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How to Get Complete Album Art for Your Music Library

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When it comes to music, album art is a big part of the fun. But what if you’ve got hundreds of albums with no cover art? Read on to see how you can track down the correct art for each.

Album Art Downloader

We’re going to be using a free application called Album Art Downloader. It’s got an unconventional interface, but it works very well. To get started, click the link, download the application and install it.

Preparing Your Music Library

For this tutorial to work, you’re going to need a very neat, orderly music library. Each album should reside in its own subfolder, and the files should all have correct metadata so that Album Art Downloader knows what to search for. If your house is in order, great; but if you need a bit of help getting there, check out our previous post showing How to Clean Up and Fix Your Music Library with the MusicBrainz Database. Once your library is all neat, move on to the next step.

Searching For Album Art

It’s now time to run Album Art Downloader. This is what you’re supposed to see when running the application for the first time:

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This is the Search window. Its job is to help you find the cover art for one single album, using a myriad of sources. Album Art Downloader does not have its own cover art database on the web; instead, it uses numerous plugins to search existing databases, starting from massive libraries such as Amazon, CD Baby,  Google Images, all the way to more obscure sources such as RevHQ and Psyshop. By default, it also searches your local files, which isn’t very helpful. So the first thing we’ll do is scroll down to the bottom of the list and disable the local file search:

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Feel free to disable any other sources you don’t think you’ll need in the process, just like we’ve disabled Take2 and Yes24 above. From our experience, Amazon and Google Images are usually enough to track down most albums. Another thing you should do at this point is set the “Sort by” listbox to “Area”, as shown in the screenshot above. This would ensure the largest images would float to the top of the search results.

Now that we’re all set, it’s time to point Album Art Downloader at our music collection and tell it what it should fetch. Go to File > New > File Browser, or hit Ctrl+B.

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The File Browser is a separate window; that’s what’s odd about the Album Art Downloader interface – it uses lots of separate windows that pop up all over the place. Once you get used to that, the application is very easy to use. Point the File Browser at your music library (C:\Users\ezuk\Music above) and click the large Search button.

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Album Art Downloader will go through your entire music library quite rapidly, looking for the artist name, album name, and whether or not the album already has artwork. Click “Select all albums with missing artwork”, and then click Get Artwork for Selection.

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Album Art Downloader will now pop up three separate search windows in parallel. Do not be alarmed – the application is just trying to save you time. Since searching through multiple image databases tends to take some time, working in parallel is efficient: While you’re busy sorting through the results of the first search, the other two are already fetching images. By the time you’re done with the first search, the second one is ready for you.

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Let’s start sifting through the first one. The thumbnails are tiny, but you can click and hold a thumbnail to pup up a full-size version of the file. You can also drag the line alongside each “tile” to make the tiles larger.

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Once you’ve tracked down the correct album art at a good resolution, double-click the thumbnail or single-click the diskette icon. A file called “folder.jpg” (or .png, as the case may be) will be saved in the folder containing the album. You’re done! Close the search window, and a new one will pop up, searching for the next album. Don’t wait for this window to fill up with images; just switch to one of the other two windows waiting for you, pick the correct image, save, and close. Rinse, lather, repeat. In no time your music library will be full of beautiful, high resolution artwork!

A technical writer for Tibbo Technology by day, Erez is obsessed with customizing anything and everything. After years of using Litestep and Blackbox, switching to a custom keyboard layout (Colemak), extending Word and Excel with elaborate VBA, losing weight with an AutoHotkey script he developed and spending countless hours tweaking Foobar2000 to get it to look "just right", Erez decided the time has come to share some of this obsession with the world at large.

  • Published 03/29/11

Comments (13)

  1. miki

    Great but i prefer google image.

  2. Ja5087

    Is there a way to embed the image instead? I don’t like multiple folder.jpgs and it’s going to be hard to transfer to my phone.

  3. Chuck

    I use MP3tag to embed the images into the MP3s so when I play them on my iPod I get an album cover on every song.

    This is an interesting program but I just rather search the for album art manually and then download it into the folder. A bit more work but I normally get the image I am looking for. Some artist have multiple “greatest hits” albums for example and I like having the right one.

  4. Jesus

    Great Tutorial for beginner I currently Use Tag & Rename and it works marvelous for me

  5. Noah

    I’ve found it best to:

    1. Open up album’s folder in MP3Tag
    2. Open google image
    3. Copy album art of around 500x500px onto clipboard
    4. Select all songs for album in MP3Tag
    5. Paste album art
    6. Save

    This way you don’t have hundreds of folder.jpg files all over the place. Embedding the image is much cleaner and easier to move around if needed.

  6. Joe

    While it may not be free ($14.99 I think), MuvUnder Cover does this excellently, with a great UI, and actually embeds the art into the file, supports dragging and dropping cover art onto files and uses multiple sources for the images.

  7. Yoshiyah

    Great fan of MP3Tag. It also allows you to search for Album Art, although I personally agree with searching for album art myself. I also don’t like to many folder.jpg files and so many artist have so many Greatest Hits albums.

  8. Scott

    Google images are okay but you will not find images from the major album art sites there or via Album Art Downloader. I use Album Art Exchange which from experience has the highest quality artwork that I have seen. My second choice would be Allcdcovers.

  9. Mike

    No Embedding into the MP3 File? I’m sad now. :-(

  10. Dewayne

    I prefer Tag&Rename, it is well worth the $30 price.

  11. OHAiTHARU

    If its one thing i’m anal about its my tags
    Tag&Rename does it perfectly fine (for adding albumart)
    f2k adds all the other tags i need (Artist, Title, Album name, album artist, track, total tracks, etc)

    W/o album art, this setup just wouldn’t be the same
    http://i.imgur.com/4PPvr.jpg

    Also, does anyone know of a way (eg plugin) o get foobar to embed album art
    I’m grown used to using T&R but it would be more convenient if foobar did it natively

  12. Noes

    Hey guys,
    I’ve tried the program and I’ve got a little Problem: everytime I want to overwrite an older Folder.jpg it says
    “Could not save image

    Access denied”.

    I always have to delete the old files manually (which works without problem). Did someone else has had this problem?

  13. kakes

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