♫ Episode #64 – Album Artwork in Digital Files

By Kirk on August 4, 2017

Doug and Kirk tell you everything you ever wanted to know about album artwork in digital files.

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  • The missing piece of the Album Artwork jigsaw is how to insert album artwork for an Album into the iTunes system and NOT embed it in every track. Answer – you can’t.

    Storage is relatively cheap now, but why should one have to store each image on average 10 times when Apple have devised a method to avoid that.

    Because Apple have specifically made it impossible for anyone else to use the iTunes AA system. There used to be a way to convince iTunes to store new images within its own structure (and only once for each album), but Apple then encrypted the retrieval process specifically to prevent this. No reason to do this that I can think of apart from them just being bloody minded. Thanks Apple.

  • Loved this episode! I am a album art nut. There is a great site for finding album artwork: http://www.AlbumArtExchange.com It has different sizes of each album to choose from (600, 800, 1000, etc) with ratings them, and there are a lot of off-the-wall bootlegs in there as well. Registration is free to get rid of the water marks. I’ve been using it for years. Cheers

  • [I’m having trouble posting comments – maybe it’s the length, so I’ll split this up…]

    Great podcast. Artwork/not artwork obsessed? I wonder if there’s some crossover with how _album_ obsessed you are. After all, as you identified at the start of the podcast, one of the key reasons for using artwork is to help identify records to choose to play. A lot of people are all about the [non album] playlist, so maybe it’s less of interest. Or maybe such people would rather have single artwork, when a track has been released as a single.

    I’ve been working on album art a lot for eight years now so I thought I’d leave some iTunes-oriented notes, from my position on the outside of the iTunes ecosystem, looking in (and supporting people who use iTunes as part of a heterogenous music setup).

    I’ll post my sub-points as replies to avoid clogging up the thread!

    • You talked a bit about size; it’s worth mentioning that there are commonly two aspects of size you should be concerned about with artwork; the resolution (e.g. 600×600) and the data size (the bytes consumed in storage). Different players have different restrictions on these.

      You voiced a number of concerns about data size. First thing to check is whether iTunes is converting your images to PNGs, even when you provide JPEGs. This was an issue a few years ago (ref: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/3323528?tstart=0) – but I’m not sure it still does this. PNGs, being lossless, take a lot more space than JPEGs.

      Your concerns about artwork are valid, but I think sometimes it’s more interoperability that is the concern than simple bytes stored (Kryder’s Law wins eventually). The reason is that some other players, for example Sonos, have limits on the size of artwork certain controllers will play. Last time I checked Sonos had a limit of 320KB for its iPhone app.

      Sonos, by the way, will also recognise embedded art, not just a folder.jpg.

    • For finding artwork… Ben Dodson’s site is a nice hack, but given it only searches the iTunes Store it’s a bit limited, especially since iTunes itself can perform the same search. A few other sites for very high quality artwork are AAX (https://www.albumartexchange.com/) and MusicBrainz’s Cover Art Archive. Neither have brilliant coverage, but are good for high quality. There are a few more in this blog I posted (2010!) https://www.blisshq.com/music-library-management-blog/2010/04/06/what-are-the-best-websites-for-album-art-/

    • WAV and AIFF *can* have album artwork, if ID3 is used as the tagging format. iTunes doesn’t support reading ID3 tags from WAVs or AIFFs (in fact I don’t think it supports RIFF tags in WAVs either) but some players do, particularly in the audiophile class, and it’s becoming more common.

    • Your classification of scripts into importing/managing/exporting is useful, but one aspect you missed in importing is where other software has been used to edit music files, embedding artwork, and you want iTunes to see the changes. A couple of ways: (1) the “Get Info” dance – select the tracks for the album changed, right click > Get Info > Click Ok, (2) automate with a different Doug’s Script – Needle Drop http://dougscripts.com/itunes/scripts/ss.php?sp=needledrop (simply playing the files tends to re-read the metadata).