How To: Organize Your iTunes Library

iTunes LogoApple’s renowned music application is used universally today. However, with massive amounts of music, iTunes can become a messy and hectic place. Today I’m going to show you how to clean up and organize your iTunes.

I have about 4000 songs. That’s a lot to go though every day, yet alone look at when iTunes pops up. I have about five artists that I listen to regularly, but I have to go through my library or search for them when I want to listen to their songs. iTunes doesn’t allow the user to just add favourite artists to a specified list, so we’ll just use the playlist area instead.

1. Create a new folder. iTunes folders are great for storing different types of playlists. To do this, go to the File menu, and then hit New Folder. This will bring up a new folder in the playlists area. Rename it to Artists or something similar. We’re going to store all of our favourite artists here.

2. Once you’ve renamed the folder, go to the File menu again and this time hit New Smart Playlist. In the window that pops up, make sure “Artist contains” is selected. In the empty box, type the artist’s name. Then hit OK, and drag your newly created playlist into the “Artists” folder. You’ve just made a playlist for one of your favourite artists. Repeat this step until all of the artists you want are in the folder.

3. Now we’re going to repeat step one, but instead of calling the folder “Artists”, we’re going to call it “Genres”.

4. Go to the File menu, and hit New Smart Playlist. Change “Artist” to “Genre” and “contains” to “is”. Then type the genre name into the blank box. Hit OK, and drag your newly created playlist to the “Genre” folder. Repeat until all your favourite genres are in the folder.

5. Create a new folder called “Apple” or something similar. We’re going to drag the Apple created smart playlists into this folder.

6. You should now have three folders with a bunch of playlists in them. But there’s one more thing to do. In each of your artist’s playlists, switch the view from List View to Album View. To do this, go to the View menu and click Album View. This will allow you to see all of the artist’s albums seperated into songs and corresponding album, including album art. This will also allow you to easily browse through your individual artist’s music.

You’ve now organized the playlist area, but what about the actual library? Here are some tips to cleaning the main library.

A. Keep basic genres. If something is Alternative Punk, just call it Alternative. It will give you less genres to sort through and will clean up the genre section of your playlist area, as well as the genre list in the browse mode.

B. No “Featuring” in the Artist metadata. If an album has songs that feature other artists, make sure to add that information in the song name metadata, not the artist metadata. That way your album will only have a single artist name, the artist metadata list will look cleaner, and it will be easier to manage your albums.

C. Fix songs without (proper) metadata. All songs should be easy to find and identify. Adding correct metadata will help you find songs quicker and easier.

Enjoy your newly organized iTunes.


52 Responses to “How To: Organize Your iTunes Library”

  1. shadownight on March 7th, 2007 3:36 pm

    Nice tip, but it’s good to remember that too many active smart playlists can slow down iTunes dramatically.

  2. inkspaught on March 7th, 2007 8:31 pm

    I keep seeing posts on here with silly little errors. i.e. “ammounts” in the first sentence. Spell check, yo.

  3. cell on March 7th, 2007 11:17 pm

    One solution to replace ‘B.’ that I found last night is to enter the name of the artist without the featuring in the ‘Album Artist’ field. Album View now shows the album name with the main artist correctly and still allows you to keep individual tracks with any additional artist details. Hope this helps!

  4. Yohannes Wijaya on March 8th, 2007 4:35 am

    @alec, 4k of music, that’s insane. i cant image using any jukebox that does not support versatile smart playlist.

  5. Anne on March 26th, 2007 5:28 pm

    how do i get my library to organize by album name and not try to sort it its own way. I would like my movie soundtracks to all stay in the same cell.

  6. John on October 16th, 2007 3:04 pm

    everytime i put certian songs on my ITUNES MUSIC folder, it reorganizes it and puts it in seperate folders. How do I make Itunes stop automatically do that? I want my music in certain folders and I want it to be kept in there for a reason.

  7. Kevin on November 27th, 2007 9:07 pm

    Pretty comprehensive overview of basics here:

  8. Michael on February 3rd, 2008 1:06 pm

    After spending a day trying to figure out how to get my soundtrack cds to display all artists on album view I finally figured it out.

    Preferences> General> click “Group Compilation when browsing”

    Then right click on the song > Get Info.

    Make sure under the info tab all the info is the same besides the Artist.

    Then proceed to the Sorting tab
    Get Info> Sorting

    Under “Sort Artist” make sure you type “Various Artists”

    Then proceed to the Options tab
    Get Info> Options

    Make sure you check “Part of Gapless Album” for all songs.

