Dear music-geek lazyweb: How do you deal with the problem of consolidating bulk-ripped CDs with your existing iTunes library? Here’s the scenario:
You have some of your music already ripped to mp3/AAC, but then decide to farm the process out to one of those buck-a-disc services that will mail you back a stack of DVDs containing shiny new FLAC or Apple Lossless files. Now you have to replace the low-quality media in your library (iTunes, for sake of discussion) with the new hotness. Seems easy enough, right? Just look for duplicate albums and replace old with new.
However, you’re really picky about your metadata (artist, album, year, etc.), and you don’t control the metadata that your CD ripping service applies to the tracks they send back. Maybe the newly ripped audio files have the artist “REM” (instead of “R.E.M.” as it should be) or consider the year on compilation tracks to be the year of the compilation (e.g. 2005) instead of the year of the recording (e.g. 1995). These things happen; even the most expensive bulk-CD ripper may differ with you on subtle points such as the correct rendering of sigur rós song titles.
Now it’s a big ugly problem. A piece of software to analyze two libraries (your existing library with “good” metadata, and your new library of freshly-ripped high-quality audio with possibly “bad” metadata) needs to be able to decode the various tag formats (including the tags in the MPEG-4 wrapper around ALAC/AAC audio, which have an undocumented format) and apply these heuristics to figure out what to do. Ideally it would be able to ask the user to confirm a huge merge operation (which would take some time), and of course it would need to be able to actually write the correct tags to the high-quality audio (undocumented formats make this annoying). The end result is a “golden” music library, with the highest quality audio and the most “correct” metadata.
Is there any software “out there” that even addresses some small part of this issue? (iTunes’ “duplicate song” feature is not helpful; it seems to exist for the express purpose of saving disk space by deleting tracks from your “best-of” albums.)
Leave a comment if you’ve got any ideas. (Did I get the jwz lazyweb tone—self-important while at the same time asking for help—right?)