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Keep media folder organised

Discussion in 'General iTunes Usage' started by UKenGB, Jan 4, 2017.

  1. UKenGB

    UKenGB Member

    As we know this is a checkbox that tells iTunes to, well, do exactly what it says. I almost always have this ON since iTunes does a good job of maintaining a sensible and logical file and folder structure for the media storage. But I am now trying to share this media with Plex (any tips Kirk?) and some media will now need to be stored with a slightly different structure as Plex seems completely unable to make use of video files' embedded tags - talk about dumb. Anyway...

    I can of course place iTunes files wherever I want, as long as the aforementioned option is OFF, otherwise it will simply move everything back into its own structure as soon as that option is turned on. So I will need to keep it OFF if I am to keep those media files where I now want them to be (only a fraction of the total number of media files I have, but they now HAVE to be named differently). However, what are the ramifications of having that option off?

    If I drag any files into iTunes' window, presumably they are no longer copied or moved anywhere and just stay where they are. But what about anything dragged into the 'Automatically Add to iTunes' folder? They cannot really be left there, or are they? What does iTunes do? Does it in this case act as if that option is actually ON and move the files into the appropriate locations? Does it move them somewhere else entirely? What does it do?

    Any other ideas on how to keep the iTunes media folder organised, except for some files stored elsewhere? Or any other tips for sharing iTunes media with Plex?
  2. kirk

    kirk Administrator Staff Member

    Well, as much as I swear by Plex for my ripped video library, I won't use it for music. It's just not right.

    Plex also doesn't work well, as you see, with mixed media folders. So I don't keep music videos in my iTunes library, but I don't have many short music videos; I have mostly concerts.

    If you add files to the Automatically Add to iTunes folder, I assume it just slots them into existing folders; I've never tested it. It won't leave them in its folder, I don't think.
  3. UKenGB

    UKenGB Member

    That's my thinking. Also, where do the new files go when you rip a CD. Have to go somewhere, but if 'Keep Media Folder Organised' is unchecked, where?

    There is of course the Downloads folder. Does it perhaps simply dump everything in there. Surely not.

    Unchecking that option and moving files around is not an easy test to do now as once that option is again checked, it automatically organises the entire library. It used to be that you could move some stuff elsewhere, then turn that option on so that any new stuff was automatically placed into the right location. But now it seems like you cannot turn it on and off at will. I have used it to organise things when the menu command is greyed out because it was already done recently. Re-checking that option always now starts an 'organise' process. It was handy at the time, but on the whole I think it shouldn't be like that. Organise should be a specific menu option to choose just when you want it.

    I like a lot of Plex, but for TV Shows it needs very specific folder and file naming. Get it wrong and the file is simply ignored. The problem of course is that the naming scheme is not the same as used by iTunes and neither can be changed, so as far as I can tell at the moment, TV Shows cannot be shared. Movies and Music seem to be ok though, so I have to figure out workarounds for TV stuff.

    Truth is, nothing is really as flexible as it needs to be. I want to keep non artist related music videos together and some of them are TV Shows, but not all and as you pointed out, Plex doesn't play nice with mixed media like that.

    A work in progress.
  4. UKenGB

    UKenGB Member

    Kirk, could you expand on what you find lacking in Plex for music. I'm still sorting out a few gotchas, like it can't read Sort tags from ID3v2.2 tags and there's a couple of mistakes in its album sorting, but overall, I think it's pretty good and provides a central media server with clients I can run on anything.

    Regarding the mixed media folders, yes, that's mostly true, but e.g. in the case of Podcasts, I split them into 2 libraries, Podcasts: Audio and Podcasts: Video. Music libraries can deal with both so not a problem.

    Having invested a fair bit of time now in Plex, I'd just be interested in your comments.
  5. kirk

    kirk Administrator Staff Member

    I haven't tried it in a while, but it was very poor at reading my metadata, and didn't display artwork for lots of my music. It seemed like a lot more trouble than it's worth, considering that iTunes displays everything as it should.
  6. UKenGB

    UKenGB Member

    Ah, like all the artists' artwork when viewing by Artist? :)

    I have artwork for all albums and artists in a replica of iTunes folder structure, so I can keep whatever artwork I like, independent of anything iTunes may or may not find and download (which as we know has strange anomalies). I then merge that with the actual content for Plex to scan and apart from a few oddities which I've been able to fix, it's all working well, with information and pictures of almost all the artists. Since I now also have Plex recording TV for me, it's all rather good - my whole system only let down by Apple's scripting architecture which simply slows down as you're trying to run a long script.

