How-To: Use Custom Genre Art in iTunes 9


itunes_icon.png

After searching the Internet and Apple’s support forums, I decided I would try my hand at figuring out how to add custom Genre Artwork into iTunes 9. Turns out, it’s not all that difficult to add custom artwork for Genre’s.

In my case, my iTunes Genre grid view looks pretty good, but as you can see in the following screen shot, there are some genres that don’t have any artwork. As you can see, I don’t have any artwork for Ambient, and I don’t have a generic Classic Rock genre artwork for Classic Rock. if iTunes can’t find artwork stored internally for the Genre, it will attempt to use album artwork instead. If there is no album artwork either, it will display a generic grey musical note. Not very attractive.

To begin with, close out iTunes and make a backup copy of iTunes! This is a very important step. If you mess something up, you don’t have to download iTunes again or attempt to restore the application from a backup.

Make sure that iTunes is not running before making any of the following changes.

Now, find the application on your hard drive. Most likely, it’s located in the /Applications folder. You are going to want to “open” the application folder. You see, applications in Mac OS X are really just folders named “application.app”. To open an application folder, right-click/Ctrl-click on the iTunes icon in the Finder, then select “Show Package Contents”. This will open a new Finder window with a single folder called “Contents”.

Now, open the “Contents” folder, then locate and open the “Resources” folder. You are now in the folder you need to be in in order to add the new artwork. You will see a bunch of JPG files already in this folder that are the genre artwork that Apple supplies with iTunes. Apple uses a naming format “genre-genrename.jpg”

You can find some pretty decent genre artwork at flickr.com in the group pool Genres. If you can’t find what you are looking for there, you could try searching everyone’s uploads for “itunes genre genrename“. Not every possible genre is represented at flickr.com, but its a good place to start.

Once you have the genre artwork you want, make sure to name the files like Apple does. It’s probably safe to name them whatever you want, but better to error on the safe side.

Copy all the artwork you want to add to iTunes into the opened “iTunes.app/Contents/Resources” folder. Make sure not to overwrite duplicates. No point in losing what Apply supplies. Just rename your version something close and then copy it over.

Now, locate the file genres.plist in the same folder. Open the file in a text editor like TextMate or TextWrangler, not TextEdit. You don’t want to put stray characters into the file and TestEdit is an RTF (Rich Text Format) editor. It can edit text files, but to be safe use a real text editor. TextWrangler is free from Bare Bones Software.

Locate an entry in the genres.plist file that looks something like this:

<dict>
	<key>matchString</key><string>blues</string>
	<key>resourceFile</key><string>genre-blues.jpg</string>
</dict>

Simply copy that block of XML and paste a copy of it just under it. You can not change the text “blues” to what ever genre name you are adding. Special symbols are treated as spaces: “R&B” is “r b”. Next, change the name of the JPG to the name of the JPG for the genre you are adding.

Save the genres.plist file and startup iTunes. You should see the new genre in the Genres Grid view. Do the last step above several times. Once for each new genre you are adding.

When finished your Genre Grid view will look more like this:

You may have some genre’s that you can’t find artwork for. If those genre’s only have a couple of songs/albums, it might be better to change the genre of the music to something else rather than use the album art or the gray music note art. If you don’t mind that, then more power to you, but if you are like me, I prefer to use nice genre artwork, so I just changed the genres. I didn’t have that many tracks that didn’t “fit” or have artwork for their genres. So changing them wasn’t an issue for me.

Update 9/22/09: For Windows users the process is almost identical. The location of the Genre artwork image files is: {drive}:\Program Files\iTunes\iTunes.Resources (unless you installed iTunes someplace else. Just look in the iTunes folder for a folder called iTunes.Resources)

Place all your Genre artwork in the iTunes.Resources folder. Once you have all your artwork copied, edit the ‘genres.plist’ file in the same folder using a true text editor. NOT ‘NotePad or WordPad’. There is a great freeware text editor out there called NotePad++ located at: http://notepad-plus.sourceforge.net/.

Once those steps are completed, you should be able to startup iTunes for Windows with your new Genre Artwork too.

Either way, hope you found this How-To useful.

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31 comments

  1. @eldino:
    From what I can see on the Windows version of iTunes, its pretty close to the same.

    The folder that contains the image files and the genres.plist file is:
    \Program Files\iTunes\iTunes.Resources

    Just place the new JPG files in that folder and edit the genres.plist file in that folder as described in my tutorial above and you’ll be in business. Make sure to use a real text editor. Don’t use NotePad or WordPad. There are some great freeware text editors for Windows out there. NotePad++ comes to mind. You can download it at:

    http://notepad-plus.sourceforge.net/

    If you have any questions, fell free to ask. I should be able to help you make the changes necessary to add more Genre artwork to your copy of iTunes.

