I’ve slowly been digitising my classical music collection using itunes. It’s no simple task but once it’s done, there’s no substitute for flicking through the composer list on my Sonos and hearing the music blast out throughout the house. Right now I have Vladimir Ashkenazy flooding the house with his incredible rendition of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concertos.
Or should that be “Rachmaninov, Sergei” or “Sergei Rachmaninov” or “S. Rachmaninov” or “Rachmaninov (1873-1943)”, “Rachmaninov, Serge” or even a combination of perhaps Japanese characters that I can’t quite decipher?
So here are my top 3 itunes flaws
1. Labelling inconsistency. Whilst having the gracenotes CDDB service beats having to type in every album, composer, artist and track name item for every CD, the inconsistency of labels is frustrating, particularly it seems for classical music. After all, Madonna is Madonna and every one of her albums has her as the “artist” (I haven’t yet seen a label of “M. Ciccone” or “Madonna, Ciccone”). Yet I have 3 variants of Ravel (“Ravel”, “Ravel, Maurice” and “Ravel, Maurice (1875-1937)) and 3 of Schubert, 4 of Prokofiev (with various counts of “v” and “f” at the end) and 6 different Mozarts. Why is this important? I often search by composer rather than album and frequently want to play a range of different pieces by one composer. Is there a way out of this? Sometimes itunes offers you a choice of labels for a track but the window it presents them in isn’t big enough to see what it is actually going to use, so that’s no help. I thought perhaps some filters might make sense – the same way that you can filter emails in Outlook so that they route to a specific folder – so that any Mozart pieces would go to the “Mozart” folder rather than the “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart” folder. Or perhaps it could learn from the first disc I put in by any single composer and use that as a template?
- P.S. There’s an e-government hook here, especially given all this talk of joined up data sharing. Departments don’t call anything the same as each other – not even items that you might consider simple, such as the definition of “child”. With complicated identifiers like national insurance number, tax reference number, NHS number and so on, bringing the records together will be lots of fun. More on that another time.
2. Using multiple computers doesn’t work. I store all of my music on a big fat hard drive attached to the network. Two Macs and two PCs are attached to the network and, to speed the digitising process, I sometimes have two of three of them uploading CDs at once. Sonos handles this just fine, updating its records either when prompted or at a specific time. But itunes doesn’t have a clue that there is more than one update going on. So I end up with each PC or Mac having a different sense of what is on the disc – for music, album art and gapless playback information (whatever that is). The only way to sort this out seems to be to clear down the itunes library on each machine (without deleting the files – been there, done that) and then add the folder back in. Each time you do that, of course, it goes and finds the album art and the gpi again, taking hours (20 plus gb of music over an 802.11g connection).
3. Audiobooks don’t always find their way into the audiobooks folder. When I run I listen to books – it’s more interesting than listening to music all the time and it doesn’t seem to slow me down (and yes folks, I can run and listen to a book at the same time as well as walk and chew gum). Uploading an audiobook via itunes (as opposed to downloading one from the store) doesn’t put the book in the right folder. Even changing the file extension to .m4b doesn’t work. You have to run a script to move them so that you get them in the right folder and, especially, so that the bookmark functionality works. The script you need is called “Make Bookmarkable” (and, as far as I know, is only for Mac)
There are other flaws – CoverFlow for all its vaunting when Jobs launched the iphone seems to have less than 10% of the covers that match my albums but then perhaps its designed for those who download everything (but I do love the CoverFlow interface). Itunes is also prone to hanging up on my Mac (which is a shiny new Intel-based machine), but it’s occasional and not crippling.
All this has to be put in the perspective of course that itunes is still the best at what it does and that, coupled with the ipod, it’s proved unbeatable so far.