Sorting digital music


in Geek stuff, Internet matters, Music, Rants

Fence in Vermont

When it comes to the organization of music, I am probably one of the most obsessive people out there. I would actually rather delete a song I cannot properly categorize than retain it as ‘Track 1’ by ‘Unknown Artist.’ Also, once I start categorizing something such as music or photos, I cannot rest easy until the task is done. It’s a tendency I need to be aware of and careful about. The decision to tag all my iPhoto images for which friends are in them, for example, produced about three days worth of intense work.

Of course, iTunes is the ultimate enabler for music organization obsessives. It puts everything into a big database: song ratings (all my songs are rated), artists, titles, play counts, last played dates, etc. It lets you set up smart playlists that, for example, consist only of songs rated four or five stars and haven’t been played in the last two weeks. You can also tag your songs as Canadian, too obscene to be included in a random party playlist, or whatever other designations are useful to you. I have most of my good music sorted into mood-based categories, including angry, brazen, demure, dramatic, energetic, rebellious, sombre, and upbeat.

One annoying element of the age of digital music is the enduring character of mix CDs consisting of CD-style music tracks, rather than data files. Almost invariably, this means that someone somewhere converted the uncompressed music on a CD into an MP3, AAC, or WMA file. Then, someone took that compressed file and stretched it back into CD format. If you then try to re-compressed the previously compressed and de-compressed file, you encounter a notable loss of quality. It would be far better if people made mix CDs consisting of data files (those in a lossless format would be especially appreciated, and still significantly smaller than uncompressed music files).

One final annoyance I will mention is the fact that my iPod is no longer large enough to store my music collection. Since I am now about 500 megabytes beyond its capacity, I need to manually ‘uncheck’ songs so that it can synchronize properly. Beyond being a pain, this somewhat undermines the iPod concept, which is really to have all your music available at a touch. My iPod is an old 4th generation 20GB model. It was replaced four times under an extended warranty that has since expired, and it probably doesn’t have enormously more time left in the world of working gear. When it bites the bullet, I will buy something large enough to store many years worth of future musical acquisitions.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Padraic January 2, 2009 at 8:15 pm

Sounds like you need to consult the iPod Death Clock – a useful, but according to my googling, now-defunct website that estimated how much life your iPod had left.

Milan January 2, 2009 at 8:46 pm

My chronology of iPods definitely isn’t encouraging.

It is largely the product of how, when you return an iPod for repair, they send you someone else’s refurbished unit. I think the probable rate of failure on the refurbished units is very high and so, once you have been issued your first, its successors aren’t far off.

iPods are one device where I think the three year extended warranty is worthwhile.

Litty January 2, 2009 at 8:57 pm

“I would actually rather delete a song I cannot properly categorize than retain it as ‘Track 1′ by ‘Unknown Artist.’ Also, once I start categorizing something such as music or photos, I cannot rest easy until the task is done.”

You should relax. It’s weird to be so strangely regimented about something as intuitive as music.

Milan July 5, 2011 at 8:17 pm

iTunes has become incredibly frustrating software. Whenever I have an iPhone or an iPod plugged into my computer, it spontaneously decides that it needs to sync every few minutes. For some reason, the Lost Highway soundtrack needs to be constantly transferred from one device to the other.

Even worse, every time this happens, iTunes jumps out in front of all other open windows, stealing focus. Focus stealing may the the software sin I most loathe.

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