Why you shouldn't change music file names

I suppose it seems odd that the maker of a piece of software that changes music file names suggests: don't change music file names!

But, a wise businessman once told me: fall in love with the problem, not your solution. So in that spirit, I think it's worth outlining why you should consider hard when wanting to change the folder and filenames that make up your music library.

There's kind of a clue in bliss to the main reason...

bliss's warning about changing music file names: moving and renaming music files can mean your music player loses track of your moved albums and may delete existing metadata held by the player, such as play counts or ratings. Furthermore, existing playlists pointing to old locations of files will be broken and must be changed manually to point to the new locations.

It comes down to this: the location of your music files is the mechanism by which most software and hardware identifies your music. Software and hardware don't have intangible, wooly ideas about "albums" or "LPs" in their heads - they work on hard data. If you change those music file names, the means of identifying the affected music changes.

So, most fundamentally, if you move those music files, it's like the rug being pulled from under your music player; the files it thought existed are now gone.

This also means any metadata stored about these files is lost. This could be all sorts of data; ratings, album artwork, play counts... anything! Album artwork should be stored within the music files, but that's not necessarily how all software works ( step forward iTunes ). So changing the location of files means, depending on your music player, losing that associated metadata.

That could be a real pain if you've taken a long time collecting the metadata!

It gets worse. Also affected, if you don't take remedial action, are playlists. Playlists are generally just a list of file names. They can be relative (pointing to a file with respect to a starting folder) or absolute (giving the entire path of the file). Either way, changing a file or folder name will break any playlist that refers to it; the file will no longer play.

Finally, consider synchronisation of the music files. If you have separate copies of your music library, for example stored on mobile devices such as smartphones, you may wish to have some level of bi-directional synchronisation. You may want to copy tracks back from the smartphone to your music library. If you change the music folder or file paths in the meantime, such synchronisation becomes difficult... should music files with the old name stored on the smartphone be copied back to the library? Of course not, but if software performs the movement, how would it know you've renamed the tracks in the meantime?

So there are a few things to think about. I don't think I can think of a more intrusive change you can make to your music library than changing folder and file paths. Proceed judiciously!

Thanks to smlp.co.uk for the image above.
tags: digital music files
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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.