music folders

After one of my occasional anti-iTunes rants a friend asked me what I did for a content management system. He thinks one of the benefits of iTunes is that it organizes your soundfiles and you can search and create playlists within this data. Myself, I don't keep any permanent playlists (except a master file of music I wrote). For recreational listening I assemble temporary playlists piecemeal, picking and choosing songs from folders I've created on my hard drive. I use Winamp to find and play the files and save the playlists. Unlike iTunes, Winamp will stream them from anywhere on your PC (maybe iTunes has changed, but you used to have to resave all your music to a special iTunes folder).

My folders are organized roughly chronologically (by decade) and alphabetically within each decade. Thus I can visualize the entire collection and also think about relationships within it (once a rock critic always a rock critic--pity me). This scheme makes me less reliant on someone else's bad metadata from the individual tunes--a real problem with iTunes in my opinion. I do a fair amount of pruning--whereas I had a hard time deaccessioning CDs and vinyl I'm pretty merciless with mp3s. If it's not floating my boat it's not taking up space on my hard drive. As the collection gets larger I'll start breaking the decades down into years. Oh, and the folders also contain jpegs of covers and other info. The entire schmear is backed up on a separate hard drive.

Excuse this nerdy indulgence but I wanted to put forward a model different from the one Steve Jobs expects you to use as part of his entertainment colonization scheme.

Also, as I mentioned I don't use a portable mp3 player (headphones bug my ears) but if I did I would just move songs out of these folders and wipe them from the player when I was tired of listening to them. DIY, baby, DIY.

- tom moody 7-12-2007 7:24 pm

great pic!!!
- charles westerman (guest) 7-13-2007 12:32 am

itunes doesn't inhibit you from doing any of that, though. i know you can turn off the 'save/copy to itunes music folder' function. once you do that you can do everything you talked about and have the added bonus of quick search-ability of your music files..

i have a friend who dorks out very hard over the organization of his massive music collection, and he rolls this way.
- borna (guest) 7-14-2007 1:45 am

I can search all the above folders using the computer's regular "search" function. (Not that I need to, because I know exactly where everything is.) And my system is DRM free. I paid Gates for the Operating system a while back, that's all I need to spend. Steve Jobs gets no bucks from me for his all-white iMonopoly.
- tom moody 7-14-2007 2:12 am

You need to have sympathy for me--I can't win this battle. I'm fucked trying to stay out of this capitalist scheme. All my friends are like "Are you not of The Body? Peace and contentment. It is the will of Landru." (Star Trek TOS reference.) Life was simpler when you had a CD player and no extra middleman stepping between you and the other middlemen who sold the music you acquired. Take a position and it's like "Apple is great and good, how can attribute such motives to the 'cool' company?"
- tom moody 7-14-2007 2:20 am

Someone slipped an iPod into my bedroom while I slept. Resistance was impossible, I have since been assimilated into the Cupertino hive-mind.

Yeah, Apple is no cooler than Microsoft. They do occasionally have better design, though. They are a capitalist company out to protect their bottom line, just like all the rest. Anyone who thinks that Apple is intrinsically good is a simpleton. Say what you want about Microsoft, but the Gates foundation is awesome and is really making a difference in the lives of those in the world most in need. I don't see Jobs doing anything that worthwhile with his money...

But back to to the subject of the post, organizing music files is one of those things that seems like it should be easy until you actually start trying to do it. I think some tag-based system like the one flickr uses would be good, where you could associate keywords and then do searches to find files.
- Gary (guest) 7-14-2007 8:40 pm

all my mp3s are drm free as well. just because i use itunes doesn't mean i buy from them.

tom - i think if you set up itunes you might actually like it. if you've already taken the time to categorize your collection chronologically, i think you'd especially enjoy being able to flip back and forth between having that and having them alphabetical at the touch of a button. it's pretty versatile and it really streamlines accessing your music, especially if you have a large collection.
i'm not trying to sell itunes to you, it doesn't make a difference to me one way or another how you listen to your music. and i understand your anti-"all white iMonopoly" stance, I just don't think avoiding itunes is an effective form of resistance. cause ultimately, as long as you don't buy online music or an ipod, it doesn't make a difference in the whole world.

gary - i figured out a while ago, actually, how to sort by the "tag" system on itunes. when you use the search function, it also searches the "composer" field of your music files' info. most people have this field hidden on their main display. so all you'd need to do is type your tags in the composer field and you have instant searchability of your tags. only problem is that you'd have to remember them, you couldn't just click them like on delicious.
- borna (guest) 7-15-2007 12:21 am

Escaping the iBorg is not as easy as avoiding the iPod or the iStore.
When Quicktime developed security problems with java a while back, I turned on its automatic updates.

Every time that damn thing finds a new Quicktime update, it asks me if I want to download "Quicktime + iTunes." No, no, no, and no!
It keeps checking the iTunes box even when I uncheck it.

