Dan Connolly's tinkering lab notebook

jukekb - Browse iTunes libraries and upload playlists to Google Music

originally published as jukekb on bitbucket

My digital music collection has two parts:

  • the audio files themselves, which are
    • somewhat large
    • readily, though not freely replaceable
    • only licensed copies, not mine to re-publish as I please
  • the playlists, ratings, play logs and counts, which are
    • irreplaceable
    • small

My family has mostly used iTunes over the years, but our libraries have become somewhat fragmented and redundant. Plus, we carry android devices. I should be able to get at my old playlists from my new phone. But how? Then I discovered beets, the "media library management system for obsessive-compulsive music geeks." I prefer the title Eric Miller gave me, "closet librarian," but still, it struck a chord.

Apple, Google, and Amazon all offer cloud music services. Mostly I figure the audio files might as well live in the cloud while I just have cached copies, though there's no garage sale market in digital media -- the first sale doctrine is much more clear with physical CDs.

Apple doesn't interoperate with android. My wife sometimes buys new CDs from Amazon, which come with cloud storage copies. But they only let you upload 250 songs for free. I'm a little leery about Google these days, but when I found a python API for Google Music, I figured I could get my data back, so I decided to dive in.


My first step was a hello-world tornado service, (tweaked for object capapility discipline). While modern javascript looks pretty cool, I'm not nearly as productive with it yet as I am with python. And tornado's turn-based architecture is pretty close to node.js.

Browsing iTunes metadata was straightforward. Sorting by by date added provided a fun trip down memory lane!

The main challenge was dealing with the evolution of iTunes's file organization approach. ituneslib.Library.path(track) resolves Location data:

def path(self, track,
                'iTunes Media',
                'iTunes Media/Music',
                'iTunes Media/Movies',
                'iTunes Media/Podcasts',
                'iTunes Music',
                'iTunes Music/Music']):

BTW: yay pathlib!

I tried a couple approaches to finding duplicate iTunes tracks via musicbrainz IDs: first I let the beets tagger grind over my collection over night. But I was confused by the results. Then I incorporated the musicbrainz API to interactively match iTunes albums to musicbrainz releases. I was disappointed to learn that beets records release groups, not releases.

I also let the Google Music uploader do its thing overnight. But of course I was left with no record of which of my local copies matched which item in the cloud, so I'm left with the duplicate problem all over again.

At this point I was juggling any number of metadata web services, but then switching to a local app to actually play the song to check that I had the right one (though beets has a web interface). Reviewing the state of the art in musicbrainz tools, I re-discovered quodlibet, which has evidently gotten steadily more awesome since I originally found it. Using its fingerprinting and musicbrainz lookup plugins, I started to see all sorts of problems with my metadata.

When it came to Graceland, one of my all-time favorites, I went and tracked down the CD jewel case itself to use the barcode to figure out which was the relevant release. I started a dckc discogs collection in the process. Cool!

Quodlibet has playlist support, but just .m3u and .pls, which leave me with the same problem: they're just lists of filenames, which don't have the UI benefits of HTML or even CSV let alone the ability to survive re-organzation of audio files.

I thought about robust filenames for use in such playlists. What would be the top of the hierarchy? i.e. the major sort key?

  • by artist?
    • That's how they're on the bookshelf.
    • what about "Various Artists"?
    • We can always re-created a view by artist.
  • by release date?
    • more stable over time

And spaces in filenames are a pain. So omething like: release-1986-billy+joel-52nd+street-mbrain3897293/01-movin+out-mbrain2098324.

I still hope to get there. But meanwhile...

I built a quodlibet plug-in to "reload" my tags from iTunes metadata after using the edit tags feature to erase all tags in one go. Whee!

And I started my Google Music collection fresh and worked out (most of) the kinks of incremental upload with records of which Google Music server ids correspond to which iTunes Persistent IDs.

I'm still thinking about workflows for new music. And I haven't actually solved the problem of duplicates across iTunes libraries yet. But when I do, my upload logs should let me clean up my Google Music collection too.


See requirements.txt for prerequisites.

Get an OAuth token for uploading:

$ gmbox oauth

Provide password for metadata access:

$ # I like to do:
$ export GOOGLE_MUSIC_PASSWORD=`ssh-ask-password`

Start the service:

$ jukekb --db=DB --gmusic=EMAIL LIBRARY...

... where LIBRARY is an iTunes library directory and DB is for upload logs.

The service will report its web address. From there you can

  • browse libraries
  • browse albums and artistss within libraries
  • search
  • browse playlists
  • upload playlists (with the "match" button)
    • already-uploaded songs are added to the Google Music playlist without uploading again
    • TODO: cross-library duplicate detection, e.g. using MusicBrains IDs

The scripts have more usage details. Yay docopt!