Dear Apple: iTunes Library Sync

I’m sitting here pondering why I drank so much on the eve of New Year’s Eve. What better way to pass the time while the aspirin kicks in than manually syncing my iTunes libraries?

Um, no. You know, if there’s one thing I wish iTunes had it’s the ability to sync the libraries across multiple computers. I have four machines I do work from, all of which have iTunes on them. There’s my home PC, a custom-built machine running Windows XP. There’s my work PC, a Dell running Windows Server 2003. There’s my work Mac, a dual G4 running 10.4, and then there’s my laptop, a Dell running Windows XP. Apple already lets me authorize all of them for playback of my stuff, so why not carry it a little further and keep the libraries in sync for me? Not just one way, either, but multiple-master. That way when I buy a song at work it’ll just magically appear on my laptop, and then my home machine. When I rip a CD at home it’ll migrate to my other libraries.

It should also sync the metadata, too, so when I’m bored sitting in an airport and I rate all of my songs, those ratings appear in all the libraries later. Ditto for the last play times and play counts, including synchronization with my iPods, so that if I play Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” 485 times on my drive to Minneapolis all of my libraries will know that and increment themselves. If I create a playlist on one machine, have it appear on the others, too. I don’t even care if the RIAA-mentality one-way iPod file sync is still around, just go both ways with the metadata. If there is a conflict between devices let me establish priorities, so my ratings on my iPod win over the ratings on my work PC.

In short, if I have authorized iTunes using valid credentials all of my iTunes instances and iPods should act as one, maintaining copies of the data on discrete PCs for backup and mobility purposes.

I could rsync the libraries together. I could sync them all to my main Linux box running Samba and then sync each off of there. All of that would require a significant effort to ensure that the music files and the metadata stayed in sync, and that I had a record in the library for each file. I’d have to reimport everything, though, which trashes my custom playlists. I could rewrite the iTunes Music Library.xml file but I’d have to reimport it again. That’s what syncOtunes does, but only between two libraries, and a reimport isn’t seamless. I could get the libraries all in sync on one machine and then copy everything, including the iTunes Library.itl file, to the other machines, but then I don’t have multiple-master capabilities anymore. I want seamless, Apple magic, the kind of “holy crap it just did the right thing” sort of feature Apple is famous for.

Apple, I know this is a doozy of a request, but please save me from library management hell!

9 thoughts on “Dear Apple: iTunes Library Sync”

  1. Don’t forget that they also don’t allow me to stream DRM’d songs off of shared iTunes unless you authorize my computer… I’m not looking to copy the file, just listen!

  2. I would like to take this yet one step further. I do not want my whole iTunes library on my laptop, I would like it to sync from my master db on my workstation using smart lists like I do on my iPod.

    …that would truly be applicious.

  3. Happened to find this entry while searching for something similar to what you’re discussing. While it doesn’t do exactly what I want, it’s possible that Martian Technology’s SlingShot could be what you’re looking for. It’s like $30 sadly, but here’s the URI:

  4. I agree with you on this….I think it is rediculous and a bad oversight for apple. The hot link should be your iPod. If it is yours, you own it, and you get the ability to register 5 machines, then the iPod itself should be the master library. Right now you can do multiple iPods….so why not lock the content to 5 machines and allow the iPod to be the master sync between all devices?


  5. I just stumbled on this post while looking for iTunes Match info… Sounds like your wish finally came, albeit a few years late! iTunes Match does pretty much everything you were hoping for.

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