Hazards and Surprises with iTunes 7 Cover Art

by Chris Adamson

What follows is a survey of some good and bad guesses made by the iTunes Store's new "get missing cover art" feature.


Matthew Sporleder
2006-09-14 07:17:39
I'm really wondering how it will handle "gapless" on all of my various pink floyd rips. (did it come from shine on box set? from some other release? etc)
2006-09-14 07:32:11
The Get Album Art function is definitely quirky. I experienced all of the weirdness you discovered (Eric Clapton's Blues [Disc 1] and Blues [Disc 2] got Album art from a completely non-Clapton Blues athology that was not name Blues [Disc 1]) and the need to rename many of my Albums to match what was in the iTunes store (Mindless Self Indulgance's album is obnoxiously misspelled on iTunes, "Strangeley" Sexy).

In addition to that though, I have discovered that it doesn't find everything the first time around, but if you run it over and over (and over and over) again it will find Album art that it missed before. I still haven't got it to find a couple of Albums that are named exactly like they are on the iTMS, so I run the Get Album Art feature every so often. I am not sure what sort of search algorithm they are running to try and compensate for the differences in the databases, but it is very strange that it will miss a certain percentage of matches, that it might later find on repeat searches.

Also, why does it have to go through every album? If it is only going to put album art in the albums that are missing album art, shouldn't it only search for the albums with missing art?

And thanks for the import CD button tip. I would have spent ages looking for it.

Chris Adamson
2006-09-14 07:32:38
Matthew: The gapless playback feature totally fixed some segues that used to drive me nuts, like from "Between the Worlds" to "Swan Song" on Be Bop Deluxe's Futurama (which I bought from the iTunes store), or the entire first side of Joe Jackson's Blaze of Glory (which I ripped myself)
2006-09-14 09:40:30
It's too bad there's a disconnect between the CDDB and the ITS... isn't that where most of the confusion is coming from?
John Francini
2006-09-14 10:36:09
I just ran the Get Cover Art feature myself yesterday, and noticed a lot of the strangeness you've mentioned.

Of course, I've probably made the situation worse for myself because, as I'd rip albums, I'd change the info that came back from the CDDB so that it was formatted the way libraries file things:

Album titles that begin with an article (A, An, or The) such as "A Great Album" or "The Album" become "Great Album, A" and "Album, The"

Artists that are individuals have their last and first names swapped: "Joel, Billy", not "Billy Joel", though group names don't get changed unless they begin with an article: "Dave Matthews Band, The"; "Bronski Beat"; "Spandau Ballet".

The unfortunate part of the CDDB is that iTunes doesn't give you access to the 'professional' formatted listings (which are, apparently, available according to a response I received from a CDDB employee after I wrote a letter asking about whether or not I could get library-formatted information.

Why all this fuss? It's how music stores and libraries filed -- and continue to file -- recordings. Most of all, it's consistent. The current CDDB entries are a mess, because most of the people entering information are not librarians, and don't care much for the idea of consistently formatted information.

2006-09-14 13:44:10

Most of all, it's consistent. The current CDDB entries are a mess, because most of the people entering information are not librarians, and don't care much for the idea of consistently formatted information.

They would be consistent if it wasn't for the comparatively small number of librarians out there!   :-p

Doug Brown
2006-09-14 13:51:59
I'll add my 2-cents to the list...

I can't get iTunes to pull down the Squeeze album art for 'singles 45's and under'. No matter what I try, it always wants to get a 'best of' album cover.

I've also noticed that I can right-click on each song on the album one at a time and request the art. Eventually, I might find one song that will cause the art to come down. When that happens, I just copy from that song and paste it into the rest. That's not much better than getting it from google or amazon.

