monkey. While there is a lot of variety out there that is considered as close to a 'standard' as exists.

 

I think it's important to keep the file name of the track as basic as possible. If you are using a folder structure like:

music/artist/album

Then there is no reason to include the artist name or album name in the actual file name. Keep it simple with just:

Track# - Track Title

 

I'm currently using MediaMonkey for all my audio and I'm generally pretty happy with it, but I think I need to do some work to get it working how it should.

 

You hit the nail on the head there. MediaMonkey is fully capable of fixing your tagging, naming, & organizational issues. You will have to spend some time manually fixing some things but MediaMonkey will do a lot of the rest automatically.

 

My suggestion is to focus first on your tags within MediaMonkey. Get the 4 essential tags 100% correct (track#, artist, album, and track title). Once you have that you can tell MediaMonkey to rename the actual files from the data in the tags. MediaMonkey will not only let you rename the files to the Track# - Track Title format but it will also let you define the folder stucture. In one step MediaMonkey will generate the entire organizational scheme from your correct tags. It will create the folders, rename each file, and move the files to the structure you select.

 

Music/Artist/Album/Track# - Track Title.mp3

 

MediaMonkey, J.River Media Center, and Foobar 2000 are my personal favorite tools for organizing a large music collection. iTunes lacks the power of these 3 players but you will need to put some time into their tagging & organizational interface. Foobar is by far the most challenging to learn but there is nothing it can't do. My personal favorite is J.River Media Center but MediaMonkey is very good too.

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And the good thing is, once you've done it, it's done ;) It's a pain to reshape an existing collection, but if you do it right, you shouldn't have to worry about it again.

 

Though saying that, I've gone through almost my entire collection this past Spring to add album art to almost all of it, though I've a few gaps.

 

I've got almost the same folder structure as Camp and RobotMonkey, just without the fancy #s.

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I do it pretty similar to RobotMonkey, has worked for me well.

 

I used the same naming & organizational scheme described by Robot Monkey.

 

I've got almost the same folder structure as Camp and RobotMonkey, just without the fancy #s.

 

Also, keep in mind that I invented this system of organization, so it is super-awesome. It did not exist before I invented it. In any form. Any where. Ever.

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In all seriousness, I just looked at how my iTunes folder is structured, and it's pretty much the same as yours, Jay.

 

323630900_C2JGK-M.jpg

 

...except for your three exception folders. Though, iTunes does keep a Compilations folder too, but it just leaves out the Artist folder with this structure:

 

Music>Compilations>Album_Name>00 Track_Name.mp3

 

323630902_x7CwR-M.jpg

 

 

So unless, you must have folders for your artists in your 3 exception folders, letting itunes handle it is much easier, right?

 

And then, even though there is not artist folder in Compilations, you have the option to 1) Not make the Album a Compilation and 2) Leave it as a compilation and just search by artist in iTunes. Then if you want to export the file, just right click and "Show in Finder".

 

We talked about this before and I think I may be missing an advantage of doing it your way.

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Now, there are three exceptions: Compilations, Soundtracks and Tribute.

 

You have an entire folder dedicated to that one song by Tenacious D? Man, that's pretty hardcore. You must love that song. Although, it is the greatest and best song in the world. (Or is it just a tribute the greatest and best song in the world? I can't remember.)

 

For the record, I'm like Cameron in that I let iTunes organize all of my music files. I just find it's much easier and more convenient to go into iTunes and look for my music files than it is to search through all of the folders in my Finder and open the actual file. Additionally, I can make a change in iTunes, and the change will filter down to the actual file itself. Very clean, very easy.

 

When I first used iTunes, I didn't like using this method. But then when Jay told me how he sorted his files, I immediately changed my ways in hopes of making his life just a bit more miserable. What a dick!

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No, the three exceptions folders all contain albums, not artist --> album. Glad to see iTunes says it's doing something similar, although it is yet another example of an Apple "innovation" that was stolen from me. I also invented Unix and snotty ads.

 

Seriously, do whatever works and is easiest for you. I doubt that my way of doing it is the simplest when all you have to do is check a box in iTunes. I'm a bit more paranoid than most, however, and I don't trust iTunes, so I'll stick with the PITA method.

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No, the three exceptions folders all contain albums, not artist --> album. Glad to see iTunes says it's doing something similar, although it is yet another example of an Apple "innovation" that was stolen from me. I also invented Unix and snotty ads.

