The iTunes Consolidation Project

On the day Apple implemented single track iTunes Plus upgrades, I decided to take our entire library DRM-free. In fact, frustration with Apple’s (prior) DRM-encumbered system pushed us onto Amazon MP3s. However, while most of our music has been ripped from CD, we have made a number of iTunes purchases over the years. I’m unaware of exactly how much Apple music we own or what the per-track upgrade cost is. In the end, it didn’t even matter. Freedom is priceless.

The first task on my computer was to locate the upgrade option in the cluttered iTunes Store interface, which I found linked in a right-hand sidebar. From there, converting my davezatz@mac purchases tracks was a breeze. Unfortunately, I’ve also made purchases under a davezatz@yahoo account – which led to unforeseen frustration. For example, while I could license iTunes to play music from both logins on a computer, my iPhone will only take one. And I never did discover how to merge two accounts. So I logged out of davezatz@mac and attempted to log into davezatz@yahoo, to unlock those tracks, only to discover the account or password had been disabled. While searching the iTunes Support site for a way to gain access to this second account, I was pleasantly surprised to discover Apple offers live chat. The rep I ended up with was exceptional – she quickly reset my password and walked me through upgrading the remainder of my iTunes. The last step was unlocking Melissa’s iTunes, via her computer and account, which was painless.

In the end, we spent around $45 and the process actually took less time than it will to write this post. The next step is centralizing our music library. I’m thinking of consolidating the collection onto the networked 750GB Maxtor OneTouch 4 hanging off our Airport Extreme Base Station (AEBS). I believe this would provide access to all tracks from every computer in the home while also enabling us to create our own custom playlists (that I can sync to my iPhone and she can sync to her iPod Nano fatty). Has anyone gone down this path – am I on target?

Some of the biggest winners in Apple’s decision (with studio support, obviously) to go entirely DRM-free have to be Sonos owners. Their systems have suddenly become a much more capable music distribution and playback solution. And I do find the feature set quite compelling. However, as a nomadic minimalist, I’m still waiting for a boombox-esque design before joining in.

12 thoughts on “The iTunes Consolidation Project”

  1. Migrating one iTunes library to another location seems pretty simple. I’m wondering about the co-mingling of two collections with the ability to maintain our separate playlists and syncing to our portables. Also, will we need to purchase under the same account/credit card going forward? When I get a few free minutes and motivation in the next couple days, I’ll start experimenting and document my success or failure.

  2. As the ‘consultant in chief’ to many family and friends, I no longer recommend couples and families keep separate iTunes installs under seperate accounts for exactly the problems you are having.

    Rather, I recommend that one or the other spouse (usually the more technically literate) maintain one iTunes library in one account. That person purchases the songs in DRM format and/or rips their CD’s into that one library.

    But, each person decides on the playlists they want to make and go ahead making them in the same install. When they go to sync their iPod/iPhone, under the ‘music’ tab, each individual selects which playlists they want sync’d. That way the contents of each device meets the personalized needs of each.

    But each person has the complete library of MP3s, audio books, movies, TV shows, iPhone apps maintained on the computer in one place

    Until Apple comes up with another solution that makes more sense (and I see no hope of that on the horizon) that’s the only way I know of to EASILY manage multiple portable media devices in one family.


  3. Well, it’s sort of like the Brady Bunch and our iTunes accounts predated our cohabitation and we don’t share a single computer. So now we have to figure out how to make it work.

  4. Typo correction: I meant in a NON-DRM’d format in my post above!!!

    Even still Dave I would use just ONE PC to manage all iPods, iPhones etc. in the home. Again, I’d do it on the more tech literate users PC. The other person plugs in their device whenever they want an update or to play with their playlists.

    You can, of course, save all your media on a server but that won’t add the content into itunes libraries on each PC. If you do it that way you are creating a LOT of work. Say you rip a CD … you’ll get it on the PC doing the ripping really easily. But then you’d have to go off to the other PC to manually add that CD into its library. Delete a song from one library and it will show up as an error (missing song) on the other. And around and around it goes.

    I’ve been fighting this horror show for years and the only solution that works is to do it all on one PC.

