Balancing purism with practicality

3D Scales of Justice

I normally espouse investing in your music library for long term gain. Whether that's installing high resolution cover art, ripping to lossless or making sure you get your metadata straight, these efforts, while not without their own challenges, can save you time in the long run.

So much for the theory. In practice, it gets more thorny. What if your music player has a maximum resolution for album art, above which it won't display anything? What if your music player (*ahem* iTunes *ahem*) won't play FLACs? What if, after completing the COMPOSER field in each music file, you realise your music player won't even display that data?

It becomes a case of balancing purism and practicality. There are two extremes of this: favour purism, and maintain different music libraries, or favour ease of use and maintainability, and adopt a lowest common denominator that works across all players.

The latter approach, adopting a lowest common denominator, can work if you have a small set of music players to support and their requirements are not too different. Say you have a Sonos music player and you also listen to music on your Android phone. The Sonos has the limitation that album artwork must be under 256KB in size. This means, if you adopt a lowest common denominator, neither music player can show large album artwork. Maybe this is an acceptable solution, depending on your specific needs.

The former approach, maintaining different music libraries, sounds like a maintenance nightmare. However, it's worth considering, if only as a thought experiment.

There are a lot of software tools that make mirroring music libraries possible. Some work virtually, so no extra storage is used. Others work by duplicating the files, and this can occur automatically. Obviously, you want a one-way solution where one "gold" library is nominated and the edits to the mirror libraries are not replicated back, otherwise your non-compliant metadata and artwork edits may compromise the libraries for other players! The mirroring could also be performed alongside transcoding, where file format is an issue for different music players.

This all lends itself rather neatly to bliss's proposed multiple library support (where the additional ability to be able to set different rules for different libraries would really add a lot of power!) and automatic transcoding features.

Thanks to for the image above.
tags: multiple libraries music players
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The Music Library Management blog

Dan Gravell

I'm Dan, the founder and programmer of bliss. I write bliss to solve my own problems with my digital music collection.