CoverScout helps your Mac find album covers that iTunes can't

CoverScout: Find album covers that iTunes can't!

Years ago I had to shrink my iTunes library down because I'd run out of hard drive space, and one way that I did it was to get rid of all the album art included with my music. Now that space isn't as much of a premium, I'd like to get the album art back. iTunes has a way to do it but it doesn't always work. That's where Equinux's CoverScout comes into play.

Finding lost album art

To be clear, you can recover artwork with iTunes alone. If you select the File menu and choose Library, you'll see a dropdown menu appear that says Get Album Artwork.

Selecting that causes iTunes to go to the iTunes Store and try to match your songs to ones it knows about. But that's all it can do. First of all, it's predicated on the assumption that you have an iTunes account. If you choose not to use the iTunes Store, it won't work. What's more, if you listen to music that isn't in the iTunes Store, or if your music is tagged in such a way that it can't find a match, you won't get any albums.

So what? What's the big deal? Just do a Google image search to find the album covers I need, right? To find out how big a project this might be, I created a Smart Playlist in iTunes to find out how many tracks in my library didn't have artwork.

Needs Album Art Smart Playlist

Turns out that I had thousands of tracks without any artwork. Many of them were stripped in my previous downsizing attempt. Some of them were tagged badly, with inaccurate track or artist names. Some of them were obscure music that iTunes was never going to find on its own.

Enter CoverScout

So I downloaded Equinux's CoverScout, and it's helping me get this project under control. It takes account of all the music in your library that doesn't have any cover album art associated with it, and it searches Google and elsewhere on the Web looking for matches. If it finds them it shows you, then it gives you the option of which one you want to select. Click the Apply button and there it is, all nice and pretty in iTunes.

CoverScout search

Double clicking on the album art lets you refine it; you can adjust levels, bracket it with a frame, straighten it and more. If you have the original album or CD, you can even use your Mac's built in iSight camera to snap a picture of it, if you'd prefer to use that.

CoverScout 3 doesn't always find an exact match, so it's a good idea to have an idea of what you're looking for before you apply an album cover that doesn't match what you have. But if you trust it, you can just select the tracks you'd like to see adorned with artwork and hit command, shift and return; CoverScout will scour the Internet and will automatically apply the best matches it finds.

CoverScout edit window

CoverScout can be customized to search specific web sites including international Amazon stores in Germany, France, the U.K., Canada and Japan; it also supports searches on Google images and Walmart. General web searches yield default results from CDuniverse.com, Discogs.com and Hitparade.ch; you can customize this with additional search sites if you want.

CoverScout doesn't bat 1.000 — no one does. That's partly my fault for really butchering the metadata associated with some of the songs in my collection, and partly because some of what I've acquired is out of print or so obscure that I can't find matches to it online, at least not using easily recognizable criteria.

But CoverScout has saved me a lot of time looking for missing album art, automating the process. To that end, I've gotten my money's worth, and I keep it around with the expectation that I'll need it again at some point.

Peter Cohen

Managing Editor of iMore, Mac and gaming specialist and all-around technologist. Follow him on Twitter @flargh

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Reader comments

CoverScout helps your Mac find album covers that iTunes can't

9 Comments

Interesting, but I never have much of a problem finding cover art.

I'd be super interested if someone would market (and I have no idea why someone already hasn't), a product that would let you edit the iTunes library in general. For instance, most of the media you buy has meta-tags that allow for such things as the "HD" label to show up for movies, the description, the directors and other people involved etc. but all this is off limits to the consumer. I have lots of stuff that I did not acquire from the iTunes store, but is never the less completely legal, yet you cannot integrate it into iTunes or basically put any information into iTunes about it other than the title, and the cover art in many cases.

iTunes is just a database, but it has two layers, the one the user is allowed to edit, and the one that only Apple can edit. It's not locked down by any top secret stuff however and there is no reason why a program couldn't be made that let's the user edit their own iTunes database.

If you are big on media organization download iFlicks 2 from the Mac App Store. It tags and converts/transcodes all media into iTunes .m4a format. Appears awesomely in iTunes. Just as if you had bought it from the iTunes Store. If you want an even better experience, download subtitles and rename the files automatically by using Filebot first. Makes things more hands free. iFlicks converts avi files and transcodes .mp4 or.mkv files. While conversion takes long, transcoding take a few seconds.
If you need any help, feel free to ask.

Sometimes what I noticed wasn't that iTunes couldn't find it per se, but how you title it shows differently in the store. (i.e. Abbey Road (Deluxe Version) vs. Abbey Road (Deluxe Edition)

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That's precisely right, and that's what I mean about different tagging. CoverScout does a good job of fuzzier matching.

Out of curiosity... does this just associate artwork with the music files (a la iTunes) or does it embed it into the music files?

This is probably a dumb question, but is it limited to music, or will it find covers for iTunes movies and TV too?

Sent from the iMore App

I have worked in the software business for most of my career, so I am usually defending software pricing, but for what this does it seems to be significantly overpriced at $27. I could only imagine paying that price if I had a MASSIVE music collection that I needed to clean up.