Editing (or not) iTunes genres

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There are times when a perfectly wonderful question comes your way and, though you try to put as pleasant a spin on the answer as possible, that answer stubbornly remains “No.” Take this question from Rafael Haro:

I’m trying to organize my iTunes-iPod music (which is 60+ GB big) by the Genres field, using some kind of code in custom names, but the default list that come with iTunes is a long list and make it difficult to find my custom names easily. My question is, is there a way to edit the default Genres list in iTunes and the iPod?

As I hinted, “No.”

Removing custom genres

But that question does act as an interesting jumping-off place for a couple of other points. Removing genres, for example.

While you can’t edit the list of genres included with iTunes, you can clean up the custom genre entries that find their way to iTunes—either because you entered them or you acquired music that had custom genre tags applied to it. There are a couple of ways to go about this.

The first is to select the Music entry in iTunes 9’s Source list, press Command-B to bring up iTunes’ Browser, and if the Genres list isn’t present, choose View -> Column Browser -> Genres. Find a custom genre that you’d like to remove and select it. On the right side of the iTunes window you’ll see all the tracks that bear this genre tag. Select all of them and press Command-I. After confirming that you really do want to edit information for multiple items, you’ll see the Multiple Item Information window. From the Genre menu, select a new genre and click on OK. iTunes will apply the newly selected genre and the old custom genre will disappear from iTunes.

If that sounds like too much trouble, visit Doug’s AppleScripts for iTunes and download a copy of Doug’s free De-Genre AppleScript. It allows you to choose a genre and assign all tracks currently tagged with that genre to a different genre. So, for example, you can tell it to assign the Alternative genre to all tracks currently tagged as Surf Punk tracks.

About sorting

In regard to using custom genres to sort music, I think there’s a better way. And that better way is the Comments tag. This is a catch-all place for entering any kind of information you like and can be edited for single- as well as multiple tracks. If you want to sort some music by mood, for example, just use this field for words such as “gloomy,” “perky,” “dull,” or any other descriptive term that suits you. And unlike the Genres tag, it doesn’t include a lot of pre-defined entries that you can’t remove.

True, while you can’t specifically sort tracks by Comments on an iPod as you can with Genres, we were given the power to create playlists for this kind of thing. And iTunes does allow you to sort by Comments. Just Control (Right) click on iTunes’ column heading and choose Comment. Click the Comment heading and you’re set. And to easily create playlists based on comments, just use iTunes’ Search field to enter your comment keyword, select everything that turns up, choose File -> New Playlist From Selection, and sync that playlist to your iPod.

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