Organize itunes albums by date

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I’m a bit OCD when it comes to organizing my itunes library. One of my recent organizational projects is to enter date information for all albums and songs.

There are a few benefits to this. If you have accurate years on everything, you can:

  • View albums in chronological order, both in itunes and on your ipod. This is especially helpful for artists that you have a lot of songs from.
  • Sort any list of songs by year.
  • Create smart playlists by year, decade, etc.

Here’s how I do it.

I select all the songs within an album, go to Get Info, and enter the year of release as the Year tag. You’ll find that many tracks have the year the CD was released, or re-released, not the year of the original release. When you see Elvis songs from 2004, you know something’s wrong!

Here’s the best part. For the Album tag, I put the year of release BEFORE the name of the album. Think about it – there’s no point in listing albums alphabetically. I want to see them in chronological order so I can tell the early Elvis Costello from recent Costello! So his Spike album would have the following info as the Album tag: “1989 Spike”.

The results are incredible. Here’s what my Elvis Costello album list looks like:


If you want to make a playlist of songs from a certain year (or span of years), here’s what it would look like.


Some tips to make this easier:

  • I only attempt this with artists I have a lot of. Someday I’ll get around to all the onesies and twosies.
  • I found that a lot of my tracks were from greatest hits collections. There’s a tough decision to make – keep the tracks under the “Greatest Hits” album title, or relabel the album tag for each song with the original album it was released on? I use both approaches. If I have just 2-3 albums from an artist, I like to know which ones are on the greatest hits release. But if it’s an artist I try to collect all of, like the Beatles, I relabel each track with it’s original album release name. EITHER WAY, put the correct year on every track, so it will come up in smart playlists.

Putting in the year info for all these songs is time consuming. Here’s the most efficient way I’ve found to do it:

  • In itunes browse view, with the artist highlighted, I highlight the names of the albums and songs that need year information added.
  • Sort the song list by name, so it’s A to Z.
  • In your web browser, go to and pull up the list of all songs by that artist.
  • Go to Get Info for the first song, find it on the allmusic list, and type in the album name. Don’t worry about the year yet, and don’t enter OK.
  • Click Next (or use the keyboard shortcut – Apple N on the Mac – to go to the next song. Flip back and forth between the browser and itunes (or line them up side by side on the screen) until all the album names are entered. Use “Unknown” or “Other” for any odd tracks. Using “next” saves time, so you don’t have to keep going back to the list of songs and clicking on Get Info.
  • When this is done, pull up the artist’s discography on, and find the years for each album. Back in itunes, highlight all the songs on an album, go to Get Info, and enter the year tag, and insert the year before the album name. While you’re here, you might want to copy the album art from the AllMusic album page, and paste it into itunes on the appropriate spot in Get Info.
  • If you are doing a lot of these and you set up both windows on your screen side by side so you don’t have to flip back and forth, you can do this pretty quickly.

That’s it. I’ve been working on it sporadically for a year and I’m far from done, but it’s gradually getting there. Good luck.

Comments and feedback appreciated.

Kevin Dern

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