iTunes match – making album artwork play ball…

I’m not sure how many people are as anal as me about their iTunes libraries – in particular, there is something that quakes me to my very core if I know some tracks don’t have album artwork.  Using my iPhone in the car as a music player I’ve been known to pull over to make a note of errant tracks to fix when I get home.  Probably a bit of OCD or something, who knows?

So imagine my horror when my painstakingly constructed library, once gone through iTunes Match (see earlier post for this particular pain!) arbitrarily seemed to select random albums for which it wouldn’t display the artwork on my iPad or iPhone – despite there clearly being artwork present in iTunes.  It didn’t seem to matter whether they were Matched or Uploaded tracks – and by god it was infuriating me.

It turns out it’s quite easy to fix – iTunes Match seems to play not-nicely with tracks where you’ve downloaded the Artwork.  Which probably demands a further explanation – your artwork is either stored locally on your computer when iTunes downloads it (you know, that hugely tempting ‘Get Artwork’ option that absolves you of responsibility?), or, your artwork can be embedded within your MP3/AAC/MP4/AIFF files – the benefit of which being the artwork goes with the file outside of iTunes.

During a traditional sync with an iOS device your artwork is synced to, irrespective of whether it’s embedded in the file or stored locally and indexed in iTunes.  So I never really gave it much thought, if I could get iTunes to do the hard work and find all my artwork for me then all the better.  This isn’t the case for iTunes Match – every missing album artwork issue was with those where artwork was downloaded rather than embedded.  I couldn’t say whether or not every downloaded piece of artwork failed – however – as there’s no obvious way to differentiate between the two without a lot of hassle.

However, if you have a few albums missing artwork then select a track – copy the artwork to your clipboard, select the whole album, option-click (Mac) or right-click (Windows) and select ‘Clear Downloaded Artwork’ – you’ll see the preview pane revert to the dreaded no-artwork icon.  Now option-click (Mac) or right-click (Windows) over the artwork preview pane and choose ‘Paste’ – this will embed the artwork in the music files you have selected.

If you’ve got loads, and have a Mac, then check out this AppleScript – it will move through your library for you and for those tracks where the artwork is not embedded – it will go through the process for you.  I struggled to make it work on my whole library but it seems to work well on smaller selections.

Don’t expect an instant update on your iOS devices either – it seems to take an arbitrary amount of time for the changes to catch up through iCloud and make everything appear as it should.  Having just gone through the pain-in-the-arse process of scrolling through my iPad’s album view in the Music app to find the problem albums, I think I’ve finally sorted mine out.  It won’t make any tangible difference to how everything works, but it will at least momentarily silence the OCD demons that had been irked by this.

I now have the uncomfortable wait until that blessed moment when I tap on a music-symbol album and out again, to be greeted by the correct artwork being downloaded!

If anyone knows why the Artist view on iPad arbitrarily seems to not display artwork for some artists (even if they have only one album in your library) and will for others (who may have multiple albums or just one), then I’d be very interested to learn of any fixes!  I suspect it’s just something that might get addressed in the next iOS and/or iTunes updates.  Ho hum!

Categories: blog, iPhone / iPad / Mac | 12 Comments

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12 thoughts on “iTunes match – making album artwork play ball…

  1. It only went and bloody worked, though! 😀

  2. thank you so much! I share your OCD. I would have to unlock phone, go back to the list of artists, then click now playing again each time the artwork didn’t show up. The whole process was slow and annoying. Here’s something else I have noticed but not mentioned to anyone buy my wife…

    Have you noticed that on the iPhone if you click off “show music not on this device” the expected happens: you only see tracks you have downloaded on your device. Now turn the phone on it’s side to cover flow and all of your music shows again. You can even click on tracks and they play/download. I call it a bug that should be fixed, but it doesn’t bother me because cover flow is useless anyway. I discovered this by mistake.

    • Glad to have been some small help (or comfort!)

      I’m still finding artwork missing occasionally – I’ve opted to wait ’til the next iOS update, there are clearly unforeseen issues with iTunes Match that I’m sure they’ll iron out!

  3. Ron

    So I have this issue too, and I had painstakingly made sure that all my artwork was embedded before the Itunes Match process…but here’s what I think happens on all iOS devices (regardless of if it is embedded, as long as it goes through match, this happens).

    Basically, at the first download, it will attempt to grab the album artwork from the cloud, sometimes it fails, even if it doesn’t fail, it appears that it only grabs the artwork for the FIRST track. To make artwork appear on all tracks, iOS seems to prefer to grab them dynamically as you go. In otherwords, unless you have an active 3G connection on the go (with the “download with 3G” option ON), it will never grab the artwork for you.

    Let me know if you have similar results

    • Same with me, Ron – I thought I was resolved but still have much missing artwork. I spent so much time on it I’m just going to wait for a revised update to the service I think that will come with the next revision of iTunes and iOS.

      I guess as with any first release there are likely to be issues with it early doors – I’m hoping the deafening silence from Apple is as a result of them working hard to fix the assorted problems with it!

  4. Jimbob

    Brilliant piece of advice, thanks. I have used the apple script on my MacBook Pro (Lion) whilst picking the albums without artwork from my iPad. It’s all worked great. The only albums without artwork now, are those without it on iTunes on my Mac.

    • Excellent 🙂 It’s a veritable minefield but it’s good to hear that I’m not the only person who gets troubled by such things!

  5. THANK YOU! It’s a comfort to know that I’m not the only person with this OCD. I’m hoping that iOs 6 will yield improvements for Match. This service will be fantastic if these bugs get fixed.

  6. Rob

    OCD? … Surely having the software work properly and getting no frustrating bugs on itunes when they decide to try ‘improve’ it is exactly what we should expect from Apple.
    We pay a premimium to use their devices ad this artwork bug has really ….well bugged me… Hopefully the bozo’s that didnt test properly are now working in Canada or somewhere equally cold without gloves on.
    Apple needs to sort this quickly and efficiently with a seamless fix for us all or we might start suffering from SAAD (Searching for Alternate Android Devices)

    • Half agree, the OCD was reference to my need to have my library coded up right – which from seeing other people’s is clearly fairly extreme.

      Since I wrote this though Match is much improved.. that said, I don’t use it on my iOS devices as I prefer to have my music compressed to take less space on there.

      Android ain’t the answer for me though!

      • rob

        I can’t get artwork to transfer and every time I change or move music across and it doesn’t work (which is most of the time with albums since this change) I get more annoyed. I’m not about to fiddle about with 8,000 albums or so that are loaded up (even a few Santana ones in there)
        I suppose I should be more worried about world peace and the like … but even if jetted off to become a freedom fighter against despots like Assad I would still want to have the little artworks with my music while I had him in my sights …
        Apple needs to sort this one out or I might even go back to vinyl or something desperate like that….

  7. Pingback: Where did you come from? | Alan Fisher

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