Home > All, Internet, iTunes, Music, Technology > iTunes Library Naming Standards

iTunes Library Naming Standards


If you’re at all familiar with my blog, you’ll know that I’m pretty obsessive about my iTunes music library. I’m also a stickler for proper grammar and punctuation. It is also apparent that, across the net, there are people who are as obsessive as I am.

Because it is possible to export your iTunes library into an XML file, it also makes it possible to use your iTunes library information in a database. For example, there are sites like iTunes Registry, which allow you to upload your Library.xml file and see various pieces of information about your music, listening habits, favorite artists, etc.

It is for this reason that I propose a set of Standards for naming and organizing songs in iTunes. I am more than open to suggestions. So, if you’re interested in contributing, leave a comment with your feedback, opinions, or criticisms.

Now, I’m not really sure how to go about drafting a set of Standards, so I’ll just start with the basics and see how it goes from there.

Spelling & Punctuation

Concerning spelling, obviously correct spelling is an issue. It is also important to preserve the spelling that the artist intended to convey. Apart from the original artist’s website, I’ve found that the most accurate information can be found at Gracenote.com. So, if for some strange reason the artist doesn’t have a website, Gracenote is a good place to start.

From here I’ll get into specifics…

Capitalization – As far as capitalization, I prefer to capitalize every word in the title of a song.

Parenthesis () – Parenthesis should be used to indicate actual parts of the title of a song or album in which the content is actually parenthetical, part of the title. For example…

  • Dude (Looks Like A Lady)
  • Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)
  • Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland?)

Wikipedia has this to say about Parenthesis:

Parentheses (singular, parenthesis)—sometimes called round brackets, curved brackets, oval brackets, or just brackets, or, colloquially, parens — contain material that could be omitted without destroying or altering the meaning of a sentence.

Parentheses may be used in formal writing to add supplementary information, such as “Sen. Edward Kennedy (D., Massachusetts) spoke at length.” They can also indicate shorthand for “either singular or plural” for nouns—e.g., “the claim(s)”.

This segues nicely into the next topic…

Brackets [] – Brackets should be used to denote additional information about a song or album. Remix information, disc number, etc. Here are some examples…

  • Album Title – “A-Sides [Best Of],” “Diplomatic Immunity [Disc 1],” Oh Yeah! [Ultimate Aerosmith Hits – Disc 2]”
  • Remix Information – “Prep Gwarlek 3B [Dennis Desantis Remix]”
  • Intro, Outro, Etc. – “The Big Picture [Intro],” “NY Freestyle [Instrumental]”

Essentially, the Brackets are intended to contain additional information about the song or album title.

Acronyms – No periods between letters in acronyms. “LAMC” instead of “L.A.M.C.”

Contractions – Songs with titles like “Do You Remember Rock ‘N Roll Radio?” The first letter in the contraction should be capitalized. There could be some debate as to whether it should be ‘N’, as opposed to ‘N. I suppose the proper form would be ‘N’, as the apostrophe is taking the place of the missing letters.

This should be distinguished from normal contractions in song titles like “What’d Ya Do?,” where “‘d” is part of the word “What,” and you need not capitalize the “d.”

As far as words like “Y’all,” should it be “Y’all” or “Y’All?” I prefer “Y’All.” I suppose it should be no different than “What’d.” But then again, “All” is a word all on it’s own. Input would be appreciated.

Question Marks (?) – Any song titles that take the form of a question should always end in the Question Mark (?). Take the previous example: “Do You Remember Rock ‘N Roll Radio?”

Hyphenated Words – Songs like “International Cover-Up.” Capitalize both (all) words in the hyphenated series.

Featured Artists

Personally, I dislike putting featured or guest artists in song titles. As my library exists right now, I don’t have featured artists listed anywhere. I’ve been debating this issue for a while. Should I use the “Album Artist” field for the artist who released the album, and the “Artist” field to include any featured artists?

Mostly, this is a dilemma concerning time and effort. Do I really want to go through my entire music library (107 GB) and find every song (19,806 of them) with a featured or guest artist and modify the “Artist” field to reflect these changes??? I don’t know.

To take a solid position on this, I feel that featured artists do not belong in the song title.

Track Numbers

iTunes gives you the option of having just the track number (Track #1), or having the track number out of the total number on the album (Track #1 of 15). Personally, I prefer not to use the 1 of 15 convention and simply stick with Track #1. I suppose this could be up for debate, but it looks cleaner with just the track number without the “of 15” part.


In some cases, tracks have more than one song on them.

For example, “Love Minus Zero / No Limit.” I think this format is fitting. Using the Slash “/” to designate more than one song in the track. There should also be a space between songs and the Slash. Some songs have a Slash in the punctuation already: “Erase/Replace,” or “AC/DC.”

Classical Music

This is a difficult topic. There is a lot of information in the title of a classical song. Opus number, movements, title, key that the song is in, etc. I’m not exactly sure how this should work. I would greatly appreciate suggestions on this matter.


This document will reflect the current state of the iTunes Naming Standards. Any debate or suggestions will take place in the “Comments” section, and changes will be made in this document to reflect any conclusions reached.

This document was last modified on 5/20/2009 ~ 7:00pm EST.