  2. Nice tip. However, my iTunes doesn’t use genre artwork at all. None of my genres (that don’t have album art) show any art at all, even the ones that are tagged as one of the genres that iTunes provides genre art for. For example, I have some songs that don’t have album art and are tagged as “Blues” yet iTunes is not showing the default Blues genre art, or any others for that matter. Anyone else have this problem? I’m on a Mac with OSX Snow Leopard, iTunes 9.0.1

  3. @Damian: There are a couple of things you can try to see if the default Blues artwork will show up. First, try right-clicking/Ctrl-clicking on the Blues genre and selecting “Clear Default Grid Artwork”.

    Check the genres.plist file to make sure it’s there and it has valid data in it. I’m not saying you will be able to say for certain that all the data is correct here, just check the Blues entry and see that there is a JPG associated with it and that the JPG exists.

    You can always re-download iTunes as a way to “reset” everything. You won’t loose your music or any other data. It will just make sure that the App and all its data is correct.

    For a quicker turnaround, you can always email me at: demb-wp@metzener.com

  4. hi, im kinda a visual learning type person…can u please publish a video to see how your doing it for windows?

    • I’m sorry, but I have only really made the modifications for the Macintosh. I make assumptions that Windows is fairly similar to the Mac when it comes to these adjustments.

      I don’t really have the time to do a video of the mods, even for the Mac. There may be someone else out on the Internet that has accomplished the same thing for Windows that might even have videos. I really just posted what I did because I thought others would be interested. I didn’t expect there to be such a massive amount of interest as I have seen here on the site since I posted those articles.

      Sorry, and good luck.

  5. in notepad++, what file extension did you save the genre plist to? when i try to save the file, it says that theres a copy open and therefore wont let me save.

    • Do you have iTunes open when trying to save the file? Its possible that iTunes has the file open. One way or another, you should be saving the file out to the same name as it was to begin with. Hopefully, it’s just iTunes holding on to the file that is causing your error.

      If not, you could try saving the file with a different name or extension, then rename the existing genre plist file to something else, and rename your updated file to the name the old one was. That might get you around any issues with saving getting you an open file error. You will probably need to reboot your computer after that to make sure what ever was holding on to the old genre plist file uses the newly saved and renamed genre plist file.

      Good luck!

  6. Hey! Awesome tutorial; can’t wait to apply some changes to my library…

    Strangely, my “default” genre icons work fine but when I edit (with NotePad++) my genre plist, it seems empty!

    All that’s in there is the following:

    entries

    ————

    I tried adding the line of code you gave as an example but it doesn’t work.

    Yes I’m running a PC :(

    Any thoughts?

    Thanks ahead of time!

    • Oops! My code didn’t copy/paste so well….
      Ok, let’s try this edited version:

      xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?
      !DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC “-//Apple Computer//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN” “http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd”
      plist version=”1.0″
      dict
      key>entries
      array
      dict
      plist

      Thanks!

    • I’m afraid that I can’t offer any insight on your situation. It’s possible that there is another genres.plist file somewhere that does contain data. It’s also possible that the Windows version of iTunes has an internal copy of the genres.plist file that it uses if it can’t find an entry in the external file.

      My only suggestion would be to search your HardDrive for copies of ‘genres.plist’. If you find more than one copy, try to determine which copy is actually being used by iTunes.

      To be honest, I haven’t messed with this technique for quite some time now. Each time Apple updates iTunes, the ‘genres.plist’ file gets restored to Apple’s defaults and I’m sick of restoring my entries into that file.

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  8. Dave,

    Great tutorial, but here’s an interesting follow-up challenge. Is there a way to push the new genre art to an iPad? The fix above fixed iTunes on my PC but synching to the iPad didn’t bring the new art to the iPad. Any thoughts on that?

    • My guess on the iPad iPod app is that the Genre artwork is stored in the app itself and not sync’ed with the album art in your iTunes collection. Since the iTunes Genre art is also considered part of the application and not something that users are supposed to adjust.

      It might be possible, by jailbreaking your iPad, to change and add Genre art to the iPod app on the iPad. However, since the iPod app is not sync’ed to the iPad but is part of the OS, modifying the iPod app on a stock iPad is pretty much impossible.

      Interesting question though. I haven’t thought of Genre art for quite some time. I have all but given up changing iTunes’ Genre art since every iTunes update, those changes are lost and have to be made again.

      • As an aside, you can change things back after an update very quickly. Keep a copy of the new genres.plist and the graphics files in a directory on your own account, and after an update, open a terminal, cd to that directory and do a

        sudo cp *.jpg genres.plist /Applications/iTunes.app/Contents/Resources/

        with the usual caveats about using sudo responsibly (ie, do this, only, and then close the terminal so you don’t accidentally screw up your system).

