Posted by Curtis on 12 November 2015

Fix for same album or artist showing twice in iTunes

Many times I've noticed that the same artist shows up twice on my iPhone, and sometimes I've seen three or more of the same album listed, each with only some of the songs. Sometimes they have obviously wrong spelling or punctuation, but sometimes they look exactly the same! Other times, you only notice when there was a song missing when playing an album, but when you look for that song it otherwise appears correctly in your library. There are a few different possible causes, and different approaches to fixing them.

Causes

#1: Simple spelling and punctuation

The most obvious cause, for example Foo Fighters' album "Color & The Shape", "Colour & The Shape", and "Color And The Shape". It's really no surprise that if your songs have more than one of these, they'll be listed separately in your library.

#2: Extra space in the name

Like cause #1, but you can't see it. iTunes has become better over the years at avoiding this kind of problem automatically, but this can be very frustrating and mystifying when it does happen.

#3: Different "album artist"

Songs have separate metadata for "artist" and "album artist". Even if the "artist" is exactly right, if your song's "album artist" is different for one track it will appear as a distinct album from the others. It's not common to have something set for "album artist", so the Album Artist column isn't visible by default in iTunes song listings. As a result, this cause can be difficult to notice.

#4: Compilation flag

In the metadata for each of your songs, there is a "compilation" checkbox used to indicate that the track's album is actually a compilation of various artists. If this isn't set right, you're going to see tracks showing up in strange places.

Solution #1: Fix manually in iTunes

Tell iTunes to show "My Music", and change the list type to "Songs" in the upper right (as opposed to Artists, Albums, etc).

Type part of the artist name or album name into the Search field, and click the "Filter music for blah" item in the resulting pop-up window. Ensure that what you've typed is common to everything on your album such that you can see all of its tracks in the resulting list. Select all of the tracks on the problematic album, using command-click (Mac) or control-click (Windows) to add individual tracks to the selection when they're not all contiguous. Choose iTunes' File > Get Info menu command. If you're on Windows, you may need to make the menu visible with Ctrl+B first.

 

You do want to edit multiple items, so click "Edit Items" if it asks. In the resulting window, look for greyed-out "Mixed" values in Artist, Album, Album Artist fields, or a "dashed" compilation checkbox. Those are probably the source of your trouble, so type in the correct value to replace the "Mixed" or turn on/off the compilation checkbox as necessary. While typing, iTunes will suggest likely values though it can be annoying if it suggests something that you don't want. Finally, Click OK and that problem should be gone!

Wash, rinse, and repeat for any other problems of the same nature.

The upside:
  • It's completely free
The downside:
  • Must find each problem manually
  • Must identify cause of each problem manually
  • Must fix each problem manually

Solution #2: Use Song Sergeant

Unsurprisingly, there exists software that was design to find and fix problems like this. It's free to scan your library for problems, and you might be surprised how many inconsistencies (and other issues) that it finds. I'm showing the Mac version here but there's also a version for Windows.

After it finishes scanning your library, you can peruse the list of inconsistently named artists and albums. It uses some common sense to automatically choose a preferred name for each one, showing it in [brackets] like this, and if you're going to use Song Sergeant to actually fix these problems you can double-click a name to make it the preferred one.

You can also go crazy and let it use "sounds like" logic to find artist and album names that are misspelled and you never noticed. Be careful with this option though, as there are many legitimately similar sounding artist names that it will report. Luckily there's a "related songs" section at the bottom of Song Sergeant's window that you can use to have a look at album artwork for clues to what the artist/album name really should be.

The upside:
  • Finds many kinds of inconsistencies automatically
  • Can fix problems en masse instead of one-by-one
  • Unique plural and "sounds like" matching
The downside:
  • Not free to fix the found problems automatically
  • Can't automatically find "compilation"-caused issues
  • Fixes other kinds of problems you may not care about

Here are links to download Song Sergeant for Mac OS X and Windows. When you start it, it will automatically load your iTunes library and find problems. You may need to turn on an "XML" sharing feature in iTunes in order to let Song Sergeant read your library. When it's done scanning, just click the "Inconsistencies" icon at the top of the window.

Final note

Multiple entries in your library for an artist or an album are frustrating, especially when it's not obvious why. It's even more frustrating when playing an album and it misses your favorite song and you have to play it separately!

This isn't a problem you just need to "live with", it's not hard to sort out!