2006-09-14 14:11:29
i can't get it to work cause it says I need an Store account - and I don't wanna sign up with my credit card - anyone have any ideas on importing without having to do it manually?
2006-09-14 14:15:57
The other thing I find annoying is when you do get a wrong picture, you can't delete it like you could in the past.
Before, you could select the album, do a Get Info and remove an album cover simply by deleting it in its box (a check appeared in the box next to it) and clicking "ok."
When you do a Get Info now, the cover doesn't appear in the box, you can still click on the checkmark, iTunes still acknowledges that there's something to change and proceeds but nothing happens. This is true whether you select as an album or if you highlight all the tracks from an album.
The only way I've found that I can delete a cover is to do it one at a time. iTune put the wrong cover on my six disk CCR box set. This is not something I'm looking forward to correct and I've decided to not use this feature until Apple works it out.
Love Cover Art, though.
A different Gary
2006-09-14 15:11:17
As to the 'Mellon Collie' issues, you indicated that you neede to set them to be disk 1of 2 and 2 of 2. The two discs are exactly that, twp seperate discs. Here in Australia we could buy them as seperate discs or as a twin set. Personally, I think they are two different albums and so should be listed as such. No flame wars please. :-)

Apart from that, a nice post.

What about the new UI changes, again. I remeber the old days when everyone used the Apple Human Interface guidelines and every application's scroll bars looked consistent. Apple are the worst offenders these days.

Ahh, for the old days when you knew what a scroll bar looked like...


Chris Waldrip
2006-09-14 17:55:34
What about the Album Artists field when editing multiple tracks. I don't quite understand this one. If the album is a compilation, then it's flagged as such by using the Compilation checkbox. If its not a compilation then the wouldn't the album artist be the same as artist? I can think of some possibilities - The Beat Goes On which features tracks from The English Beat, General Public, Fine Young Cannibals, International Beat, and The Special Beat - all spin offs from The English Beat. Should I use TEB as the Album Artist?

I wish iTunes would adopt an Album Date as well as a Track Date. For that same album (The Beat Goes On), the album was released in '91, but the tracks were all initially released much earlier. This causes confusion if I want to listen to all songs released in 1988, but want the albums sorted by release date. While I'm on the topic of Dates, I'd also like to see either an Originally Released Date, or a Re-issued Date for albums dates.

Those issues aside, I'm really rather happy with iTunes 7.

Wayne Winquist
2006-09-14 22:02:57
What surprises me the most is the efficiency and speed it is handling things - it still can't do video on my machine, but that carousal cover-art effect is not only one of the coolest things to be done on my mac, but actually works. I can't wait to listen to it this weekend!

So why is this such a big deal? Because I am in a serious need for an upgrade fix: My main machine at home is an iMac G3 DV 500 Mhz. I so wish I had that new 24-incher on my desk now!

2006-09-15 01:25:21
This article clearly exposes how sloppy the record companies have been with the information about the products we payed them for! You can hardly blame Apple for that.
2006-09-15 01:56:27
Stop posting the entire article in RSS feed? Keep it to the minimum in RSS and allow the reader to 'click' to read your article in full.

This seems to be too common nowadays :(

2006-09-15 03:20:00
(yet another Gary)
And the Cure's Boys don't Cry gives us Staring at the Sea. House of Love completely flumuxes it. Perhaps House of Love are realising now that calling their first 3 albums House of Love was not the best ideas.

And why doesn't the Song name appear in the album browser? That is a totally weird omission.

Scot Hacker
2006-09-16 18:11:13
Then there are the cases where it's not just off by a little, but completely and inexplicably wrong. I selected all songs in George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass." The cover art I got is for "The Essential George Gershwin." Wow.

Wes - To clear downloaded art, don't look to the Get Info panel - that's where *embedded* art is stored. The art we're talking about here is not embedded in the songs, it's stored in external files. And you can remove it by selecting all songs in the album, right-click, "Clear Downloaded Art." Yes, it's completely confusing to most users that there is a difference between these two storage methods, and that their features are accessed through different means.

2006-09-18 09:22:40
Mindlessly upgrading to Itunes 7 on my older/upgraded G4 results in my very old, but still working ibook g3 we keep in the den from playing the G4 music library. I'm sure this would be buried in the upgrade notice, but very off putting none the less.
Biggie Mac
2006-09-18 17:14:33
Hello, I have a few questions... I used itunes 7 to get artwork for me, and the files it imported do not show up in the itunes artwork screensaver (OSX tiger). The screensaver does show the few covers that I previously found individually and put into itunes 6. Are there any tricks to getting the screen saver to see all the new cover art? Also, where are the actual pictures stored? I have dug around and can't find them. I am new to Macs but definitely loving it!! Thanks for any help....