    Repeat these steps for all the songs that you want on the same CD


  9. Connor on February 25th, 2009 5:16 pm

    Good job dude! Thanks!

  10. Luckyguy0007 on March 27th, 2009 12:14 am


    I have created my own music folders in computers.
    For example: 3 of my folders are:
    Fav_Songs_08, Fav_Songs_89, Fav_Songs_90

    These folders contains my favorite songs for year 08, 89 and 90 respectively.
    Now when I import these songs into ipod classic through itunes, I can’t see my 3 folders: rather it sorts music by artist, genre, and so on….
    But I would like to see exactly same folder on my ipod classic. for example, if I want to play my favorite songs from 08, I should be able to go to folder Fav_songs_08 in my ipod and play the songs. I am not able to do it so far. I have tried a lot and spent lot of time on it.
    is there is any way or workaround?

    Thanks a lot for all your help!

    Take care!

  11. Adam Skelton on June 17th, 2009 11:16 am

    4000 songs.. Pah…

    Mine tops out at just over 24,000!!

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  13. BLAH on July 29th, 2009 12:43 am

    Thanks, but.. I’m still like. :| . My itunes library is perfectly sorted..kind of, b/c i have ti set that irunes organizes it nicely, i don’t even know how i did that. But, for some reason an artist like The Maine for example, some is going under T and some is going under M. But b/c they organize and all that stuff i can’t drag the stupid thing into its place. How do i jsut do that? how do i make it possible for me to drag a song into the spot that i want it to be in?

  14. BLAH on July 29th, 2009 12:45 am

    AND it is annoying. Things from a certain c.d will sort itself into three different albums. Even if i have the album name artist and stuff written the exact same. Sorry if i sound like stupid, I suck when it comes to technology…Oh and sorry for spelling mistakes in my other post^^

  15. Jacob on December 3rd, 2009 1:59 pm

    Itunes can be such a pain. Has anyone ever used tuneup media? It matches your songs that aren’t named with their appropriate artist, title, album, and album art. It sound pretty crazy but it actually works quite well.

  16. Brian on December 25th, 2009 10:05 pm

    i downloaded ONE flaming lips album, and now my itunes library says:
    The Flaming Lips
    The Flaming Lips


  17. dennisse on January 24th, 2010 9:41 pm

    Hello! I like the old iTunes better! I just recently downloaded the new one but I’m finding it hard to navigate. I used to have these colums at the top and I was able to search for specific genres, albums. Now I can’t do that and I’m trying to get it back. Does anyone know how to do that?

  18. Richard on January 25th, 2010 2:39 am

    ie: I have the ‘The Capitol Years – The Kingston Trio. It is a 4 cd “Album” but when I imported it into iTunes (pc version) it shows as 3 different albums… I want it to be one album. 2 cds are by themselves and then another two are combined together… I’d like all 4 to be under one pice of artwork in the view. This has happened on a couple of my albums… and I have chosen Part of Compilation. Your help would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you.

  19. Richard on January 25th, 2010 2:41 am

    ie: I have the ‘The Capitol Years – The Kingston Trio. It is a 4 cd “Album” but when I imported it into iTunes (pc version) it shows as 3 different albums… I want it to be one album. 2 cds are by themselves and then another two are combined together… I’d like all 4 to be under one pice of artwork in the view. This has happened on a couple of my albums… and I have chosen Part of Compilation. Your help would be greatly appreciated.

    I should denote – when I review it on my iPod – it is all under one piece of artwork.

    Thank you.

  20. Lorna on February 5th, 2010 5:35 pm

    Additional tips: organising itunes music folder/library view/album art

    Just spent HOURS (umm DAYS) muddling through to get my itunes back in order – it had become almost unusable – a few additional tips that might help:
    1. To stop itunes reordering your (itunes music) folders (highly frustrating if you have lots of compilations that get spilt into one track per folder) go to iTunes(top bar)/preferences/advanced – and deselect ‘keep itunes media folder organised”. If it has already been reorganised and you want to get it back to how it was then you can find the location of each track with appleR on the selected track. – time consuming (maybe someone has a better way?).
    2. (As mentioned above) In the window itunes/preferences/advanced select “group compilations when browsing” which will reduce the artist list and ensure that compilation albums don’t appear multiple times in album art view (due to different artists per track).
    3. For compilations also select a track then apple i/info and select ‘part of compilation’.Do this for each track, better also to make the album artist the same when the track artists differ. (improves album art view)
    4. To change the information on all tracks on an album simultaneously – select the album (not the track) then apple i/info (not possible to select ‘part of compilation’ in this view – it has to be done tediously per track – as far as I know)
    5. To get the old column view: View (top bar)/View as list
    6. To change position on screen: View/Show column browser/on Top
    7. To add or remove columns: View/View options (appleJ)
    8. To add album art: Advanced/Get album art – you have to be logged into itunes store i think. This will not get all album covers and it is not always accurate. Also it does not embed album art to actual music file (useful if you want to move your library to another computer without the itunes library file). I used Art Collector (not brilliant) but it does simply show which albums/tracks do not have embedded artwork and enables you to drag and drop current artwork to embed it in a track. It supposedly finds artwork for you, as do a number of other apps but this didn’t work for me, googling went much quicker.
    9. Alternatively to manually add album art (embed) find image and copy it (note: copy original files not thumbnails ), then open info for track or album and paste under ‘artwork’.

