Your Questions: How Do I Tidy Up 44,000 MP3s?

Phil Morse | Founder & Tutor
Read time: 2 mins
Last updated 27 November, 2017

Skratchworx 20,000 records
As Gizmo from Skratchworx wonderfully illustrates in this graphic (see link in text to original), if digital music were actually vinyl, people would think twice about amassing such huge collections. This is 20,000 songs – less than half of what our reader is trying to get to grips with.

Reader Samet writes: “I would like to tidy up my three-year-old music collection. I’ve got a lot of compilations, monthly-separated single downloads and set mixes. My problem is there are a lot of duplicates between compilations and single downloads and also some of them are a poor quality because of downloading randomly. I want to get rid of them but there are 44,000 files and i dont know how to do it easily. There is a lot of software on the web for finding duplicate files but many of the file tags are written in different formats so they’re not that useful. Editing 40,000+ files is hard work for me. I wish there were an easier way. I need some software or technique to find duplicate files to delete, and to find poor quality files in order to download better quality ones.”

Digital DJ Tips says:

Lots of things here. I’ll bullet point for you some thoughts and actions. I’m assuming you’re using iTunes.

  • Get rid of most of it – You have far too much music. 44,000 files is a ridiculous amount. You can’t possible know, use or play all of that. Look at this article from Skratchworx for a good argument as to why less than half the music you’re trying to grapple with is still far too much. Cut it down drastically before you do absolutely anything else. I have 600 tunes. Guess what? I don’t have any issues with file management at all
  • Stop “downloading randomly” – If you’re stealing other people’s music, apart from it being wrong, you throw away any control on the quality you’re letting into your collection. Get it from reputable sources, and you’ll know it’s OK. An easy way to get rid of obviously poor quality files is to add the “Bit Rate” column in iTunes, sort by it, and block-delete everything below, say, 192 kbps. That’ll get rid of a lot of it, but if you’ve been taking music from disreputable sources, it won’t in any way guarantee to get rid of it all
  • Take the time to understand “Artist”, “Album Artist” and “Part of compilation?” in iTunes – Read about these metadata functions in iTunes help; correctly using them will help you to keep compilations properly filed, and separate the DJs who perform your mixes from the artists who made the tracks
  • Standardise your metadata – Decide what genres are important to you, how you want to use the “comments” field, where you want to list remixers (I do them in brackets after the title), and apply to your whole collection. There’s no fast way to do this, but you’ve got rid of tens of thousands of tunes, haven’t you? So it’s going to take a lot less time than it would have done. By far the best program for semi-automating much of this including getting rid of duplicates is beaTunes

Sorry if some of this sounded harsh, but 44,000 tunes is going to take anyone far to long to sort out and get to grips with, and as you admit you’re just “randomly downloading” half of this stuff, the root cause of your problem is that particular habit. Stop doing it, buy what you want, and then look after it carefully. Digital music deserves to be properly valued just like records and CDs are (and the artists deserve to be rewarded too). Good luck!

Do you have any advice to add to this? How have you got to grip with unwieldy MP3 collections? Please let us know your thoughts, experiences and epiphanies in the comments…

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