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Music Collections That Run Like Clockwork

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Some call me a “control-freak”. This perhaps has negative connotations, but I admit I manage my life carefully, where it’s possible to. My music collection is an example of this.

The number of albums I own has naturally been increasing since my teens. Not forgetting, although I sometimes wish I could, my wife’s music. Together we’ve accumulated a real range of albums, singles and playlists from different sources. As a result the collection is quite diverse and disordered.

“Order and simplification are the first steps toward the mastery of a subject.” – Thomas Mann

So, why is order and simplicity in a digital music collection important? Over time a collection inevitably becomes afflicted with contradictory genres, poor quality cover art, misspelled artists, irregular disc numbers – the list goes on. I know I’m not alone in feeling my head spin at such unnecessary disorder. Some call this OCD, so I’m told.

Creating the ‘Clockwork’

My dizziness really is avoidable. It’s simple to fix the disorder and have our family music collection running like clockwork. Between the members of our family we’ve have a few tried and tested methods for this that I can share with you.

Some modern music players provide easy first steps in this process.  However, very few give you a full range of choice for re-organising things. So, in some cases you can correct an artist spelling or rename an album, but in others you cannot change a genre or allocate alternative cover art.

Another issue comes into play when creating collections to satisfy more than one person or to cover more than one room in the house. This happens because your people and your rooms may use different music players. Players tend to have subtle incompatibilities with one other. So, just as you congratulate yourself for gaining mastery over one player, you find you have yet to defeat another.

A solution for this is to use a music tagger. With a music tagger you can amend details within music files – for example artist and album name, genre etc. If like me, you have a sense of how your music should be ordered, you amend the tags to suit this vision. For example, if you want all compilation albums to use consistent numeric listings (Disc 1, Disc 2 – rather than Disc One and Disc B), you amend the relevant tag of each music file. The burden with this approach is that you have to remember your rules and tags over time and reset them all individually if you change your mind. You can also sometimes lose sight of the master plan for your entire collection.

Another option for creating the ‘clockwork’ is to use rule based organisers, which enable you to determine your requirements to suit your master plan and OCD-type nuances. You state all your rules and wait for the rule based organiser to fix any issues behind the scenes. Rather than relying on yourself to undertake inspections of, for example, album art resolution, a rule based organiser does this automatically and notifies you if it finds this particular rule is broken. It also potentially fixes it for you on the spot.

Running Like ‘Clockwork’

I’ve explained just three options for creating and maintaining order within your music collection. The simplicity of process for each of these options is clearly ranging. It remains for you to decide how you prefer to manage your master plan – and perhaps how many OCD-type nuances you wish to incorporate!

Being a “control freak”, and a busy one at that, and not wanting to slow the expansion and diversity of my music – or where I get it from – it’s too challenging to self-monitor and fix my collection with every new album I buy. So I went for the rule based approach. I need it to ‘run like clockwork’ automatically behind the scenes. And it does, even when I add a new album – because the rules are automatically applied.

By combining automation with a rule-based organiser, it neither matters if my music collection continues to grow, nor if my master plan for its order and functionality changes with time. Organising music becomes scalable because no matter how much music I add, I only specify the rules once.

About Dan Gravell