So here's the thing, it is now some 10 years since the first iPod was launched and the way we listen to music changed forever. One of the things that changed, if you are anything like me, is that your iTunes database became the centre of your musical life. Unfortunately, across those 10 years that database can get kind of dirty. A quick look at my iTunes database reveals a whole bunch of tracks with no album artwork, which is no big deal I grant you, but also a whole bunch of songs with spelling mistakes or where the import function has thrown a hissy fit and misnamed the artist for whatever reason. And then there are the duplicate tracks, or ones which simply have no name at all.
I know I could go through iTunes, with the help of the Gracenote music database service, and manually correct much of the mess that has accumulated over the years. But my iTunes database contains more than 10,000 tracks and I'm really not sure that I want to devote a day of my life to that kind of repetitive and monotonous task. Which is where Rinse, formerly known as TidySongs, comes in.
RealNetworks recently acquired the TidySongs product and has now launched it as Rinse. The name is pretty apt as that is exactly what it does: puts your iTunes database through a rinse wash and pops it out nice and clean the other side. In fact, it's very much akin to an automatic washing machine in that all you need to do is set it up the right program and then press the on button and let Rinse automate the tedium for you. Rinse comes as a free trial download which is only good for 50 tracks in your iTunes database, but that's good enough to determine if it is the right application for you. If it is, then thirty nine bucks and a simple purchase code later will see your copy fully licensed for up to 5 iTunes installations and ready to get to work. I'd recommend using the limited trial download version in 'one by one' mode in order to determine the kind of confidence level you are happy with before letting the unrestricted application loose in fully automatic mode on your iTunes database though. This confidence level is expressed as a percentage and gives an indication of how sure Rinse is that the changes it wants to make are correct. Personally, I found that I needed to set it above 90% in order to be happy with the results. Lower than that and some decisions were taken that, although technically correct, were not to my liking. For example, a piece of music and poetry from a movie soundtrack that I had previously edited manually so as to show the artist correctly as Nick Cave would have been changed to Various Artists if I had let Rinse and, of course, Gracenote loose on it with a 80% confidence rating. Your mileage will undoubtedly vary, so do invest five minutes of your time to gauge a level you are happy with.
That said, Rinse is clever enough to impress even a somewhat cynical chap like myself who has seen far too many badly executed audio utilities over the years. By querying the Gracenote database (100 million tracks from 8 million albums) Rinse can easily fill in the iTunes gaps such as wrong artist or missing cover artwork. However, what if the track in question was misspelt or just showing as 'unknown' - how can it cope then? Happily, the answer is really rather well as Rinse also comes complete with the technology to use audio samples from across the track itself in order to aid accurate recognition. I like the structure of the user interface to Rinse which doesn't take the often travelled clean-up utility route of 'click here to fix everything' which more often than not breaks something. Instead, Rinse tackles things in a logical manner. So you get sections to deal with adding album art, finding and removing duplicates, organizing genres and fixing songs. The only one of these that might need further explanation is the organizing genres one which allows you to rename the default genres in iTunes to something more meaningful to you personally. So while iTunes may think there are punk tracks, alternative tracks, plus alternative and punk tracks, I do not. As far as I am concerned punk and alternative are two separate genres. Dealing with this iTunes buffoonery is a simple point and click process with Rinse.