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iTunes: Allow iTunes to Organize Folder and Manage Classical Music? No Way!

March 5, 2010DavidiTunes0

It’s a question that often comes up.   Should I click the option to allow iTunes to manage/organize my iTunes folder?   When it comes to classical music, my answer is a resounding no.  Here’s why:

(For an EXTREMELY detailed, step-by-step illustrated guide, head to my other site, www.classicalweekly.com and check out our eBook, “A Digital Workflow for Classical Music and Opera CDs: Creating High-Quality Archives of your CDs for iTunes, the iPod and other Management Software and Players.” It’s low-priced at only $9.95, comes with free support, and has a FREE excerpt available for download).

Ok. Back to business:

First lets clear up one thing — the organizational structure of your iTunes folder has no bearing on what you see in your iTunes libray. Let me repeat that,  iTunes doesn’t care if your iTunes folder is organized by composer, artist, or if every single individual classical music file is in the same directory.  When you open iTunes, iTunes looks at the ID3 tags in the files, not the file name or the organizational folder structure.  Thus, you can elect to keep your folder organized in any way you like.

With that out of the way I’ll tell you that I like to keep my classical music folder organized by composer.  Even though, as mentioned above, this structure has no bearing on the iTunes display of my music files (as that’s done by tag), I do like to keep my folder clean and not-repetitive.

Let’s look at an example. Take the Wagner Opera Siegfried. I have the Boulez/Bayreuth version.  In my folder system, where I organize the folders, I have a folder for the composer, Wagner, Richard, and in that folder I have a folder for each disc of the opera.  So the structure looks like this:

classical-1

This is clean and well organized and works for me.   If you let iTunes organize the folder, however, iTunes usually uses the file’s tags to determine how it will create directories.   Let’s take a step back for a second to see why that’s a problem.

Why Gracenote (CDDB) is a Problem for Classical Music

When people import CDs into iTunes, they often use the GracenoteDB to get album information.  Gracenote was never designed for classical music, so when importing a single disc of a single opera, you may get different tags in different places.  That’s right…you could import Disc 1 of the Boulez Siegfried and get different tags for the different tracks.

Now let’s fast forward again to our previous discussion.  If Gracenote applies the wrong, inconsistent tags to the individual tracks of Disc 1 of Siegfried, when iTunes goes to organize your music folder, it will look at these tags and create the folders it thinks  are appropriate.  What you wind up with, in addition to the folders listed above, is a few extra folders that represent where the GracenoteDB got it wrong.  So allowing iTunes to manage the folder may make the folder look like this:

classical-2

So you can see the extra folders that were created — because the Gracenote information wasn’t correct/accurate (pick your gripe), iTunes did the best it could. And if you were to look in these folders, you would find that the Boulez folder has a few files, the Bayreuth folder may have one or two…and so on.  So now instead of having an opera correctly spread across the four CDs it was produced on (and hence four folders in my system), you now have the same opera, divided into more than four folders and with the music spread across these multiple folders.  And while this may not be critical when you are browsing in iTunes or using your iPod (I did open this discussion by stating that your iTunes folder structure has no affect on your actual iTunes library structure), if you ever plan to use these mp3 files on a different player or system, you’d be missing parts of the opera.   Multiply this problem by 10 when you have multple copies of the opera or other operas in the same composer folder.  We all know that there’s plenty of crossover of  opera houses, conductors and singers, so what’s to say that the Solti folder that iTunes creates in your Wagner directory is for Gotterdammerung, or for Lohengrin.

Lastly, I’ll add that backups of your iTunes folder are faster and more efficient (and easier to navigate) if you don’t have so many extraneous folders.

So that’s why I like to manage my own folders in iTunes.   What do you think?

(For those who want to read about this entire ring cycle, I’ve pasted the Amazon link below):

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