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How to identify nameless music tracks in your iTunes library

Commercial MP3s and other digital music files provide a wealth of information about the songs in addition to the audio-playback itself. This metadata makes it easy to display the track name, artist, album, and other facts about the songs in your playback device or program.

When you use an application such as the free Audacity audio-editing utility to convert music from LPs, cassettes, or another analog source, the only metadata accompanying the tracks is whatever information you provide when you create the digital file. There’s the rub.

In July 2011 I described how to use Audacity to convert LPs and audio cassettes to digital. A follow-up post from last September explained how Audacity helps ensure that contiguous tracks always play in the correct sequence.

Over the years I’ve used Audacity to convert about 2,000 songs from analog LPs and cassettes to MP3s and other digital formats. Most of the cassettes were recorded manually (as opposed to being store-bought) and date back to the 1970s and 1980s.

Alas, my friends and I weren’t always thorough when we made the tapes. Many lacked any information about the tracks or artists other than a generic label such as “Blues” or “Cajun.” Of the 5,000 or so files in my
iTunes library, about 175 are named something like “Unknown,” “Instrumental,” or “Irish,” usually without an artist name.

Other nameless cuts provide some hints as to their identity, such as “Grisman 5” or “De Dannan Ballroom.” I combined three different programs — one free and two fee-based — with some Web searching to reduce the number of mystery tracks in my 5,000-track iTunes library to fewer than two dozen.

TuneUp tops SongGenie as a music identifier
For songs you imported from iTunes, you can find song titles by right-clicking the track and choosing Get Track Names. You can often find more information about any track in your library by right-clicking it and selecting Show in iTunes Store. This option rarely works for entries lacking a title, artist, or album name, however.

I had limited success using TuneUp Media’s $50 TuneUp add-on for iTunes to ID the unknown tracks in my library. (Note that through March 2, 2013, the company is offering a 30-percent discount when you enter the promo code “LOVE30.”) I used the Mac version of TuneUp; a Windows version is also available.

After reading the user ratings for the program I feel fortunate TuneUp didn’t do more harm to my iTunes library than good. I didn’t experience the problems with the program that other people report, but I also didn’t let TuneUp make any changes automatically.

TuneUp media-library analysis results

The TuneUp add-on for iTunes scans your library for missing or inaccurate data in six categories.

Screenshot by Dennis O’Reilly/CNET)

The program opens like an iTunes sidebar. Its four tabs are Clean, Cover Art, DeDuper, and “Tuniverse,” which shows concert and other information related to the current track, and offers

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