Categories: All, Internet, iTunes, Music, Technology
  1. ddewii
    Monday July 6, 2009 at 8:54 PM

    Excellent article on a subject I’m also somewhat (*cough*) obsessive about. I’m currently in the process of re-ripping all of my CDs to a higher quality so I can box them up and put them into storage. Of course, this created an opportunity to analyze the hell out of my track tags and standardize my entire library (only about 6,000 songs). I’d like to add my two cents regarding Featured Artists. I agree they don’t belong in the song title, but I don’t want to omit them entirely.

    re: Should I use the “Album Artist” field for the artist who released the album, and the “Artist” field to include any featured artists?


    I’ve been experimenting with this one and it works great. Take B.B. King’s ‘Deuces Wild’ for example. 13 songs and 13 different “featured artists”. When I leave Album Artist blank, typing ‘B.B.’ in the search field shows me 13 different “albums” (which unfortunately also creates 13 different folders on my hard drive). As soon I set Album Artist to ‘B.B. King’, voila! One album, one folder, 13 different “featured artists”. Plus, ‘B.B. King & Tracy Chapman’ etc. still show up in List View in the Artist column. Which brings me to my second point….

    It has always annoyed me that solo artists sort based on their first name. B.B King should be listed under K, not B. Searching for “sort” in iTunes help gives a generic “Click the Sorting tab and enter custom text to sort by.” I’ve found setting the Sort Artist field to ‘King’ (Sort Album Artist using the above example) fixes this. Unfortunately, the entire Sorting tab is grayed out before importing a CD, so it still requires a two-step process.

    Now if I could only find a site with consistent, high quality, 500 x 500 album art….

    • Saturday July 11, 2009 at 7:36 PM

      How do you separate artists in the “Artist” field? Whenever I try to list more than one artist in this field, I get both artists in the browser. For example, if I put “B.B. King / Eric Clapton,” that’s exactly how it shows up in my browser. Is there a character used to separate artists? Semicolon?

      I think that’s what was keeping me from doing that in the first place. I don’t like a cluttered looking “Artist” list in the browser.

      • ddewii
        Wednesday July 15, 2009 at 4:11 PM

        I use ampersand.

        I have B.B. King & Eric Clapton in the Artist Field, B.B. King in the Album Arist field, and King in the Sort Album Artist field. I agree, it does look cluttered, but the clutter seems limited to List view only. As soon as I switch to either Grid or Cover Flow views, all I see is one Artist….B.B. King.

        I started using iTunes long before the Grid or Cover Flow were introduced, so I got used to looking at everything in List view. Now that I’ve updated (most of) my album artwork, I actually prefer Cover Flow. I can “see” my albums on the top half with a list view on the bottom half. Plus, I can go full screen and see just the artwork.

        So…. I guess it all depends on your preferred view. Front Row seems to feed off List view, so you’ll be stuck with the clutter….until Apple adds a Featured Artist field.

        • ddewii
          Wednesday July 15, 2009 at 6:02 PM

          Oops! I should clarify my reference to Front Row. From Wikipedia: “Front Row is media center software for Apple’s Macintosh computers and Apple TV”. My apologies to those who run iTunes on a PC.

  2. Acro Nym
    Tuesday November 17, 2009 at 1:42 PM

    >I’m still debating this one. “LAMC” or “L.A.M.C.?”

    Definitely “LAMC”. All-caps is enough to indicate an acronym, the periods are completely superfluous.

  3. css1323
    Thursday June 10, 2010 at 1:01 PM

    I re-ripped a lot of my music in ALAC and WAV for storage purposes and also, because I want to hear my music in the highest quality possible.

    I can agree with most of your points. I’ve always put a featured artist on the same artist field. But only these past few years or so, I’ve finally used the Album Artist field within iTunes. That way when using Cover Flow, you won’t see any duplicate artwork.

    I’ll have to disagree with the naming system for acronyms though. If a song appears as “L.A.M.C.” on the album/compilation in question, I must follow. “LAMC” doesn’t look too good, imo. “Y’All” just doesn’t look good at all. I think if the tag looks good to you, do what you want. But I’d never been that strict with my tags and capitalize the letter A though. Looks weird.

    However, I am still stuck with capitalizing every single word for my tags. I must have started when I was a teenager. At this point, I’m looking for a good script to rename everything, but for now I’m happy with my own naming system.

  4. Sam
    Friday August 19, 2011 at 6:24 AM

    What about numbers? I am also quite obsessive with my itunes but i don’t know wether to rename songs with numbers in them…. eg – 80 by Green Day or Eighty by Green Day?
    100 Suns by 30 Seconds To Mars or One Hundred Suns by Thirty Seconds to Mars?

    • Friday August 19, 2011 at 2:53 PM

      In those cases, I usually resort to what the artist wrote them as on the album cover or artwork. I think in cases like that, it’s best to preserve the artist’s rendition.

  5. Jeron
    Monday September 24, 2012 at 6:39 PM

    I have always struggled with ‘remixes’ of songs. It is clearly by a different artist, but also is clearly derived from another work, which I often own as well.The ‘Album Artist’ trick won’t work here, as the songs are usuallyfrom different albums. I usually have the original artist listed as the ‘Artist’, with the remix-er in parentheses in the ‘Name’, but there are songs which bear little resemblence to the original, and i feel that the editor better deserves the credit. as such, i struggle to find a set convention for remixes.

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