        Another note about the syntax in the plist file. iTunes seems to use a wildcard system so that a string like “classic” will match any genre that starts with classic.

        If you have, say, genres called “Classical” and “Classical Jazz” then you need to put Classical Jazz entry after the Classical one, otherwise they’ll both have the icon for Classical.

  9. @JEnnifer, First I want to say that assuming that Apple will never change the way they store and display Genre Art is dangerous. If a reader is going to use the “cp” command to copy files into the iTunes application, they should make sure that the destination path is the correct place to store the images and genres.plist files. Otherwise, who knows what the result will be.

    Also, that’s a great insight into the syntax of the genres.plist file. That may very well explain why I was having problems getting new genre art to show up.

  10. Hello,

    I tend to think it is a ‘bug’ since ‘user crated genres names’ are pushed to the iPad and not their associated artwork.
    For example if I create genre ‘IOANIS’, I do see it on my iPad but not the default artwork associated or the one I have added by manipulating the ‘genres.plist’
    What do u think ?

    THANKS
    Ioanis

    • I don’t think it’s a bug that genre art that is not created by Apple is not kept after updates to iTunes and not sent to the iPad. Apple has control over it’s software and doesn’t want anyone else mucking with it. Just like they don’t like “jailbreakers” messing with their iPhone’s and iPads. They won’t support custom genre’s in the new iCloud service that they announced as well. At least I suspect that there will be no way to customize that artwork.

      It’s one of the reasons I have given up on custom genre artwork for iTunes. Maybe someday, they will allow custom artwork for genre’s.

  11. Hey,
    I did everything you said in the tutorial (in Windows though) and Notepad ++ doesn’t allow me to overwrite the file…when I try to save it, message pops up: ”Save failed – Please check whether if this file is opened in another program.” Of course – iTunes is closed and I even checked task manager processes to see if any other program is opened – I closed everything and it still isnt working.

    Thanks for the answer!

    • Hmmm. This is confusing. It’s been quite a while since I messed with the Windows version of iTunes, about 2 years now. However…

      I just went into my Windows 7 computer, installed iTunes (it wasn’t installed yet), loaded up the ‘genres.plist’ file and changed an entry for this test, and was easily able to save the file back.

      Looking at the properties of the ‘genres.plist’ file, I see I am allowed to: Modify, Read & execute, Read, and Write to the file. That was the “Everyone” group. My “Group or user names:” list shows: Everyone, SYSTEM, Administrators (Dave-PC\Administrators), and Users (Dave-PC\Users). The only user that doesn’t have write access was the Users (Dave-PC\Users).

      I can only guess that you don’t have Administrator access to your computer? If you do, then I am at a complete loss for why you are not allowed to save to that file. It’s really just a text file with a different extension.

      Also, the genres.plist file is loaded by iTunes, but it isn’t kept open. The only time it’s opened is during launch. I was able to write to the file even though I was running iTunes. I suggest making sure iTunes isn’t running in case iTunes writes to the file when it is quit. You wouldn’t want an hours worth of work editing the file to be lost because iTunes writes to the file later.

      Of course, I am making the assumption that you are running Windows 7 or Vista.

  12. In yout tutorial you indicate that you can NOT change the word ‘blues’. So I leave the top line alone (from the 2 lines I copied) and change the name of the genre.jpg file only and then save? I did this and the artwork does not show up. Please help

    john

    • What you do depends heavily on what you are wanting to do.

      If you are wanting to change the artwork of existing genre’s in the genres.plist file, you don’t change the “matchString” string, you only change the “resourceFile” string.

      If you are adding a new genre to the list, meaning that the artwork in iTunes is either using the cover of an album for the genre or using the same artwork that was used in a different genre, you will want to change both the matchString and resourceFile strings, after copying the enter entry (<dict> to </dict>).

      I just went through the steps myself adding a new genre called “podcast”. I copied an existing genre (folk) by using these lines of text:

      <dict>
      	<key>matchString</key><string>folk</string>
      	<key>resourceFile</key><string>genre-folk.jpg</string>
      </dict>
      

      I then changed “folk” to podcast and “genre-folk.jpg” to genre-podcast.jpg (after pulling an image from that Flickr group mentioned in the post. So now the newly copied text looks like this:

      <dict>
      	<key>matchString</key><string>folk</string>
      	<key>resourceFile</key><string>genre-folk.jpg</string>
      </dict>
      <dict>
      	<key>matchString</key><string>podcast</string>
      	<key>resourceFile</key><string>genre-podcast.jpg</string>
      </dict>
      

      Hopefully that helps you. If not, let me know and I’ll see what I can do to help.


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