    Another idea is to set up an ‘account’ on a given PC just for iTunes management. So each user logs into that account to add/remove content, sync devices etc. That way kids, for example, won’t have access to an adult’s account just to sync their iPod.


  5. I may end up with the same conclusion, but I’m not ready to throw in the towel without trying. The goal is to merge our audio files into one directory on the NAS and for two users to have two unique iTunes databases/indexes on different machines link to those files on the server. I’m backing up my tunes now and will use the simple Change location function to copy the files to the networked/external drive. I assume we’ll have to get into the “consolidate” function at some point as well. Will let you know.

    Although, I thought of a new wrinkle. On the rare occasion I buy a television show, it’d be stored on the NAS instead of the laptop where I might want to watch it (while mobile). Hm.

  6. My current solution is to use one computer as the “master” with full access to the library. I then share the library of music through simple file sharing, but I share it as “read only”. Then, computer #2 adds the collection to their iTunes library, without moving the source files. The biggest downside is that additions can only be made on the “master”. I am not content with my current solution.

    Honestly, the #1 problem with integrating two libraries was dealing with duplicates. After years of CD ripping, with id3 information coming from various databases, etc. the state of duplicate discovery was horrible. This software package was a HUGE time saver:
    It costs $15, and I thought it was worth every penny. Between that, and iTunes ability to mass edit id3 tags, I was able to get my entire library into good shape. It took several hours however.

  7. Dave – re: your quest for a boombox solution, is native internet radio a requirment? If not, you need to check out the B&W Zeppelin if you haven’t already. It might be a little bigger than you are seeking (i think 25″ end to end) but it is eleven kinds of awesome. I get the stupid incompatibility message for the iPhone 3G, even tho it appears to work flawlessy. The unit also has a 3.5mm/mini-toslink input. It’s six bills, but the sound alone is worth every nickel. Perhaps you should have your people call their people and get a review unit. Hope all is well with you guys.

  8. I think what Apple fails to realize is that the one computer solution does not map to the reality of many households. We have all our music on a single Mac Mini, but I have my own MacBook (and iPhone and Shuffle) and my wife has her own PC laptop (and Nano).

    We don’t mind the extra hassle of synching music from the Mini, but what about when I want to watch a video on my MacBook? I could download it in iTunes on my MacBook but then I can’t synch it to my iPhone without erasing all of my music (that was synched on the Mini) because the iPhone is tied to Mini… I also can’t listen to any music on my MacBook without being at home on the home network (or duplicating the entire library on all computers and trying to manage dupes, etc.)

    For a company that strives for ubiquity, Apple should really think about some kind of “householding” solution where all machines could be “registered” as under the same roof and sharing content between the devices is seamless. I’d venture that many households now have more than one machine with iTunes and more than one iPod/iPhone… I’ve thought about the NAS-approach and may give it a shot but I’m still not sure that it our problems.

  9. Dave, I am so not an audiophile. I’ve turned down review items before since I know I can’t do them justice. I’m perfectly content with low quality audio it seems. However, I have been looking at solutions similar to the one you mentioned – Internet radio could be provided via Slacker or Pandora apps. Although I was hoping more for a Squeezebox Boom solution with it all builtin, no need for an iPhone riding shotgun. I feel like Sonos has the best solution for what I want to do, just not the best form factor – external speakers in the living room are fine, but in the kitchen, bedroom, and den/office I’d prefer a smaller device with integrated speakers.

    Jason, that’s the bottom line: the current iTunes ecosystem isn’t ideal for a multi-user household. Perhaps these Replay rumors, if they come to pass, will help alleviate the situation.

  10. i hear you on the not being an audiophile point…. i dont’ consider myself much of one. i’ve seen so many dead and widespread shows that my ears aren’t what they used to be. the zeppelin was more than i wanted to spend, but it just sounds awesome and can fill a really big space.

    re: the shotgun issue, that’s about the only complaint i have — getting calls while i’m listening to music.

    multi-user itunes is a pain in the ass, no doubt. i can’t even get single-user itunes on multiple systems to work the way i want. but i’m not very patient.

    be good.

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