courtesy of Ummon.
As many of you know, iTunes has a very large collection of high quality (600×600px) album art. It used to be that you could reference all your music in iTune’s library and have it embed this album art within your mp3 tags. With the advent of iTunes 7, however, they have decided to make it difficult for you to keep this album art by downloading it to a convoluted directory structure and file name on your computer rather than embedding it in the mp3 tags. There have been various websites that have tried to make search engines, but they are all currently failing due to Apple tightening up their link encryption and authorization on the high quality versions of their art.
The aim of this guide is to provide the true album art geek in you with a surefire method for gathering the high quality album art from iTunes that you deserve. However, while easy enough to perform post-setup, this will NOT do all the work for you. Also, this guide is tailored to those who don’t currently use iTunes (good for you - it is evil).
NOTE: If you already use iTunes, then you probably already have it’s “Library” filled with your music and pre-associated with iTunes album art. You can use this guide to help you figure out how to get the album art permanently saved, but you’ll have a lot more legwork and sorting-out to do. That is, unless you follow this suggestion: delete every song from your iTunes Library list and add them all back once you’re through. It didn’t try to delete the song files for me when I did this, just their occupancy in the list, but I guess it might for you depending on how you have iTunes set up? So, be careful.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED
1. iTunes (Unfortunately)
3. LameDropXPd (Optional)
1. Install and set up iTunes to your liking. Make sure to set up an iTunes Store account (it’s free) and get logged in.
2. Press your “Windows Key + R” to open a run prompt and put in “%systemroot%\system32”. Unzip bitmaprip.exe from the zip file you downloaded above to that folder. This will allow you to run the program in a command prompt regardless of what directory you are currently in. And you will appreciate that because this is indeed a command line utility. Don’t worry, though, it’s extremely simple to use. You won’t need this folder open anymore or the zip file (delete it, save it, whatever).
3. Now open “My Documents”, then “My Music”, then “iTunes”, then “Album Artwork”, then “Download”. If you can’t see all these directories, it’s because iTunes hasn’t gotten any album art for you yet. So, just remember to look for this folder in a bit - I’ll tell you when.
4. Open a command prompt by once again pressing your “Windows Key + R” and inputting “cmd” in the run prompt.
5. Open a new window looking at your beautifully organized and expansive collection of copyright infringements.
6. If you have any music in a format that iTunes won’t recognize, you will need to encode one of the tracks to something that it does (we will use mp3 in this guide). For this, I recommend the simple and intuitive LameDropXPd that was linked as optional in the “What You Will Need” section. Simply set the program up wherever you like and open it. Then, drag and drop your music file on it, and it will automagically make a copy encoded as mp3 in the same folder the original was in.
1. Go to the folder of the album you intend to get album art for and drag and drop one of the tracks on to iTunes in the “Music” pane under “Library”.
2a. Rick-Click the track within iTunes and choose “Get Album Artwork”. If you don’t get an error, then proceed to step 3. Otherwise, go to step 2b.
2b. Oh no, iTunes couldn’t find artwork for that album. Or was it just stupid. To find out, switch to the “iTunes Store” pane (you are logged in, right?) and use the search box in the top right to search for the album. Hopefully you find it. If not, you are out of luck. If so, you simply need to tag the mp3 (even if only temporarily) to correspond with what iTunes is expecting. Right click the track in the iTunes Store that you are using and choose “Get Info” to see exactly what iTunes is expecting in each tag field. Proceed back to the “Music” pane under “Library” and do a “Get Info” on your track to quickly retag it with the aforementioned junk. When you tell iTunes to “Get Album Artwork” now, it should work 99% of the time.
3. Remember when I said I’d tell you when? Now is when. Navigate to the folder in Step 3 of “Getting Started”. From here, press “Control + F” to bring up the search companion on the left side of the window. Choose “All files and folders” and in the “All or part of the file name” box input and search for “*.itc”. You should get one hit. That file contains your high quality album art. However, you can’t simply rename it. You have to extract the JPG because Apple hates you.
4. Copy the ITC file your search came up with to your album’s folder. Rename it to something simple. I will use “1” for the purposes of this guide (I will also assume the file extension of .itc was removed when doing this). Click once in the address bar of the album’s window to highlight the full path of the folder and give it a “Control + C” to copy it. Switch to your command prompt and type (excluding quotes) “bitmaprip” followed by a space and an open quotation mark (“). Then right click inside the command prompt and choose paste as “Control + V” doesn’t work. Then add (again, excluding quotes) “\1” followed by a closing quotation mark. Press enter to issue the command. If you check your album folder, the fruits of all this labor will be evident. Clean up the folder as you see fit.
5. This step is actually kind of crucial to prevent any future headaches. Make sure to go back in to iTunes now and delete the track from it’s library list (and revert any changes to the tags that you may have made if you are so inclined). Now if you right click in the search window you have open for the ITC file and choose “Refresh” you will see that it finds nothing, because iTunes automatically deletes it’s little proprietary artwork file when you remove the song it is associated with. This is good, because it will prevent more than one incomprehensible file from showing up when you search for your next album, thus you will have no trouble telling which file contains which album’s art.
6. Rinse and repeat as needed.
Well, I realize this isn’t exactly the most desirable method to go about getting album art, but I hope this helps someone. If you are a little more crafty with a computer, you might seek out a similar program to bitmaprip that could be used on multiple files. I saw something written in java, but didn’t want to take the time to set it up. Then you could put all your music in iTunes and get all the album art at once (altering tags as necessary to help iTunes out) followed by a batch extraction of the entire iTunes Album Art directory. Of course, you’d still have to manually determine which JPG’s go with what album.
If your album isn’t available on iTunes, I would suggest searching the following sites for decent alternatives:
- — AllCDCovers.com - limited selection, but super-high-quality.
- — Discogs.com - good for multiple versions of album art (multiple pressings).
- — AmazonMP3.com - relatively new, but generally has better results with “view larger image” than regular Amazon.
- — Albumart.org - seems to be kind of a metasearch, mostly to Amazon.
- — http://rateyourmusic.com - You have to sign up to get the full quality art, but there are some CDs that I have only found there. Plus once you sign up you can upload artwork too. They don’t want the super large art apparently, but for me 600×600 is as large as I want to get it since I embed it.
- — For J-pop, http://wiki.theppn.org - has art for J-pop I could not find elsewhere.
- — http://cover-paradies.to - This site is brilliant for covers, lots of 1000+ pixel covers.
Feel free to try HydrogenAudio’s AlbumArtDownloader XUI.