Music Management

July 29, 2016 by Noah

Manually managing a music collection of MP3 files on disk is such a pain in the ass that I felt like blogging about it.

First, you have cloud music services like Google Play Music which can't detect duplicates properly.

The Google Music Manager will just keep re-re-re-redownloading my library from the cloud and creating duplicate files on disk over and over, with file names ending in (1).mp3, (2).mp3, etc., like it knows exactly what it's doing. Can't it just take a SHA-1 sum first and realize the MP3 I already have is exactly the same as the one they have on their side?

And then you have stupid media player programs that try to modify and reorganize your music library on your behalf. Even open source media players for Linux do this. What, do they think they're iTunes? I don't want them to touch my file system. So they end up creating duplicate songs, because they decided to update my MP3 and in the process they also decided to rename it, to be as compatible as possible with what, MS-DOS!? Only instead of just renaming the original, they copy it to a new name. And then the media player's library shows duplicate copies of the song.

On Linux I used to prefer to use XMMS as my media player. It's a Winamp 1.x clone and it has no opinions at all about your filesystem. But it was written with GTK+ 1.x and it looks ugly as sin on modern Linux desktops, and other forms of bit rot cause it to intermittently not work anymore on Fedora so I had to move on to other media players. I used to use Banshee but it seems broken atm on Fedora 24, so I'm using Clementine which really wants to touch my files and has a lot of feature bloat that I don't really need...

Nowadays I end up just tarring up my whole music folder and keeping it far, far away from where any media player will find it. So then I know I can always nuke my entire music collection and re-extract it from the tarball and be back to a known good state.

When I buy new music from Google Play, I nuke its entire downloads folder, have it download my entire library again from the cloud because it can't do anything more complicated than that, and then go in and pluck out the MP3's I just bought to put them in the tarball where they won't be touched again by any software that wants to mess with them.

I only have 192 songs in my collection so far. I can't imagine being one of those people with 20,000 songs, as problems like this would just compound themselves so much. 20,000 songs with 30,000 duplicate MP3's on disk?

And this is all to say nothing about missing/spotty ID3 tags on the files. That's the #1 reason I nuked my old collection of randomly downloaded music and started buying them back from Google and Amazon, with the assumption that the MP3s obtained from them will have full and accurate sets of metadata attached.

And why won't Clementine just shuffle my entire library instead of making me create a playlist that includes the entire library first? ffs.

XMMS apparently works again on Fedora 24

Looks like XMMS works for the moment, so I'm just gonna use that for now.

Also, Spotify is not an option. I prefer to own my own files.



There are 4 comments on this page. Add yours.

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Ben posted on September 7, 2016 @ 21:39 UTC

Agreed. How the hell is this still a problem in 2016?

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Sean M posted on December 24, 2016 @ 17:41 UTC

Media players are a bit of a mad situation on linux. I actually went through the same process you did and thought "fuck it, xmms was fine back in the day, I'll give it a spin" but found that only "xmms2" is available as a package on debian, which is some ridiculous client/server model where you launch the server/daemon and choose a GUI to actually use it. Hope you found a good solution - I just stuck to using my phone :-/

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wingmaster posted on January 14, 2018 @ 22:49 UTC

Google brought me here for your windows 3.1 files.... Totally understand your pain with the music. Made me laugh. Thx for window stuff. I'm trying to clean up my music collection...2.5 TB worth...

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Tomcombi posted on March 14, 2018 @ 11:14 UTC


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