2006-09-19 10:07:25
Scan all the mp3 on your computer with this script, and auto-get their artwork:
Mike Sierra
2006-09-19 11:22:14
FYI: I experienced problems w/iT7 when applying artwork for a bunch of recent indie releases, and found slothradio's Amazon-mining routine to be more reliable, for now: http://www.slothradio.com/covers/
Dave Swaney
2006-09-20 18:38:05
What I can't figure out is why I have "Automatically retrieve CD track names from Internet" checked in Preferences, but unless I manually tell iT7 to get the track names, I get "Track 1", "Track 2", etc.
Sweet Cera
2006-09-20 20:10:42
Itunes 7 is also the slowest ever when importing a cd. it can take all day to do one cd.
2006-09-26 19:16:12
Every time Itunes7 goes out and gets cover art, Apple is collecting your song lists for their database to keep track of you. Matching your music collection to your IP address. Does this not bother anyone else? Who the f*** cares about cover art? Missing the whole point of music, completely. What I love about this society, always missing the point. Gotta love it. What I love is Itunes7 getting rid of the gaps in my music. Whew, I knew I had to have this feature.

1. If you have a pc, block through your firewall iTunes7 from ever accessing the Internet.
2. Don't use Apple's store
3. Don't fall the created need to have cover art for your Itunes7 collection.
4. Go back to an earlier version of iTunes.

2006-09-27 08:27:59
I don't know why but i can't get the third and best view to display my cover art in itunes!! where is the error?
2006-09-27 10:34:55
thanks for the help finding the import cd button.
Trey Ethridge
2006-12-28 15:10:18
I doubt that many people will care, but I've also noticed that iTunes version 7 and newer now embed the images in mp3 songs in a non-standard way. So don't plan on taking your music to another music player and having it recognize the cover art. For the technical people reading the post, iTunes is now using a "PRIV" frame to embed the cover art using id3v2 instead of the standard "APIC" frame. Not a huge deal, but I don't like being locked into a music player. Especially when you have a lot of music!
John Mack
2007-01-15 00:28:29
Slightly off topic, but can anyone tell me how Steve Jobs was able to use a Beatles track from Seargent Peppers to launch the iphone when the Beatles stuff is not available for download and Apple were in dispute with Apple records. Did he rip it from his own cd collection? and if so, did he get permission for public performance?
John Francini
2007-01-16 17:43:16
Re: John Mack's comment about Steve Jobs "needing permission" for public performance of an existing recording. You don't "need permission". You only need to pay ASCAP/BMI the appropriate performance royalty. Period. You need permission to copy the recording, or to create a derivative work.
2007-01-22 15:50:49
iTunes 7 stores the cover art in "~/Music/iTunes/Album Artwork" but all as itc files which is what Coverflow used. You can't view them with preview but you can add them to the actual mp3/aac files:

Make sure the "show item artwork" box is viewable and set to "selected item".
Select a song in the album
Right-click the art in the box and select Copy
Select all songs in the album
Right-click the art in the box and select Paste

Apples album art is pretty large so this will increase your song file sizes a lot. Thats a nice thing about Coverflow using a single file for the whole directory (versus artwork in each file). It would be nice if Apple updated their iTunes artwork screensaver to include those coverflow itc files.

Robert Spangler
2007-04-16 06:21:26
Don't even count on getting cover art for any soundtrack from any tv show, film, or them park. Why should we have to manually add the cover to every track of an album in itunes, can it not figure out that all the tracks have the same cover?
2007-07-02 06:21:01
The biggest annoyance for me with the "Get Artwork" feature is that you have to have an iTunes account and credit card on file in order for this to work. Big bummer. I don't buy from the iTunes store, so I'd rather not have a card on file for this finicky feature to work.
Marc Ayres
2007-07-24 12:04:50
Why does I tunes not have album artwork for legendary artists like Led Zeppelin or Rolling Stones, this is shocking even more as they have put Dread Zeppelin in the album artwork for Zeppelin, WHAT??????
Matt V
2007-10-17 06:14:32
Hello Chris Adamson,
I am an art director and I also am an iTunes user, and I have to say I like the way it looks like now, but this is personal.
However, I do not understand why you make a comparison between the caps used for the sections titles to "shouting" as in a written text, on a forum. This latter one was only adopted by forum users because reading a whole post or a whole message on an instant messenger surely bothers the users.
But may I remind you that caps exist for a reason, and one reason is to make a text look different from the rest, in this case, the sections titles, hence, a good use.
This is all program-designing we're talking about. And I'm not saying you do not know your job, but then do not say others at Apple do not know theirs please, just because you have a space on Internet where you can.