    Plex does though have a problem with an Artist's music. You can select to display their albums in several different orders, e.g. oldest first as I want:) But if you then try to play all that music, it plays it in 'latest album first' order. I think this is actually a minor bug and they forgot to set the 'play' sort order the same as is chosen for the display. But overall, I like it a lot.
  7. kirk

    kirk Administrator Staff Member

    This is what I mean about artist images; displaying that red this is simply unacceptable:

  8. UKenGB

    UKenGB Member

    So change it. You have control over what gets displayed. Unlike iTunes :-(

    Out of nearly 600 artists, only a couple had no artwork showing after 'import'. They do now :)
  9. kirk

    kirk Administrator Staff Member

    The only way I can get rid of those ugly Last FM things is by adding artwork. I don't want to spend the time to add artwork for artists, many of which are actually composers (since I tag my classical music like that). The fact that Plex pollutes the music library with crap like that is aberrant.
  10. UKenGB

    UKenGB Member

    Well far be it from me to tell you how to use iTunes Kirk :) But using the Artist tag for Composers means you're trying to buck the system so don't be surprised if it's then not always correct. However classical music is I know a problem. Always has and probably always will be. At least, when trying to fit it into the same structure as other music types.

    The only real way to handle it all is to correctly structure the database that holds all the data and the simplistic tagging of files is so far from that it's not funny.

    Given what we have, I use Composer and Artist as they should and Album Artist for short form of Composer, e.g. just BACH. But that only works when the entire album is of just one Composer and if you want to tag an Album by Conductor, then you're screwed. What we need is the ability to add multiple 'Contributors', each with a 'role' which could be Artist, Composer, Conductor, Second Fiddle or whatever.

    As far as what you're seeing, that is obviously lastfm. Use different 'Agents' to handle your Plex Libraries. I specified to use embedded tags and 'Local Media Assets' and have had no such problems (it's never looking in lastfm). It's not yet ideal, but so far, Plex seems to me to offer more of what I need than anything else.
  11. kirk

    kirk Administrator Staff Member

    Also, I don't see the upside to using Plex for music. If anything, it's more complicated than iTunes. And doesn't sync to my iOS devices.
  12. UKenGB

    UKenGB Member

    As a way to distribute music around the house, with TVs etc, iTunes is pretty hopeless. Its server capabilities non existent. Trying to control iTunes running on a server and keep it updated is fraught with problems. I have overcome the problems, but an actual server based solution makes a lot more sense. Eventually the aim is to not require any user login on the server which will be achievable with Plex, but never will be with iTunes.

    As far as playing music is concerned, I am liking Plex more and more. Particularly as it is consistent with other media it also controls. But, I still use iTunes on my Mac to add music and control tagging etc. as it's really good at that. I could even run iTunes on the server if I wanted to, but it's not needed.

    Regarding syncing to iOS devices, that is in fact a feature of Plex Pass which I suspect you also have. I am not familiar with this - yet. But it is one thing I need to look into and try it out. Maybe it'll be an abject failure and put me off Plex, but I hope not. At least in theory it will at least run the same on each device. With Apple it's a lottery of how they've implemented it on each device, each release. Album or play sort orders that are different on each device and even on the same device after the next update etc all have pushed me away from Apple. They used to be great, bucking the MicroSoft trend of changing just for the sake of it and often for the worse. Now Apple seem to have fallen for it hook line and sinker. As I've said before, what happened to their 'Human Interface Guidelines'? For sure, none of their current developers have ever read it.
  13. kirk

    kirk Administrator Staff Member

    I have no problem using iTunes on my iMac to stream music to AirPlay devices, or to access the music from an AppleTV.

    I do have a Plex Pass, but if it syncs to iOS devices, it syncs in the Plex app, not in the broader music library.
  14. UKenGB

    UKenGB Member

    Indeed it does, but the iOS Music app is atrocious and I haven't used it for years, so no loss there :)

    Anyway chacun à son goût and just interested to hear what you say.
  15. kirk

    kirk Administrator Staff Member

    There are third-party music apps for iOS that are good, but you need to still sync the music via iTunes. They access the general music store on the device, and Plex can't sync to that. (Nothing can, other than Waltr.)
  16. kirk

    kirk Administrator Staff Member

    Since I added my iTunes music folder to my Plex library to try it out again, I see that Plex is very often updating, using up to 200% CPU. I have no idea what it's doing, but I'm going to delete the music library, because this is starting to cause issues when I need to use other apps that would like to share the CPU.
  17. kirk

    kirk Administrator Staff Member

    Oh, and here's another Plex issue.


