iTunes DJ: Repair and Recover

Posted by on 8th Nov 2016

Recently I started moving back to the good old iTunes because I wanted to start DJing again. Most, if not all, professional DJ apps integrate with iTunes as their backend. iTunes is basically the most common music library everyone else agrees on. This is also true for all the apps that are aimed at helping DJ's do their job, like Mixed in Keys or Beatunes.

Unfortunately I had to repair a good chunk of my library because of missing items (songs and movies), missing metadata like artwork, album, tiles, etc., but I also had storage issues.

Here's a list of things that helped me along the way, and which parts of which tool functioned well.

Repair and Recover

TuneSpan: TuneSpan is an awesome app. It's main purpose is to relocate certain items to different volumes. This way it becomes super-easy to split an iTunes library that becomes too big to multiple volumes. While in the recovery process, I decided that it's best to get rid of any missing or external items, and consolidate everything back onto the main iTunes volume. I had to do it in batches, and later decided to just move everything using the Finder, and then see what happens. TuneSpan has a neat feature for this it's called "Locate Missing Files" (available in the Tools menu). This feature scans the iTunes library for anything that is marked with an exclamation mark (!) by also checking if the file linked in iTunes is in the Finder. However it does a lot more than that. After it has found these items, it tries to recover them too. I had about 600 missing items when I started, and TuneSpan was able to recover 300 of them. About 50% onto completion already!

Song Sergeant: This app is able to a) find duplicates but also b) resolve duplicates very smartly. It checks for duplicate items by tags and then displays those that might be doubled because of things like missing artwork, or songs that are the same but on different albums. It also displays songs as duplicates available in different formats. The greatest feature is this: it can resolve these duplicates by replacing every occurrence of the song in any of the playlists, meaning after the duplicate is gone, the true survivor has replaced the duplicate in all of its instances. I have digitised my vinyl recordings in Lossless format, but some of them were converted to AAC versions, and some of them weren't -- after everything was back on one drive. Song Sergeant was able to find them, and I was able to find those duplicates. I personally like to keep certain "duplicates" when one song appears on different albums, or compilations. With electronic music these are sometimes special edits made for that compilation only, and I'd rather keep those.

This list of iTunes things wouldn't be complete without the obligatory mention of Doug Adams' AppleScripts. For the purpose of recovering, moving, and re-locating missing items, or duplicates, I found the following ones helpful:

  • List MIAs: Checks all items for availability and generates a list of all the ones with an !. It can export to a text file.
  • Music Folder Files Not Added: Checks the iTunes media folder for any leftovers that are NOT in the library. Basically displays everything that was deleted, but where the file was kept (⌥⌫ → Delete → Keep File).

Beyond Recovery

Jaikoz is not purely related to iTunes recovery, but it is a substantial tool nonetheless. Jaikoz is an app that is able to look up track metadata via its AcousticID. The problem, however, is that many apps only support AcousticID via MusicBrainz. There is a free app to look and complete metadata called MusicBrainz Picard, and there are some paid alternatives too, like Metadatics. I found these are work all really well except for the music I have. I have a whole bunch of electronic music in my library. Some of which has only been released on vinyl. MusicBrainz doesn't work that well for electronic music, where Discogs is a much better catalog. Jaikoz is able to work with both. Among many other features it's the best app that I found that auto-completes missing data.

beaTunes and Mixed in Key are both excellent apps to add even more metadata to a song, than is available on Discogs and AcousticID. Both analyze the audio for its energy level and also their key. I have read mixed reviews. Some attribute Mixed in Key a better detection, some beaTunes. Mixed in Key can now also create a couple of cue points, which help quickstart playing new songs even more.

As DJ you also only want to have a chunk of your entire library with you all the time, and not all your movies too. For this purpose I found SuperSync to be a really good tool. It is able to manage a so called "local" and a "remote" library. Its name comes from the fact that you can select songs in the remote library and "sync" them to the local one. It can also sync playlists. It can check for duplicates. It can repair things. SuperSync is a multi-purpose app. It doesn't seem to be very active at the moment, and I hope that changes soon. I wasn't able to purchase this app because the PayPal form from the website was so old, it wasn't supported by PayPal anymore. It took the developer a week to add a second purchasing method. If you need something that doesn't do all the repairing but the syncing plus the additional benefit to upgrade songs to a higher quality, check out iTunes Match.

Conclusion

The conclusion would be this. If your iTunes library is ballsed up, well that's unfortunate. But the beauty of iTunes is that the ecosystem of third-party apps for it, the least I would mention are the DJ apps I wanted to target first, makes it possible to not only fix a library of the songs you own easily but also update those items with the most current metadata available. It wasn't a fun ride but it took only 3 days (an entire weekend). Considering how long it takes to repair other things or build a house, I'd say that's feasible. If anything I want my music to be as perfect as possible. I'm not a huge fan of streaming, to be honest.