Wage war on your out-of-control iTunes library with Song Sergeant - Macenstein

Wage war on your out-of-control iTunes library with Song Sergeant

Through a series of unfortunate events this year, my iTunes library had become a shell of its former self. Over the years I had amassed a library of about 13,000 songs (yes, all legally purchased) but due to not one, but TWO hard drive failures and the theft of my iTunes backup drive, I now had a pieced together Frankenstein of a library that despite my best efforts to repair, was becoming clear that all the duct tape in the world wasn’t going to be able to hold together much longer. More often than not these days I would find myself clicking on a song and coming up up with the missing “exclamation point” icon and a message saying the song had disappeared. Sometimes I could find the song and manually relink it to my library, but just as often it appeared the songs had just disappeared.

Song Sergeant
Above: Adding 52,000 songs to your iTunes library is asking for trouble.

I had just about resigned myself to the idea of spending 3-4 weeks redigitizing the dozens of boxes of CDs I had moved to the attic when something amazing happened. A friend of mine (who shall remain nameless) offered to lone me his drive containing over 52,000 songs. (I’ll assume he too came about acquiring the tracks legally as well). Well, never one to look a potential timesaver in the mouth, I graciously accepted his offer, not realizing at the time that adding 52,000 more songs to an already dying 13,000 tracks would end up costing me more time and braincells than anyone would want to spend. And that’s when “amazing things 2” happened – the folks at Lairware (apparently sent by angels) out of the blue asked if I would like to review their iTunes-fixing tool Song Sergeant.

What the heck is Song Sergeant?

Song Sergeant is a wonderfully terrifying piece of software that is designed to analyze your iTunes library, seek out missing and orphaned songs, combine duplicates, delete irretrievably missing songs, and just basically fix all the issues I was now facing. You may notice I used the word “terrifying” just then when describing the software, and that is because when managing a library as out of control as mine had become (roughly 65,315 songs) I knew I was more or less going to let the software run on autopilot. While Song Sergeant allows you to manually approve every decision it makes with regards to merging songs and info, with a library that massive I fully intended to put my trust in robots (as I often do), and if I lost a couple songs, or even a couple hundred, odds were I wasn’t ever going to notice. Laziness had once again won.

Song Sergeant
Above: Launch Song Sergeant and it immediately scans your iTunes library for trouble.

Part of my confidence in letting Song Sergeant lose on my library without a leash is that it provides you with a decent set of parameters you can apply to songs in order to assure Song Sergeant knows which types of songs you’d prefer to keep. For instance, if Song Sergeant encounters 4 versions of a song, all different formats (WAV, MP3, AAC, AIFF, etc), bit rates, and each with different amounts of ID/album art/lyrics entered into the tags fields, you can tell Song Sergeant to always try to keep the AAC version of a file, with the highest bitrate, or the highest rated version etc., least recently added, and then merge all the info it finds to give you the most complete ID info as well. As you can imagine, when adding 52,000 songs to a library of 13,000, there were duplicates aplenty. In fact, I now had up to 4 versions of some of the more popular songs out there. After I let Song Sergeant weed out the dupes and the dead songs, it took my library down from 65,315 down to a still ridiculous 47,937. And the most amazing thing of all is it seemingly did so with no ill effects to my library. I still had all my playlists, my ratings, my song play counts… it was all there. And most importantly I knew that going forward (if I ever found myself with 4 months of free time to do so) when I eventually do go through all my 34,000 new tracks there will be decidedly less duplicates to have to weed through.

Song Sergeant
Above: Wow. Nearly 30,000 duplicate tracks.

How it works

When you first launch Song Sergeant it will scan your library, a process that will obviously depend on the size of your library and the speed of your machine. On my Mac Pro 4-core it took about 20 minutes to scan through my 65,000 song library. It then generates a list of songs that it thinks are duplicates (in my case 29,817), inconsistently named tracks (645), orphaned tracks (these are tracks that are in your iTunes music folder, but do not appear IN the library) (22), and missing tracks (these are tracks in your library, but do not physically exist in your iTunes music folder (3342). All the songs have check boxes next to them, and the “best” file is selected by default, based on the criteria I mentioned earlier that you can customize. If I felt like scrolling through all 22,000 duplicates, I could have selectively decided to check and uncheck songs on a song-by-song basis, but again, I tend to trust robots, so I let it do its thing. As far as how Song Sergeant deals with the duplicate files, you can tell it to either remove them from iTunes and move the duplicates to the Trash, move them to a folder on your desktop, or just put them into a special playlist. I trashed them and never looked back.

