Exporting data from iTunes

My parents are DJs, and spend much more time using iTunes than I ever do. My dad in particular is meticulous about keeping track of their music, what music they have played on their shows, and information about the songs in general. He does this with a combination of iTunes and a database. Until somewhat recently, that was iTunes running on Mac OS 10.6.8 and an Appleworks database. I had been wanting to move him off of Appleworks, since I knew he was one hard drive failure away from a new computer, and the end of Appleworks support. His database is extensive, and he had been outgrowing Appleworks for a while. But, it worked, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. He ultimately ended up moving to Filemaker - nothing else came close in terms of power and efficiency. He also had to move to the latest, “greatest” iTunes. In his case, not so great, since it seems like Apple enjoys changing various things about its core programs, just for the sake of change. Although I was hesitant to move him to Filemaker, since it seemed to have a steep learning curve and was perhaps more app then he really needed, that part went relatively smoothly. You can see the common ancestry Filemaker and Appleworks have shared. Plus, it was blazingly fast. Totally worth the money.

One big part of his workflow that changed was how he takes albums from iTunes and enters them into the database. It used to be that he could copy and paste multiple songs directly from iTunes into the AppleWorks database (when it was running in the “spreadsheet” view). Filemaker, for all of its power, doesn’t seem to like accepting multiple records of input (or even multiple fields of one record) via copy and paste. So, another solution was needed. I also learned that he uses many of the extra fields in iTunes, such as the “Show” field (normally intended for TV shows, I think, but he was using it to track his radio shows). Here’s the workflow we finally came up with.

First, make sure that all of the fields you are interested in exporting from iTunes are displayed in its list mode (choose Songs from the popup menu in the upper right corner). Reorder these fields to match the order of the fields in your database. This step isn’t strictly necessary, since you can change the order of the fields when you import the data later, but it makes life easier. Then, select the songs you are interested in exporting, and copy them to the clipboard. The data copied to the clipboard by iTunes is a bit annoying - if you just paste it, depending on where you do the paste, you’ll get little media players for each song, or perhaps some odd version of the data. The step that is needed here it to get just the plain text version of the clipboard data. There are, I’m sure, lots of tools that will do this for you. I ended up writing a simple Automator script that takes the text on the clipboard, and saves it as plain text to a file named “SongImport.txt” on the Desktop. It’s easy to find and always named the same thing. That file, as is, can now be imported into Filemaker. Filemaker is smart enough to let you break it up into fields, and even remembers the last order you put the fields into, if this is not the first time you’ve done the same kind of import into the same database.

Hopefully this can be helpful to other people who would like to get song data out of iTunes and into a different database or spreadsheet.
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