For the rest of your article, I agree: iTunes surely have strange ways to seek artwork...
Thank you for reading this.

No CC for me
2008-01-03 16:19:37
There were a couple posts about not wanting to provide Credit Cards to have an account. The way around this is to purchase or be given a gift card. With a gift card, the Credit Card requirement for an account turns to an option that you can select none. I think the link off the main page was Redeem Card. I did this to keep my daughter from being able to purchase stuff she or I could not afford.
2008-01-27 13:14:38
I'm hating this iTunes 7 piece of @#&!.

Look, WS, with all due respect, I care about cover art. It's part of what makes the different cds in my music collection distinguishable from one another on my iPod, and I like it to be accurate. Frankly, I have a little trouble reading the small print! Whatever.

The download on "get cover art" can be really stupid, I agree. In my collection, the compilations were the worst. For the movie soundtrack from Phenomenon, for example, I got some kind of dance cd cover called Hustle Phenomenon. Had no trouble clearing it from the right-click menu with all songs selected, but now that album has no art, and no way to get it.

Which brings me to the main reason I'm ticked. I don't know if my iT 7.6 installaton is corrupt, or if the stupid software just doesn't do what it promises, but the help narrative says I can import my own cover art jpg. Huh! It doesn't work. Supposedly, you can drag and drop, or copy and paste to the 'Artwork Viewer,' or use 'Get Info' to copy the image into the "Artwork" window.


The shadow text over my artwork viewer for any entire playlist lacking art reads, "Album Artwork Not Modifiable." Get Info only contains editable areas when the entire playlist is group selected, then I can drag or paste the art into the art window, but it doesn't stick after clicking OK. Doesn't show up in the viewer, and it's gone when I open the Get Info dialog again. All this is true for any playlist, or song, that I try to add jpg art to.

Now, as for refusing to "get cover art" from the advanced menu, because it amounts to handing over information to Apple about one's music collection, personal behavior, and the like. Well... that's great, but then don't Google anything, either. Don't use any search engine, for that matter. Don't own a Paypal account, buy anything online, or sign up for any groups like this, because they all capture your IP and build an open ended db record for it, don't kid yourself. Reality check. They are all tracking your tastes and behaviors. If you use a medical insurance card, somebody in Quantaco, Virginia knows it, and is busy handing off a list with your city on it to a drug company so they can send more ads to your local cable network. Yes, indeed. Somewhere there's a spider bot collecting a great big file on anyone they can catalog. Not only that, but if you have a gps in your car, somebody, somewhere has the power to redirect your car to an undisclosed location against your will. *Sigh* The time to protest that stuff came and went somewhere around 1970, as I recall. About all we can hope for now is that the bad guys won't find out about our little addictions, so they can't withhold them from us to bend us to their diabolical wills.

Just kidding, sort of. But we are through the looking glass guys.

Thanks for reading my rant. Sorry.

2008-07-27 09:50:49
I am having the same problem as bpstratton. Half of the music I had on my computer worded just fine however, the other half wont work at all. When I try to add artwork itunes won't let me. If add a jpg to a whole album after I click ok nothing happens. Then when I try to do it song by song in the "get info" window i am unable to even click the album art tab. Do you know any way to fix this? It is bugging the crap out of me.
2008-08-12 09:40:30
We're now at iTunes 7.7.1 and the artwork retrieval is still quirky. It's quite simple: it doesn't handle anything compilation-like at all. This includes many movie soundtracks. The album must be assigned to a single artist or it won't work. For instance, I have the Lost Highway soundtrack in my collection and that album is also in the store, but no matter how I tag the songs, it doesn't find the cover art. I've also got some very weird results like a cover for "All-time polka favorites" for the song "Narcotic" by Liquido. WTF?