    This thing is really not ready for prime time.
  18. UKenGB

    UKenGB Member

    Kirk, I can only assume you have something set up wrong. It simply doesn't do that for me. I set up the Libraries and added the folders and let it do all the scanning etc and at the end I've got 25,000 all imported and showing the right artwork and even with artwork for the Artists themselves - something we both know iTunes fails at miserably. I can also easily include artwork I want when iTunes cannot find it (even when it's in the iTunes Music Store AND Gracenote). I don't want to store duplicated artwork in every track, that's a diabolical solution. But with Plex I can just add the image to the appropriate folder and it displays for the entire album. None of the iTunes nonsense of fancy artwork file formats and impenetrable folder structure for its artwork. I can only assume that was all devised to ensure they had control and not the user. I used to berate Apple bashers, but I've come to the inescapable conclusion that Apple does not believe in the same ethical standards as it used to. When they switched to PowerPC, they ensured all the earlier machines remained compatible. This was just a good thing for the customer. Now, they deliberately exclude (not very much) older machines from updates for no reason other than to force the customer to buy new kit. It's not for any technical reasons I can assure you. Apple decided my Mac Pro 4,1 was not going to be able to run Sierra and so prevent it from being installed. However, there is a way around this restriction and Sierra has been running perfectly, since it was introduced. This was not a technical issue. It is well known that many of the excluded machines run Sierra perfectly. Cynical it may be, but this is now Apple's policy. I didn't used to believe it, but now I cannot avoid believing it.

    So yes, I am actively wanting an alternative to iTunes for normal playing and I think I've found it. You obviously have something not right in your Plex setup. I assume your embedded tags are all correct and as you want? What Agents have you specified in Plex for the Music Librar(y|ies)? What scanners? Did you select to 'Use embedded tags'? Get this right and it will use your data for everything and just fetch what's missing. So my Artists and Albums display as I want, sort as I want and I also have additional info and artwork for the Artists etc. None of which iTunes can provide.

    Oh, one other thing. Plex doesn't like ID3v2.2 (and I presume earlier) tags. I used iTunes to update them all to ID3v2.3 and told Plex to update and everything was good. But that's just for MP3s.

    I still use iTunes to 'import' new media (except for TV recording which Plex can now do directly) but for all else Plex is looking the superior option for what I want.

    BTW, I don't hate iTunes as many others do. I have seen outrageous, even hateful comments which are in fact clearly and totally due to ignorance on the part of the hater. iTunes is an extremely accomplished and polished piece of software, (its playlist configurability is second to none) and I will defend it to the hilt against its detractors. But it's too much of an Apple outlet store front and a failure as a true server. I suppose my challenge was to find an alternative that was at least as good, yet solved the issues I did have with iTunes. Funnily enough, it was your comment Kirk about using Plex that caused me to have another good look at it. And here we are :)
  19. kirk

    kirk Administrator Staff Member

    Well, all I did was point Plex at my iTunes Media/Music folder.

    I don't know what you're talking about regarding iTunes "impenetrable folder structure for artwork." Those are cache folders, with the exception of downloaded artwork. If you embed artwork - as one should - there are generally no problems. Also, there are no "fancy artwork formats;" just use JPG or PNG.
  20. UKenGB

    UKenGB Member

    But how did you configure Plex? If you didn't do that, don't be surprised if it got it all wrong. Also, have you looked at the iTunes Channel? Another way to access iTunes media. Not ideal for my purposes, but it does seem to work as far as I could see.

    IMO one should NOT embed artwork. As a former database designer I abhor the concept of such profligate waste of storage space, however cheap it may be for a desktop it is of course very limited on mobile devices. It simply should not be required to store the artwork for an album on average 10 times. Apple obviously realised that and so invented their method of storing artwork only for the album and eliminating any duplication for each track. The Album Artwork folder is of course where all this is kept, but with an extremely complicated folder structure to store the images, linked internally in a way only iTunes can know and stored as .itc files. Although this is a minor variation of another more standard format (I forget which, I think png plus some extra bytes at the front) it makes the entire artwork storage subsystem essentially impenetrable to users. It is certainly IMPOSSIBLE to actually add your own artwork into this system. There once was a way to get around this, but as soon as Apple found out, they blocked it by encrypting the communication when downloading artwork. No other reason for this except to be bloody minded about it. That leaves the only solution to be embedding the artwork which is simply not good practice.

    "With one hand they giveth and with the other hand they taketh away". Or something like that :)

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