Remember, once upon a time, when iTunes was the end-all, beat-all music library organizer and MP3 player for Macintosh? (Yes, I am solidly in the “WinAmp was the best fucking MP3 player application ever written and don’t you fucking forget it” camp, but we’re not talking about Windows right now). I think it was about the time version 11 came out (maybe 12, I’m not terribly certain) that iTunes just started to feel…stale. Many of the features that I came to know and love just fizzled away for the sake of pushing the store and streaming music.
Now, I’m not against streaming music in the least (I used to while away many, many hours on the road listening to Pandora and Slacker Radio on my Blackberry Storm), but I find it offensive when the mission of a particular piece of software that I have used for years flips from curating and organizing my thousands upon thousands of audio files to selling me a streaming and cloud storage service that I don’t want or need! As Apple has moved more into the streaming game, I have started looking for a suitable alternative to organize and play my local library.
My criteria are as follows:
- The software must automatically organize the file structure in the library folder based on changes to the ID3 tags.
- The software must edit universal ID3 tags.
- The software should look pretty good.
- The software must catalogue and be searchable.
You would think that these could be simple criteria to fill on any operating system–and on Linux or Windows, you would be right–but it seems that the Coop has a chokehold on media management for MacOS as there are no solid applications that mimic iTunes without the headaches of iTunes. At least, there are no free ones.
James Burton has suffered the same problems with iTunes that I have and took that as an opportunity to develop his own application, Swinsian. Swinsian is classic iTunes, focused on cataloguing and organization, with none of the bloat that has crept into Apple’s application over the past few years. The cool thing about Swinsian (and something sure to impress those FLAC-loving weirdo audiophiles and OGG-hearted die-hard open sourcers) is that it supports almost all major formats! It’ll even play WMA files (good luck doing that natively on a Mac now that Perian is dead)!
I’ve been using Swinsian to manage my library for almost a year now, and I’ve gladly given up the sales-oriented nonsense that is iTunes. I can easily edit my ID3 tags and have those changes reflected in the file structure of the library; I can easily catalogue and search my library; and the application has a great visual aesthetic that emphasizes the album art that I gave up when I moved to digital.
Yes, you will need to pay for Swinsian (at time of writing, it’s $20US), but as Andrew Lewis observed: “If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.” While this isn’t a universal truth, it is often the case in walled gardens like post-Jobs Apple. If you’re a collector of digital music (as most audio junkies from the 1990s are), Swinsian is a Jackson well spent!