The wonder of iTunes

A few weeks ago, I described a little script I’d written, called ipic, for downloading images from the iTunes, App, and Mac App Stores. The example I gave, and the original impetus for writing ipic, was to download the album cover art for David Bowie’s Hunky Dory album. Several people pointed out on Twitter that you can get cover art directly in iTunes by right/control-clicking on a track and choosing Get Album Artwork from the popup menu.

iTunes right-click menu

These tweets were a little annoying. After all, I’d linked to an Apple support page that said exactly that, so I knew the trick. What I really wanted was a tool I could use without opening iTunes, a tool I could use to get artwork for albums and apps and books that I don’t own. I suppose I should have made that explicit in the original post (I did add it to an update).

What I didn’t realize at the time was that I really would come to need ipic to get album artwork for songs in my iTunes library. Because Get Album Artwork doesn’t always work.

I’ve been cleaning up parts of my library, re-ripping songs that I’d added long ago when I thought skimping on the sampling rate was worth the savings in disk space. I had just ripped Aladdin Sane and tried the right-click trick shown above when I got this message:

iTunes artwork error message

Let me be clear. I had just ripped the CD. iTunes recognized it and had inserted the track metadata gleaned from Gracenote. It knew perfectly well which album this was, and it certainly had the album artwork in the iTunes Store. And yet it wouldn’t give it to me, even though I was using the command expressly designed for that purpose.

I’m not the only person who’s had this problem, and I suspect it has something to do with a corrupted cache. Or a database that needs to be rebuilt. Or some other thing that iTunes is supposed to take care of for you but doesn’t because its programmers are too busy figuring out how to make the interface more confusing.

Luckily, I have ipic. After

ipic -a 'aladdin sane'

and a couple of clicks, I had the artwork that iTunes should have installed itself. A demonstration that the iTunes API works better than the iTunes app.