Advanced Awesomeness

So you have beets up and running and you’ve started importing your music. There’s a lot more that beets can do now that it has cataloged your collection. Here’s a few features to get you started.

Most of these tips involve plugins and fiddling with beets’ configuration. So use your favorite text editor create a config file before you continue.

Fetch album art, genres, and lyrics

Beets can help you fill in more than just the basic taxonomy metadata that comes from MusicBrainz. Plugins can provide album art, lyrics, and genres from databases around the Web.

If you want beets to get any of this data automatically during the import process, just enable any of the three relevant plugins (see Plugins). For example, put this line in your config file to enable all three:

plugins: fetchart lyrics lastgenre

Each plugin also has a command you can run to fetch data manually. For example, if you want to get lyrics for all the Beatles tracks in your collection, just type beet lyrics beatles after enabling the plugin.

Read more about using each of these plugins:

Customize your file and folder names

Beets uses an extremely flexible template system to name the folders and files that organize your music in your filesystem. Take a look at Path Format Configuration for the basics: use fields like $year and $title to build up a naming scheme. But if you need more flexibility, there are two features you need to know about:

  • Template functions are simple expressions you can use in your path formats to add logic to your names. For example, you can get an artist’s first initial using %upper{%left{$albumartist,1}}.
  • If you need more flexibility, the Inline Plugin lets you write snippets of Python code that generate parts of your filenames. The equivalent code for getting an artist initial with the inline plugin looks like initial: albumartist[0].upper().

If you already have music in your library and want to update their names according to a new scheme, just run the move command to rename everything.

Stream your music to another computer

Sometimes it can be really convenient to store your music on one machine and play it on another. For example, I like to keep my music on a server at home but play it at work (without copying my whole library locally). The Web Plugin makes streaming your music easy—it’s sort of like having your own personal Spotify.

First, enable the web plugin (see Plugins). Run the server by typing beet web and head to http://localhost:8337 in a browser. You can browse your collection with queries and, if your browser supports it, play music using HTML5 audio.

But for a great listening experience, pair beets with the Tomahawk music player. Tomahawk lets you listen to music from many different sources, including a beets server. Just download Tomahawk and open its settings to connect it to beets. A post on the beets blog has a more detailed guide.

Transcode music files for media players

Do you ever find yourself transcoding high-quality rips to a lower-bitrate, lossy format for your phone or music player? Beets can help with that.

You’ll first need to install ffmpeg. Then, enable beets’ Convert Plugin. Set a destination directory in your config file like so:

    dest: ~/converted_music

Then, use the command beet convert QUERY to transcode everything matching the query and drop the resulting files in that directory, named according to your path formats. For example, beet convert long winters will move over everything by the Long Winters for listening on the go.

The plugin has many more dials you can fiddle with to get your conversions how you like them. Check out its documentation.

Store any data you like

The beets database keeps track of a long list of built-in fields, but you’re not limited to just that list. Say, for example, that you like to categorize your music by the setting where it should be played. You can invent a new context attribute to store this. Set the field using the modify command:

beet modify context=party artist:'beastie boys'

By default beets will show you the changes that are about to be applied and ask if you really want to apply them to all, some or none of the items or albums. You can type y for “yes”, n for “no”, or s for “select”. If you choose the latter, the command will prompt you for each individual matching item or album.

Then query your music just as you would with any other field:

beet ls context:mope

You can even use these fields in your filenames (see Path Format Configuration).

And, unlike built-in fields, such fields can be removed:

beet modify context! artist:'beastie boys'

Read more than you ever wanted to know about the flexible attributes feature on the beets blog.

Choose a path style manually for some music

Sometimes, you need to categorize some songs differently in your file system. For example, you might want to group together all the music you don’t really like but keep around to play for friends and family. This is, of course, impossible to determine automatically using metadata from MusicBrainz.

Instead, use a flexible attribute (see above) to store a flag on the music you want to categorize, like so:

beet modify bad=1 christmas

Then, you can query on this field in your path formats to sort this music differently. Put something like this in your configuration file:

    bad:1: Bad/$artist/$title

Used together, flexible attributes and path format conditions let you sort your music by any criteria you can imagine.