Fetching Lyrics in iTunes

On July 4, 2010, in Apple, iPhone, iTunes, by John Giaconia

Back when people bought CDs they came with liners that typically had lyrics in the liner notes. because yes kids, we  didn’t always have iTunes, the Amazon MP3 Store or even a bay filled with anti-ninjas. Every song in your iTunes library has something called an ID3 tag — it’s where all the information about the song is stored such as track name, album name, artist name, etc. There’s also a spot in this tag for song lyrics. The iTunes store populates several fields in the ID3 tag when you purchase a song but it mysteriously leaves a big blank hole for lyrics.

Gimme Some Tune – The previous solution

In the past, there was an automatic and rather instant way to add these lyrics as each song played in iTunes with a program called Gimme Some Tune. It’s a great app for adding some cool functionality onto iTunes, but the lyrics fetching no longer works because the wonderful folks at the RIAA have decided they can’t allow a useful service like LyricWiki to exist if they don’t make money of it. You can read the Gimme Some Tune developer’s blog entry here from yesterday – July 3rd, 2010.  It sounds like an updated version is still quite a ways out.

iLyrics – Automatic method

The alternative I’ve come across is called iLyrics and runs as a widget on OSX. You can download and install it from http://www.creativecrap.com/ilyrics-widget-itunes under the “Downloads” section. The current version I am working with is 2.4.1

It also has the ability to run as a daemon and also update songs on the fly as they play in iTunes. Keep in mind that since this is a widget, you have to enable and disable it from always running in the widget settings (see next paragraph). Also, when it is running and successfully finds and updates lyrics, you’ll notice about a 2 second pause right after a song starts playing — iTunes needs to briefly stop the audio in order to update the ID3 tag. Just like tingling hair conditioner “That’s how you know it’s working.”

To change the settings (after it has been installed) bring up your dashboard to see your widgets (hit f4 or click the Dashboard icon).  In the lower right corner there is a grey dot  that’ll appear when you hover over it.  When you click the dot it’ll flip the widget over to show settings for the widget. Here you can tell it to auto-check for lyrics and auto-save if the song has no lyrics.  Click Done once you’ve set it up.

You might even want to give iLyrics a try with Needle Drop. You can let it run overnight with iTunes on mute.  Needle Drop allows you to play a short chunk from every song in your iTunes library — if you set it to about 5 or 10 seconds, it should provide enough time for iLyrics to query the internet for lyrics and then update the file before moving on to the next one.

iLyrics – Manual method

If you prefer to update songs manually and not leave the widget running all the time, I’ve outlined it below as a simple 3 step process.

Step 1:

Start playing a song with no lyrics. You can right click a song and choose Get Info to bring up the window shown below. Remember to Close the Get Info window once you see that it has no lyrics… The widget can’t update the lyrics if you have the ID3 settings open for edit.

Step 2:

Launch your Dashboard Widgets — to do this, hit F4 or click the Dashboard icon, or you can also set an active screen corner for it under System Preferences -> Exposé. You’ll notice the new widget knows what is playing in iTunes and shows the ID3 info it knows about.

Step 3:

On the very bottom of the widget you’ll see a drop down list with an option to Save to Song…  Click that and BOOM you’re done!  It’s like Magic!  Unfortunately lyrics won’t be available for every song you try.

An Added Bonus

When you play the song on your iPhone / iPod / iPad it can display the song lyrics.

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