Saturday, November 24, 2007

iTunes: the merge

Laura and I merged our iTunes accounts on our home computer. This way, we don't have two copies of music we both like on the hard drive, and we don't have to import music separately if we both want to listen to it. It's nice to know that if we can't find a particular song, the reason is that we don't own it, rather than that we didn't import it into the correct person's account. We've also both got access to music one of us has purchased. On the down side, we both have a lot of music in the library that the other has utterly no interest in. And it means that if either of us hits the random button, there's a good chance we'll end up with a song we've got no interest in. Or, in Laura's case, end up with a song that actively disgusts her. I'm fully aware that I can tolerate Laura's music a lot better than she can tolerate mine. I'd like to believe that it's because I've got much broader taste in music, and that I've been exposed to and can appreciate a wider range of music. This is true to an extent, but there's actually a much simpler reason I can listen to more of her music than she can listen to mine: everything in her collection is good music. The worst case scenario is that I'll hear music that I have no interest in. If I listen to her music, I'm likely to end up with Sinatra or Patricia Barber or Sade -- music I can listen to, even if it's not my first choice. If she listens to my music, she's likely to hear good music, even if it doesn't particularly appeal to her: Celtic, gypsy violin, singer-songwriters. She's also likely to hear appallingly bad music that disturbs her. I vaguely recall her hitting the shuffle button a while ago and finding the Insane Clown Posse song describing the axe murder of a cheating girlfriend ("because the moon told me so and it's watching us right now..."). So Laura and I both have a lot of custom playlists to ensure we won't accidentally find some Cradle of Filth or Ella Fitzgerald.

On the other hand, the playlists can get a bit difficult to manage. We've got lots, and we don't have a way to differentiate hers from mine. I recently sync'ed a playlist called "exercise" to my iPod, and was sorely disappointed to find it packed with U2 and Annie Lennox. I hope Laura didn't make the same mistake and sync the playlist "exerciseTunes" onto her iPod; she wouldn't have been happy with the Prodigy and Micronaut and Sevendust. Her exercise routine is rather unlike mine, and hers doesn't go with my music any better than mine goes with her music.

If you're tempted to do the merge yourself, it's a bit tricky. You need to tweak your registry so it looks for music in a common directory, and merging the libraries is best done manually; I could find no better way than importing all of one person's music into the other person's library, then manually deleting the duplicates. And manually moving the playlist files into the shared directory is a lot easier than exporting them one at a time, then importing them from the shared library. But it's probably worth the trouble in the long run. We're happy with the music merge so far, and I'm being educated about Laura's taste in music as well.


If you need to do this yourself, I wouldn't recommend doing it via the complicated random-hacking method I used. Instead, check out Donald Bell's quick, easy directions at CNet Australia.


Frank said...

Can you post a link for the instructions on how to do this? I need to do the very same thing.

Thanks -Frank

Jeff Mountjoy said...

Sure; I'm working on writing it up now.

a friendly friend said...

Stumbled across your post and I have a simple solution for you.

Put your name in the comments field of your music and her name in the comments field of hers. Then use those fields as limiters in a smart list.

You can also create a tag for music you hate in the comments. I would suggest something like noJxff or noLaxra. It's important that the Jeff and Laura strings do not appear in that tag as iTunes isn't very smart about these things.

Good luck.

Gabriella said...

Did you end up composing a walk-through on the easiest way to do this? My husband and i need to merge ours somehow. :)Gabriella

Jeff Mountjoy said...

When I originally did this, I just started hacking, and ended up doing it a fairly complicated way -- I used the TweakUI utility to change default music locations in both accounts to a common directory, then manually copied the files from my library and hers into the common directory, then opened each of our accounts and changed the default library, then re-imported the combined directory. There was much hacking and cobbling involved.

Much easier would've been to follow Donald Bell's quick, easy, illustrated directions from CNet Australia.

On a Mac, I'd hit Doug's AppleScripts page and use whichever cool utility does exactly what you need.