Song Sergeant
Song Sergeant

Above: Song Sergeant lets you set up parameters as to which types of songs you’d like to keep in the event of duplicates.


Song Sergeant is incredibly simple to use, and it works well. One thing I would have liked to see though is for Song Sergeant to scan ALL the drives on your computer when searching for missing tracks. I know from experience that I had a couple folders of music on other drives (such as a folder of backed up iTunes purchases) that it would have been nice if Song Sergeant could have seen, but unfortunately it currently only searches your current iTunes music library folder. One other thing to be aware of is that the duplicate removal process takes a bit of time – while it only took about 20 minutes to fully scan my library, it took about 18 hours to sort through the 22,000 duplicates I had. This is not a big deal as odds are you’re not going to be running Song Sergeant all that often, and subsequent runs will not find nearly the amount of dupes as your first. However, the subsequent re-runs is one of the only other real issues I found. It may have more to do with the size of my library than anything else, but even after running the software multiple times, Song Sergeant always seems to be able to find a couple new duplicates. Sure, it might only be 6 or 16 instead of the original 22,000, but I’m not sure why this is. Again, not a big deal, but just odd.

Song Sergeant
Song Sergeant
Song Sergeant
Song Sergeant

Above: Some dialogs you may see while running Song Seargeant.

My only other issue is more of a suggestion for the Song Sergeant team. As I said, I sort of view this tool as something for people with damaged libraries, or libraries with songs from multiple sources (I had both). But once it has been run, it pretty much may never need to be run again. Something that would make it slightly more useful would be to build in other iTunes-helping features like automatic song lyric and album art downloading for songs missing that info. This hardly is a bash against the software, as it does what it says and is extremely easy to use, but I always tend to want more and those features seem like they would make for excellent additions to the software if LairWare is looking for suggestions.

One final note is that when removing duplicates you may see a message saying iTunes is unresponsive, but Song Sergeant says this is normal, and I found iTunes still was able to play songs while the song removals were going on. So if you see that message, don’t panic.


If your iTunes library is hurting, Song Sergeant’s $20 price tag is well worth the time savings it delivers. Whether you have a corrupt library with frustrating missing entries and orphaned media, or you have a massive library with music coming from multiple sources riddled with duplicate entries, Song Sergeant can get your library back in line and under control.

Pros: Easy to use, can save you many tedious hours of manual management, allows full control or total automation in deciding which tracks are kept or discarded, can find orphaned media in your library, combine ID tags between duplicate songs, Preserves your playlists while removing duplicates

Cons: Currently does not search entire system for missing songs, only the current library. Multiple runs seem to always find at least a couple duplicate songs or inconstantly named items (at least on my library); would be great if it could download album art and lyrics to tracks

6 Responses to “Wage war on your out-of-control iTunes library with Song Sergeant”
  1. Tom says:

    You have spent 12 870 USD (8 780EUR) on music from itunes???????? You could have a low budget car for that!

  2. @Tom,
    haha, no, it is mostly from CDs bought since 1989 or so… Although that means the number I have spent on music is likely depressingly higher when I think about it… I could have bought a car…

    – The Doc

  3. Nick says:

    I feel your pain. I was a DJ for 15 years and my CD collection is worth a loaded 3 series BMW runs for… I am going to download this and try it tonight. I need something to help with my libraries as well.

  4. Helene says:

    Thanks Doc!

    LairWare’s other iTunes utility MPFreaker does the artwork and lyrics, among other things you have suggested — and like Song Sergeant, can run unattended “autopilot” to add this stuff to your music library wherever it is missing.

    Thanks for putting the Sarge through survival camp with your colossal intrepid library. Awesome.


  5. Xero says:

    I ask for my foolish family is there a PC version?

  6. malcanta says:

    Do you think your “friend” would let me borrow that magical 300 gig hard drive as well 🙂

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