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Spring cleaning: Tidy up your music collection

It's time you sat down and organized your music collection, once and for all. Here's some tips to help you come up with a system for the madness.

Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Jason Cipriani
4 min read

Jason Cipriani/CNET

I'll be the first to admit my music collection is less than organized. To be honest, I hate dealing with it. I despise going file by file, renaming, adding the album title, track number and so on. It's a hassle.

With that said, organizing your music collection is something that needs to be done. Once you get a system down, it's easy to continue down the path of a more organized music collection.

Store music on your computer

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

For those readers who still purchase music in the traditional CD format, you need to think about turning that disc collection into a digital collection. Luckily, there are many different apps and services available to help you rip music from a CD, turning it into an MP3 (or other digital) file.

One such app is iTunes . iTunes will rip a CD and place the files into your library, requiring very little effort from you. You can customize how iTunes handles a CD by launching the preferences or settings screen, then looking for the "When a CD is inserted" section.

Naturally, not everyone is a fan of iTunes. With that in mind, Windows users can read through this post for tips on using Exact Audio Copy to rip CD's. Mac users can use a free app called Max to take more control over ripping music on a Mac.


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Of course, once you start ripping music -- or perhaps you've already ripped your music to your computer -- you'll want to keep it organized. Doing this can be easy if you let a program such as iTunes do it for you. By selecting a few options (pointed out above) in iTunes preferences, you can ensure your music is filtered and sorted into a concise catalog.

If you would rather organize your collection on your own, you can do so by creating a folder hierarchy. Create folders for each artist, with subfolders for each album and so on.


Perhaps the most annoying part of organizing a music collection is the metadata associated with each music file. The data, called tags, lets you and your music player of choice know in what order to play songs, who the music is by, its genre, and so forth.

When tagging for an entire album is wrong, it's very time consuming to go back and edit each individual track in iTunes or the like. So, instead of wasting your time, try a free cross-platform app called MusicBrainz Picard. It's not the best-looking app, or the most intuitive to use, but it does the job quite well.

You can add a entire folder, or just a few tracks to the app and let it work its magic. As always, when dealing with an app that changes files, make sure you back up your collection before letting the app go wild.


Speaking of backing up your music collection, let's take a look at free and paid streaming services that also act as a backup for your catalog. Between iTunes Match, Google Play Music, Xbox Music and Amazon Prime Music you have four solid options to back up your collection, and at the same time remotely stream your music.

iTunes Match does cost $25 per year, but it allows you to match your entire iTunes catalog with Apple's iTunes catalog. Any music not found by Apple in its collection will be uploaded to the service on your behalf. It doesn't matter where (or how) you obtained the files. Going forward, you can delete the music files on your computer or iOS device to save some space, but still access your collection from any iCloud connected device.

Amazon offers Prime Music as part of a Prime membership. The service offers unlimited, ad-free radio station-like streaming along with the ability to upload up to 250 songs from your own library. For $25 per year, in addition to your Prime membership fee, you can upload and store 250,000 songs in your Prime Music library.

With Google Play Music, you can upload up to 25,000 songs for free and access your collection from nearly any Internet-connected device. As with iTunes Match, once your catalog is uploaded, you can delete the files from your computer to save storage space on your computer's hard drive.

Microsoft has finally enabled free streaming of your own music library that's stored in OneDrive. Just make sure to upload your music files directly to the Music folder in your OneDrive account. The only downside here is you're restricted to using an Xbox or Windows 8.1 device in order to listen to your music.

The service you end up using is going to differ based on which ecosystem you're most invested in. At the end of the day, however, each service offers it's own solution and a better way of managing your music.

Editors' note: It's spring cleaning time! This week's theme: organizing your device. Check back every day this week to see how best to keep your devices clutter-free. And be sure to return next week for more spring cleaning tips and tricks.

This How To post was originally published on April 4, 2014, and has been updated to include new information.