How Well Does TuneUp Really Clean Your ITunes Library?

Keeping your music collection organised is a rather daunting task if you’re a bit of a musicophile. It’s even more daunting if you happen to be borderline obsessive-compulsive. I happen to be both.

The biggest problems that I run across are inconsistency in capitalisation, missing artwork, and improperly tagged files. These would not be much in and of themselves, but I have a collection nearing twenty thousand individual tracks, and I require some automation to do the heavy lifting.

Enter TuneUp, a music cataloguing application designed around iTunes. Now, I’m not much of a fan of Apple’s preeminent media player (it’s never seemed to give me the same level of control in a simple UX that I could get from various options on Linux), but considering its market ubiquity, the integration seems a small price to pay for a pristine library. TuneUp will scan your existing library, identify tracks, and attempt to fit them into the correct albums before filling in all the missing ID3 tag information. The developers promise an “automagic” experience, but with my eclectic tastes, that has proven impossible.

The program can only hold 1000 entries at a time so I am forced to break my collection down by artist name–doing all the A’s, followed by the B’s, etc. So far, this has been a slow process. Although many of the albums are shown correctly, roughly 70% of them are so-called “likely matches” which means that I have to at least check the file against its listing in iTunes, a process that is surprisingly streamlined thanks to the aforementioned integration. Thankfully, the learning curve is shallow: the interface, like everything else in OSX is all drag-and-drop. Even the “undo” command is drag-and-drop, prompting you to simple drag the offending files into a special window. This has come in handy a few times as I have learned that large collections of a single artist (so far AC/DC and The Beatles) tend to flag as duplicate tracks or wrong albums. These anthologies may take a few revisions.

So far, I’ve spent over a week working on my library. The Gracenote library that powers TuneUp is severely limited in its selection of cover art for much of my collection. Even my more mainstream classic rock selections such as The Blues Brothers Definitive Collection or The Who’s Greatest Hits were running against a brick wall to get all the correct information!

On the bright side, adding new albums to iTunes via TuneUp seems to be a better experience–mostly because of the smaller volume of tracks. This strategy of checking my information by only scanning one album at a time has been slower, but has provided me with fewer erroneous results.

My biggest gripe with TuneUp is its lack of selection when attempting to match tracks to an album. Instead of giving a selection of possible matches, it populates with a list of “likely matches” and assigns tracks to those albums. These are often the wrong artist, album, or even track name! To wit, I have to manually move all the incorrect matches to the appropriate position in the correct album–taking far more time than should ever have been dedicated to such a project. God help you if the album isn’t in Gracenote’s database or it’s the wrong version (I have a lot of ripped vinyl that doesn’t match track lists for the CD remaster); you will get a list of 8-10 albums that are wildly different, one track mated to each one, then the app simply gives up and lists the balance under “no matches”.

Don’t believe the hype around TuneUp; It’s a great idea, but executed poorly. It is certainly not worth the $40 to purchase, especially if your music collection is gathered from legitimate sources such as the iTunes, Amazon, or Google Play stores. The better CD ripping applications will fill in the ID3 tags for you as you go, and vinyl titles aren’t supported very well. However, if you were a hardcore Napster user back in the day, you might find the one-time purchase option to be just enough automation to take out part of the headache surrounding manual data entry on those bootleg Apoptygma Berzerk albums you downloaded.