 

:lol

 

Seriously, do whatever works and is easiest for you. I doubt that my way of doing it is the simplest when all you have to do is check a box in iTunes. I'm a bit more paranoid than most, however, and I don't trust iTunes, so I'll stick with the PITA method.

 

True. It's cool that we can just sit back and have it the Robot Monkey way without much effort. Wait, isnt that the Robot Monkey way?

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I think iTunes does a fine job of managing files if the tags are correct. However, if you have messy tags iTunes is a horrible tool to use. That's really where apps like MediaMonkey, Media Cetner & Foobar come in and kick the snot out of iTunes (actually, they outperform iTunes in every other way too).

 

However, if you have a collection of music with proper tags or if you are ripping a CD collection with iTunes (I shudder at that thought) then iTunes is OK.

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Jay,

 

Did Apple also steal the color white from you?

 

No, but Microsoft stole brown from me for the Zune 1.0. Now that they took all my brown, I'm white and Apple sent me a nastygram demanding that I cease and desist.

 

Luckily, I've been drinking Guinness and it's starting to darken me up to my normal brown hue.

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I had similiar troubles for a while.

 

My fix for getting my tags and filenames straightened out was to delete all of my ripped music, pull out the CDs, and re-rip everything with exactly the same settings.

 

My organization on the HTPC which is working well now is:

 

Music

(Dave Music | Stacey Music | Arianna Music)

Folders by Artist

 

Splitting up the folders by person allows me to shuffle my folder without getting "Baby Got Back" or "Sesame Street Alphabet" or whatever.

 

I use Audiograbber / LAME still for ripping so I kept the same options for each track -

Artist - Album Title - track number - song title which keeps them organized well.

 

Most of the apps that I would see the .mp3 with go by tags anyway so I don't mind long filenames.

 

The only problem mp3s are my live bootlegs of my favorite artists - I need to go through and clean up all of them to have an artistname of "artistname - misc live" and album titles "artistname - misc live" or something like that so they all get lumped together under an album or artist search. Never quite got around to working through them all.

 

I don't download a lot of singles, but I'll probably make one more category for the handful I have, all with the same album name (maybe MISC). Will make it easier to sort through by album title.

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On a side note, how many individual tracks do you guys have in your music library and/or how many do you need to clean up? iTunes says I'm at 4,310. Most of those were ripped from CDs or bought online and then put into iTunes, so tagging really hasn't been a problem. Id hate to have to clean up even a few hundred of those.

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Cameron;

 

My iTunes library is just shy of 3,700 songs at this point. Like you, most of my music was either ripped from a CD myself or purchased online. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean I haven't had any challenges in getting everything organized the way I like it.

 

The biggest headache I faced with trying to organize my music collection was dealing with a lot of the video game music I had downloaded over the years. Much of the gaming music I have on my computer comes from various remix sites like Overclock Remix. I had a ton of songs from there and none of them were tagged with proper artists, albums titles or album art. I literally had to enter everything myself, with the exception of the actual track title. I usually put the name of the game as the album title, and if I could find the actual composer of the game soundtrack (not the person who did the remix), I would use their name instead.

 

That said, I still have a number of songs on my computer that are not part of my iTunes collection, simply because I don't want to go through the troubled of tagging them or finding album art. It's not bad material, but I don't like it enough to go through all the effort.

 

On a related note, one of the more unusual issues I faced occurred a few months ago when I received the soundtrack for Super Mario Galaxy, which I had imported from Japan. When iTunes pulled in the track information, the names of the songs thankfully appeared in English, but the composer's names all appeared with Japanese characters. Thankfully, Google and Wikipedia were able to help me find the English equivalents easily enough. Still, I was a pain to enter all the correct artist information myself.

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Thanks for all the responses guys. As I assumed my biggest issue is just getting everything tagged and named properly. That's a pretty big hurdle that I've never fully gotten past, but I think I'll chug away at it.

 

So for those of you that have everything pretty organized, how exactly do you use your media players? Do you create playlists for all your albums, or is the Artists tab on the side good enough? Does iTunes list the artist of a compilation as Compilation, or do you get a listing for every artist of say a Soundtrack?

 

What I'm really going for here once I get everything tagged properly, is to have a listing of all my full (or pretty full) albums by Artist>Album Name that I can easily browse and play. Currently my Artists listing is filled with hundreds of artists that I only have 1 or two songs for, and the Albums listing is listed by the each Album name.

