If your iTunes collection is measured in the thousands rather than hundreds, you’ll no doubt understand the need to keep it under control. The best way to do this is to correctly classify tracks, make sure things are named correctly, and avoid duplications and variation on artists or album names. Setting the correct metadata manually for thousands of songs is quite a formidable task. TuneUp makes a bold promise to do this task for you with only minimal supervision.
TuneUp costs a one-off $49.95, or can be purchased as a yearly licence for $39.95. Alternatively, you can grab it from the MakeUseOf Rewards program right now for 500 points; or you can download a free trial that will clean up to 50 songs. It works as a plugin with either iTunes or Windows Media Player. Note that it requires an Internet connection to work.
The promise of cleaning up your music collection is a certainly a bold one to make; but what exactly does TuneUp do?
- Fixes mislabeled songs – things like “Unknown artist” and “Track 01″; it does this using waveform analysis.
- Adds other missing meta information, like release year or genre. This makes smart playlists a lot more useful, such as “rock music from the 80s”.
- Adds cover art, automatically or by giving you a choice of domestic / international versions.
- Removes duplicates.
- Features a “now playing” tab with lyrics, concert dates and other albums from the current artist.
The features are also heavily customizable. When cleaning your tracks, you need only import the information you want, so if you’d rather they left alone your carefully created genres then you can go right ahead and keep those. Be sure to check these preferences before performing your first clean though, as genre replacement is on by default.
In order to keep track of the cleaning process, I suggest enabling playlist creation via the preferences menu. Now perform an analysis on your collection – mine found about 3,500 songs of 8,000 total which had missing information. It should also have created a special playlist for those, so use that as a source when dragging and dropping into the interface.
Note that the list isn’t dynamic; once cleaned, songs are not removed from it. Alternatively, you can simply pick and choose songs to clean straight from your main library (or do them all); an analysis isn’t neccessary for the plugin to work.
Drag some files into the cleaning window to get started – you can drag up to 1,000 each time – then let the identification process run.
The main cleaning interface is divided into two sections; definite matches (blue), and likely matches (grey). Clicking on the check mark will accept those matches – you can either do this individually, or on a track by track, album by album basis; or you can simply click “Save all” to accept all the matches. Alternatively, Clear (Cancel) any changes to albums or tracks with the X. If you’re having doubts about a particular album, toggle the full view down and click to play an individual track that it thinks is a match.
If at any point, you think you may have inadvertently mislabelled a track, drag it into the undo tab reverse changes back to its original state.
Though functional, I do find the interface a little fiddly. I think I would have preferred a full application window rather than a compact sidebar. Occasional bugs appeared, like the lack of a check button graphic (it should be next to the X in the screenshots above), though the button itself still worked.
Also, if you have a large collection of mash-ups or audiobooks, I’d also suggest you look carefully at the list as there will be a lot of misclassifications, or better still just remove them from the “to clean” list before starting. That said, it did manage to fix some of my Chinese songs that had been broken by Windows character encoding at some point, giving them the correct titles back.
The most recent update to TuneUp includes the ability to display lyrics, but the keyword is display only – it will not add found lyrics during the clean up process, which is disappointing. Furthermore, if your tracks already have lyrics in the metadata, it won’t display those either – it can only stream what is available on its rather limited lyrics partner.
If you’re looking for a decent solution to grab lyrics for all your songs, or to display them nicely while listening, consider GetLyrical instead.
If your iTunes consists of mostly popular music that seriously needs kicking into shape, TuneUp is going to perform great for you. It has a fine level control over precisely which information gets pulled or overwritten, and works very well for popular music. You’ll find cover flow suddenly makes a lot more sense when you actually have album artwork; it felt great to actually see images of artists I’d loved over the years but never looked into further.
If your iTunes is full of non-music , foreign tracks, audiobooks, comedy recordings, and all manner of non-standard audio, then you’ll need to be more selective with the cleaning process. It’ll still perform a great job on regular music tracks, but blindly letting identify everything in your collection is going to have you fuming.
Have you used TuneUp? Let us know how it worked out for you in the comments! Alternatively, do you have another preferred way of fixing all your metadata, or do you just not care?