Winamp does everything iTunes does as far as playlists, sorting, etc. It's a really great non-invasive program and I recommend it to people with PCs. For 24 bucks it will rip from CDs etc; the basic program is free.

And I realize Apple vs Windows is a religious discussion but Windows people just say "turn off the Bill junk and it's a great OS that stays out of your way" whereas Apple people are really proactive about the whole scheme and don't like to hear it criticized. No Windows user cares what anyone says about Windows.

Like I said, I'm fighting a losing battle, but I have a blog and I'm going to go down ranting. I appreciate that you guys are trying to help my but I'm also trying to help you by talking about a system that works really well for me.
- tom moody 7-15-2007 12:45 am

Oh, and on the Apple marketing--it's great that they're using the kid from Jeepers Creepers but I wish it was the nerd that endorsed Apple and not the "hipster."
- tom moody 7-15-2007 12:56 am

Tom -- I really appreciate this. There's something utterly hilarious about people congregating around a monolithic commercial entity. When culture is controlled by this kind of beast, things get scary. When that beast attempts to designate the rhetoric of digital production as exclusively their own -- vis-a-vis their marketing as the "creative" brand, their bundling of digital production apps with new computers + osx -- things get downright stupid. In my view, Apple has created their own brand of self-aware consumer that feels a virulent loyalty to the brand and, worse off, feels hostile to other consumers who may, for financial or personal reasons, steer clear of apple.

Why would any thinking person feel any loyalty, affinity, or warmth toward a large, multinational corporation?
- bxk (guest) 7-15-2007 5:33 am

d.i.y digital music circa 2002: mpg123 and a perl script for queuing directories ;)
- bxk (guest) 7-15-2007 5:37 am

We have a lot of Mac users here at the Tree and those who haven't turned my page off are sick of my bleating.
I understand why people like Macs--they are elegantly designed (although I don't personally care for, or about, the design--as you can see from my screenshot) and the OS is easy to work with and doesn't have all that hidden registry crap like Windows does.
I used to have a Mac in the '80s and I quite liked it, when the design was ultra low res.
What I don't get is the level of offense people take when I say I hate Jobs and his totalizing "one stop shopping for all your home entertainment (and artmaking) needs" scheme.
It's so popular it threatens to be the only alternative. Certainly for artists and musicians. People say "podcasting" like everyone has a pod.
It used to be audio types liked to assemble a lot of different components and get their music from a variety of different exotic sources. That's all out the window with this all-white, all-streamlined, silvery borders scheme. I just hate it. Why can't I just hate it?
- tom moody 7-15-2007 6:49 am
- charles westerman (guest) 7-16-2007 7:11 am

i'm not sure why this got turned into a pc vs mac user thing.

well, actually - it's perfectly logical, but that's not my stake in it. i don't really care for that discussion very much at all. to each his own. and to tell you the truth, i think the next computer i buy might be a pc.

all i was saying is that all the processes you were describing using are streamlined by itunes. but i think i've already made that point.

so here i'll lay out my own system:

i burn cds. and play them on a stereo. what bothers me most about the itunes / ipod is being faced with your entire collection all the time. so burning cds becomes a way of selectively limiting my choices. it's tactile, too. which is probably the biggest plus.

sometimes i take a discman around with me, but that's rare. i don't generally use portable music players. if i were to start though, i think i'd get one of those ipod shuffles, or a similar usb-stick style audio player (i'd turn the shuffle function off, of course). I like how they have no screen and only hold a small amount of information. So there'd be that same feeling of picking and choosing what you want to take with you. and i think the no screen thing is a really good way of "getting to know" your music.
- borna (guest) 7-17-2007 12:38 am

I'm all for making it tangible. For me it's the process of organizing and naming folders and deciding what goes in them. I pretty much know where everything is and why I put it there. Burning CDs would be too much work for my lazy self, but I'd still like to have my musical output on a Samsung portable player.
- tom moody 7-17-2007 3:45 am

For me the 1p0d is about interop. Due to its market share, its the MP3 player ++ that third parties integrate first.

As much as I loved the Mac back in the eighties, in the early nineties I was all about Windows for the same reason. Third-party support. Bill won. Steve lost.

17un3s is adequate and free. The 17un3s store is fubar from my perspective. I shall not participate.

The kid next to me on the plane tonight was watching some sort of Lindsey Lohan movie with her 1p0d, and was all like "I'm watching a movie in my hand, furreel". Interop.
- mark 7-27-2007 1:36 pm

I've just started running into problems with Windows Media Player not burning wav files to CD if "media usage rights" are missing...
- Travis (guest) 10-27-2007 12:51 am

Urk. I rarely used WMP but if that happens to me I'll make some Internet noise. I try not to use any Bill products except the operating system.
- tom moody 10-27-2007 1:01 am