How To Get Lyrics For iTunes Songs Quickly and Easily

IMPORTANT UPDATE: (1/14/2012) I’m afraid I have some really bad news here. The program MassiveLyrics which I have been promoting as a great way to grab lyrics for iTunes has finally stopped working. It’s not the program’s fault. Gracenote has forced sites that MassiveLyrics and others use to change the way lyrics are displayed on their sites. They are requiring JavaScript. Looking at a sample lyrics page and viewing the page source for that page shows the problem. All the lyrics are sent to the browser as &#nnn; notation. From what I can tell by looking at the base code that MassiveLyrics used (MassiveLyrics.rb), the script looked for text in the clear, not that weird ampersand notation.

This probably means that other programs that would pull lyrics won’t work anymore either.

Fortunately, I did find a “good news” situation here. There is an article on the site Cult of Mac! Automatically Add Lyrics To All Songs In Your iTunes Library [How To] describes how to grab lyrics with little effort. You just have to wait much longer for them to come down. The gist of the article is to use an AppleScript that will play songs in a playlist for about 10 seconds. When you are running a Dashboard widget that gets lyrics from a couple of sites serving them up, this widget will save the lyrics to the iTunes song playing (hence the need to play the song for about 10 seconds).

This process can take a really long time compared to MassiveLyrics, but at least this one works for now. :)

I have looked long and hard for a way to get lyrics into my music files. I have about 8 programs that attempt to insert lyrics into songs, mostly while the songs are playing. I have even looked at a couple of iPhone/iPod touch apps that display lyrics. Unfortunately, they don’t store the discovered lyrics into the music because AppStore applications are not allowed to store data outside their little sandbox. I felt like I was never going to find a “fast and easy” way to add lyrics to my music, until I found the Mac program “Get Lyrical“.

The Unoffical Apple Weblog had a post about getting lyrics using a program and AppleScript combo that doesn’t sound like a bad idea, but its very slow. They suggest using an AppleScript program that plays the first 10 seconds of a song along with GimmeSomeTunes to find and insert lyrics. With my collection of music, it would take just under 2 DAYS to get all the lyrics it could. My method only took about 30 minutes.

UPDATE (8/28/11):Looks like the link to MassiveLyrics to download it doesn’t work anymore. I have just sent an email to the developer hoping that he has an alternative link. If not, I’ll have to find another app that works as well to suggest for folks. MassiveLyrics is a great app, but if the developer doesn’t let folks download it, I guess that’s his right. I’ll let you know what I find out.

UPDATE (10/02/10): MassiveLyrics is a program, similar to GetLyrical, that retrieves lyrics from LyricsWiki. Its got a great UI, even better than GetLyrical’s, and works exceptionally fast. The developer posted a note in the comments here to let me know about it. I downloaded it and checked it out. It is way better than GetLyrical in the speed department. Otherwise, its workflow is pretty much the same as GetLyricals. You simply select the songs you want to add lyrics to, then click the Get button. It then starts looking up the songs about 5-6 at a time. GetLyrical only does one at a time, so that’s probably the biggest reason for the difference in speed.

A big thanks to the developer Dade for letting us know about his great application!

Get Lyrical is a free (donation-ware) application that one thing and does it very well. It gets lyrics for songs in iTunes and adds them to the songs ID3 tags.

The UI is very clean and simple. A button to add lyrics to a selection of tracks in iTunes, a button to add lyrics the currently playing track, and a button to add lyrics to songs as they play. There are two “quick look” buttons that open up a HUD type window to show you the lyrics found for a particular track.

The best feature of Get Lyrical is the Tag Selection button. I selected all 16,000+ tracks in iTunes and clicked the button. It told me how many tracks it had found, and started processing. About 30 minutes later, it showed me how many tracks it had found lyrics for. That was it, over 10,000 tracks in iTunes with lyrics added with very little effort at all.

You can use the “Active Tagging” feature to work like other programs out there. However, I found it very frustrating to have the song you are playing pause for a second or two so that the lyrics can be inserted into the ID3 tags. Other programs also seem to “lockup” iTunes while it’s searching for the lyrics as well as inserting the found lyrics into the tags. I really hated this. If I was using iTunes to look at something in the AppStore, I found I had to wait for the other lyrics program to finish its search before I could do what I wanted to do. I just don’t find this method the best way to get lyrics.

This program doesn’t get album art or do anything other than get lyrics for iTunes music. However, it does this exceptionally well. If you want lyrics in your music so that you can see them when playing the songs on your iPhone/iPod touch or iPod, this is the program to get the job done and get it done quickly.

Update (8/8/2009): It looks like the RIAA is putting the hammer down on sites like LyricWiki that give Get Lyrics the ability to download lyrics easily. Check out the new post I wrote about this news.