 

I'd also like something that will recognize full albums and allow me to play them all the way through randomly, if that's possible. I had a plugin for Winamp that did that, and it worked pretty well... but I'm not using Winamp anymore.

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Right now I have 15,000 "songs" in my library (a not-insignificant number are from radio shows like The Breezeblock where I have a practically complete archive). All managed through iTunes (on a Mac, I have heard the Windows version is not quite as reliable, not sure whether that's true or whether Apple has any real motivation to improve it), which is set to keep organized/copy. The actual library is stored on an AFP share, which is served up by a Linux server running software RAID-5 (meaning I can expand it, have a disk fail, etc. without losing my music).

 

I'm actually tempted to start using it for video as well, maybe using reference movies instead of transcoding. iTunes seems to have some really strange sync rules about how you do video syncing with an iPhone, though, and the built-in video transcoding for iPod/iPhone is slow and not handled very well.

 

Actually my major gripe is that iTunes doesn't abstract you away from where the data is stored enough. I want my laptop to just act as a mobile caching frontend for what I have at home, not have to go through the trouble of maintaining anything separate or manually merging back from one to the other; I should have access to my home library from anywhere (currently I have to use Simplify Media for this, which isn't quite as ideal), and I should be able to import/manage music on my laptop and have the changes/additions merged back to my home setup automatically (same goes for iPhoto). I don't want to have to worry about using up space on my laptop HD (which is relatively "limited" at 200GB) for permanently storing this data until the next time I get home and have to manually merge things (more for iPhoto than iTunes on this one). Maybe this is a particular frustration for me, but I'd imagine anyone who has more than one machine they use iTunes/iPhoto on has encountered this.

So for those of you that have everything pretty organized, how exactly do you use your media players? Do you create playlists for all your albums, or is the Artists tab on the side good enough? Does iTunes list the artist of a compilation as Compilation, or do you get a listing for every artist of say a Soundtrack?

The previous iPods (i.e. most everything that's not a Touch/iPhone) have a "Compilation" setting that will hide artists who only have music that is "part of a compilation" from the Artists view on the iPod (as far as I can tell, there is no way to do this on a Touch/iPhone). That's what I used before, not as much of a problem on the iPhone since I almost always use the Albums, Podcast, Video, or Audiobooks view.

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Here's what I do for compilations in iTunes. I enter the track information as it should be entered, including the name of the actual artists who performed each song. Once all the information is entered, I make sure that the flag "Part of a Compilation" is checked for all the tracks. That way, all of the tracks on the disc end up in the Compilations folder on my computer. Not only that, when I browse through my collection by album name using cover flow, I only see the album cover once and all of the tracks on the album are grouped together.

 

As for playlists, I have a few in my collection, but I tend to create playlists by categories or genres rather than album names. For instance I have one playlist that nothing by instrumental tracks and another for pop and another for rock. It's not necessary for me to create playlists for each album in my collection because each of my albums is correctly flagged and labeled. If I want to listen to "The Stranger" by Billy Joel in iTunes, I just go to my music collection, look for the album, and start playing the song I want to hear. The same goes for my iPod. Since I have all my albums properly tagged, I can just select Albums in my music collection, find the name of the album I want to hear, and select it from there.

 

I'd also like something that will recognize full albums and allow me to play them all the way through randomly, if that's possible. I had a plugin for Winamp that did that, and it worked pretty well... but I'm not using Winamp anymore.

 

If you properly tag an entire album, you can get iTunes to just play the tracks on that album. Click on one of the first two view options in the upper right corner of the screen (next to the search field). Then click on the little eye icon in the lower right and from the three lists that appear at the top of the window, select the album or artist you want to hear. You'll find that iTunes automatically filters out everything but the songs for that album or artist. If you want to shuffle through songs at random, click on the shuffle icon in the lower left and you're good to go.

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Here's what I do for compilations in iTunes. I enter the track information as it should be entered, including the name of the actual artists who performed each song. Once all the information is entered, I make sure that the flag "Part of a Compilation" is checked for all the tracks.

 

There's one other step I take with compilations -- I put the actual artist in the Artist field, but then, in the Album Artist field, I put in "Various artists".

 

Oh, and MediaMonkey used to have a nice feature that would show you specifically which tracks in your collection have incomplete tags or album art. I'm sure that feature is still there.

 

It was a huge help to me back when I realized my music's tags needed work.

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