How to name albums and songs in iTunes

After avoiding iTunes for eleven years, I was finally convinced (partly by reading this article) that the ability to use AirPlay made it worthwhile ripping my CD/music collection to iTunes.  What followed was a tale of frustration and hair pulling, so I’ve written down what I wished I knew BEFORE I started.  This is the third of a series of articles and deals just with naming tracks/albums.  I have a couple of supplementary tips that you might also like to check out: How to successfully rip an album/CD to iTunes; and How to transfer existing ripped music to iTunes

If you find this article helpful, you can make it easier for others to find simply by rating it and/or sharing/liking it.

If iTunes was not able to locate your CD via the Gracenote, (unlikely) or you find that the list of titles is not quite right (very likely), then the first thing then you should read the Gracenote FAQ before adding or editing your own titles. It is a long document, so I’ll cover the most important points here:

  1. Capitalise the first letter of each word, including articles (like A and The and Of). Rare exceptions might be artist names that always appear in all-caps or all-lowercase (such ABBA, NRBQ, k.d. lang, or eels). Note: Some people (like Brian Abbot and Stan Brown) don’t like this convention – especially the capitalisation of articles, but unless you want to spend a LOT of time editing your tracks, go with the flow and use capitals)
  2. If the album or track has a special attribute, such as a live recording or an extended version, include this information in brackets after the name – for example: Frampton Comes Alive! [Live] and Forever [Instrumental] or Forever [Extended Version] or Forever [Radio Edit]And I’ll add a couple of more of my own not from Gracenote
  3. The normal way to enter an artist’s name is as they are commonly known, such as The Beach Boys (NOT Beach Boys, The) or Katie Noonan (NOT Noonan, Katie). iTunes will sort these artists as you would expect – The Beach Boys come under “B” for Beach, and Katie Noonam comes under “K“.
  4. If the Artist name or CD Title or Track has accented characters, have enough respect for the artist to include the accented characters. For example, the CD set Purely Français showed up from Gracenote as Purely Francais – yet the album cover clearly has the cedilla under the letter c in Français.
  5. If the music is classical from a particular composer, you might want to consider setting the Album artist (NOT the track artist but the Album artist – I show you how in this post) to the composer’s name – such as Beethoven, Ludwig van. If you are not sure whether to record the name as Ludwig van Beethoven; Beethoven, Ludwig van; or simply Beethoven, then I have seen a convention that lists all variations separated by slashes, viz:Beethoven/ Beethoven, Ludwig van/Ludwig van Beethoven,
    but I consider this as overkill
  6. If you have a lot of classical music, you may wish to abandon Gracenote altogether, and do your own – perhaps starting with Gracenote then editing. You’ll get some great tips from these articles: How I Organize Classical Music in iTunes and Taming iTunes & iPod for Classical Music

Another tack you could try is Windows Media Player (assuming you have access to a PC or can run a Windows Virtual Machine on your OS). You may find that when you insert the CD (or add a music file to the library), Windows Media Player actually finds the listing, even though iTunes (and Gracenote) couldn’t. You may even use this method to find missing album art too – see this section of my previous post

Take this example: I bought a CD a few years ago entitled “Enchanting Everglades” for $5 but didn’t list the tracks on the cover! (Even though the CD itself says “For track listing see cover for details”).  The only information on the CD was that the album artist was Roland Tseng.  A google search yielded no joy and here is what iTunes found when I inserted the CD
Note how every track is called “Enchanting Everglades”.  That’s all it found!
While Windows Media Player found:
Not perfect, Roland Tseng isn’t mentioned, and some contributing artist called “The Sound Of Nature” appeared – possibly because the inside cover mentions “A beautiful blend of music and the Sounds of Nature” – oh well!  In this case, I didn’t try to copy/paste the names – they were simple enough to type, but if you fail to get results any other way this is a way that might work for you too. I also clicked on the Submit CD Track Names option in iTunes too. According to Gracenote documentation, this information should now be publicly available in a couple of days. I’ll try again on another PC sometime and see if it is true!

Update [2 days later] It worked! I just inserted this CD in another PC, clicked on the Options tool and selected Get Track Names and voilà
However, it is very curious how some of the tracks have “Sounds of Nature” as the Artist!!! Mind you, it is a pretty weird album, with a lot of bird chirping, insect noises etc, so in many ways it is fair to attribute the artist “The Sounds of Nature”!!

Remember, if you find this article helpful, you can make it easier for others to find simply by rating it and/or sharing/liking it.


About RedNectar Chris Welsh

Professional IT Instructor. All things TCP/IP, Cisco or Data Centre
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7 Responses to How to name albums and songs in iTunes

  1. Greg York says:

    Since my past post, I’ve been experimenting with the iTunes Info fields, and find that artwork is apparently ‘pinned’ to the album (title). If you want a different illustration with every track you need to change the album name appropriately for each one. If they’re all grouped under a general Playlist there shouldn’t be any problems of identification. I use the general album title with a subtitle in brackets for the illustration. I think my problem is solved!
    Huge thanks for your excellent site – for the clarity of the writing as well as for its splendidly uncluttered appearance. Greg

    • rednectar says:

      Thanks Greg – useful to know, and I’m glad you were able to work it out. A lot of folk miss the “Cover Flow” feature, but I started with 11 so don’t know what I’m missing! And thanks for your kind comments too. C

  2. Greg York says:

    Thank you for an extremely helpful article. I’m having problems with accented letters. iTunes imports them satisfactorily, but I can neither duplicate them manually nor copy and paste them elsewhere. I’m using iTunes on a laptop which hasn’t got a separate numeric keypad or ALT numerals (obviously an old, out-dated machine, like me!). Is there any way I can persuade the program to perform? Many thanks – Greg

    • rednectar says:

      Don’t ever think you are outdated! If you are using Windows, there should be an accessory called Character Map. Probably under Control Panel or Accessories or System Tools or something like that. That should be able to help you out. At the moment my keyboard is a Macintosh, so I can’t check it out in much more detail.

      • Greg York says:

        Chris – thank you so much. As you suggested, I quickly found the character map under Accessories/System Tools. When you open it you’re given the option to copy a selected character, which can then be pasted into the Info details in iTunes. Suddenly my library looks rather better educated! Thank you.
        May I bother you, please, with another little worry? I was unwise enough to upgrade to v.11 and realised, too late, that I’d lost some of the features I’d most appreciated in the earlier version – not least Cover Flow. Luckily I discovered a method of recovery on YouTube, and was able to restore my original library to v10.7. The problem now is that, although I can add artwork to an album as a whole, I can’t persuade iTunes to accept different artwork for each ‘song’ within the album. Do you know of a way this can be achieved? Warm thanks in advance. Greg

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