    Hope this helps – there are many different free or low cost ‘apps’ out there to do many other organisational things to itunes, if you google you will find them !

    If anyone knows of an app that will embed the info/name changes you make in itunes back to the original music file that would be really great !!

  21. Rob on March 18th, 2010 12:56 am

    i have audio book and musics on my ipod. But the thing i don’ t like is that everytime i select play all songs, the ipod does play the audio books too. Does anyone knows how to get the audio books to go under books on the ipod?

  22. weeds season 6 on April 26th, 2010 9:14 pm

    Great tips I have been wanting to organize my itunes library for a while now!

  23. mtnh2oskier on May 20th, 2010 10:35 am


    Try making a smart playlist that includes a field such as ‘genre is NOT audiobook’ (or whatever genre name you use for your audiobooks). I also have sound effects in my itunes library, so to get around that I included ‘song length is at least 30 seconds.’ You can play with it, but I think a smart playlist is your answer.

  24. Gary Smith on July 10th, 2010 7:02 am

    Sorry but this is not very useful. Points a,b & c tell you what to do but not how to do it. telling a learner that they need to drive the car to get to their destination does not teach them how to drive to their destination. Any chance improving on points A-C?

  25. shadowboom on July 20th, 2010 4:08 pm

    i’m trying to organize my albums, because on mine its every song one album.

  26. Joooooe on September 26th, 2010 11:32 am

    Nice song collection, I have all of those myself!

  27. jeremy on October 11th, 2010 3:56 pm

    actually, there is a form of correct writing called internet shorthand. Misspellings and errors are part of that form of writing just as in ebonics and other culturally determined methods of education. So suck it.

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  29. singorama reviews on November 8th, 2010 9:04 am

    wow, 4000 songs.. how do i get my library to organize by album name and not try to sort it its own way.

  30. doug young on March 30th, 2011 9:16 am

    Amazing how short sighted people are!
    4000 songs is alot?
    I’m sure there are people with more than me and I have over 70,000.
    Thats the problem with Itunes and the people at Apple, they are not accounting for massive collections, or the fact that people that are already organized don’t want to learn their system!

  31. Lorna on March 30th, 2011 10:01 am

    @ singorama if you want itunes to organise by album name then select the top of the Album column (where it says Album). Vice versa if you want it to organise by track name or artist then select that column. (Organise by Album is most useful I find for iPod).

    @ Doug Young – you are totally right, there is clearly no accounting for massive collections like yours. I have a mere 10,000 and dread to think of the time invested to get it organised (ripping own CD collection many years ago, over a period of months, re-naming, then re-ordering after iTunes messed it up by putting every compilation track in its own folder (aaargh!), adding cover art, again a few months) – but now well worth it – making the difference from an unusable mess to an enjoyable collection again. Of course I have multiple back-ups of my music in different locations so I will never have to do it again !

  32. C.J. Aldrin on July 5th, 2011 4:47 pm

    I've been using itunes for years now, and in the last few months my itunes decided to organize my music by vowels first and then consonants, but on top of that it has separated all my music into two. Kind of hard to explain, but basically once I hit the arrow on the up and down category the same thing happens in either artist, name or album. Can anyone explain this to me?? I have been struggling with this and can't seem to find anyone with a solution anywhere online….

  33. C.J. Aldrin on July 5th, 2011 4:50 pm

    Also, my top rated playlist and recently added playlists are gone, and I don't think you can even delete those….I'm really at a loss..

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  35. Matt on March 17th, 2012 1:34 pm

    4000 tracks? that’s nothing 9300 on my last count

  36. goldenpony on June 20th, 2012 1:00 am

    9300 tracks? that’s nothing compared to my 73,000+ on my last count

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    Thanks for the info it really helped.

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