Xbox Music + Zune Desktop = Headache

Zune + Xbox MusicI finally upgraded my home system to Windows 8 a few weeks ago, and I’m still working on moving/merging/reinstalling/etc. Yesterday I found myself playing around with the Music app, and I’ve realized this is going to be cumbersome for a while. Why? Because of Zune.

Yes, I own a Zune HD (and love it), and I plan on continuing to use it until either (1) it quits working, (2) Microsoft stops supporting it, or (3) Microsoft releases a new music player. The second option is the one that is most likely to occur someday, but for now at least, Microsoft still supports the Zune software.

Even without the Zune player, however, the Zune software is important to me because of the ten free song credits I receive as part of My Zune Pass subscription. They no longer offer this perk with Xbox Music Pass, but back in the old days, people had not yet warmed to the idea of subscribing to music. They all seemed to really want to own it.  To help coax people to sign-up to a Zune Pass, Microsoft included credits to buy ten songs at no cost each month. I was a fan of subscribing and had a Rhapsody subscription for quite a while, but I dumped it as fast as I could when Zune Pass came along.

I can’t use those credits in the Windows 8 Music app, but Zune Desktop still knows about them and is more than happy to give me songs in exchange for them. I suspect Microsoft is probably going to take these away some day, but for now I make sure I use all ten downloads every month.

If only they would add functionality to the Music app to sync a Zune HD and support Zune DRM. Another option would be to update Zune HD to use Xbox Music DRM, but I know that’s never going to happen.

Anyway…. I was using my monthly credits (to buy Great Big Sea’s “Turn” album), and after it finished downloading in Zune, I flipped over to the Music app to verify that I could see the album there.  It was there, but it said there were 26 songs.  The album only has 13 songs, so something was up. I opened the album and sure enough it listed each track twice. I brought up properties for one of the tracks to see where the file is located. Of course, if you’ve played around with the Music app you’ll know that I shouldn’t have bothered. The file location isn’t listed there. The Zune app on the other hand is very helpful if you check properties including showing you the DRM, when it expires, where the file is located, etc.

So I switched to the Desktop and did a search in Explorer and found there were two files for each song. One under “Music” and another under “Music\Xbox Music\Purchases”. What had happened is when I purchased the album, Zune downloaded the DRM-free files and placed them under “Music” and removed the DRM-protected files from folder “Music\Subscription” where they had been as part of my Zune Pass subscription.  Music then figured out that I had bought the album and also downloaded it, this time to “Music\Xbox Music\Purchases”. So Music sees two copies of the album and, for some reason, can’t figure out that they are the same. And to top if off, it enjoyed downloading it so much it decided to download it four more times.  I now have five copies of every files in that one folder.

This situation wouldn’t have been so bad except had I not changed Zune’s default behavior. It should have been keeping all its music in folders under Zune, same as Xbox Music is doing. I decided that I wanted all my purchased music, regardless of course in one place, the Music folder.  I guess I’m going to need to do some serious house cleaning on my music and keep these two apps from stumbling over each other.

I’ll need to organize folders to be able to define my Music library in Windows 8 separate from how I define it in Zune. I think I’ll put all my ripped music in one folder and everything else in subfolders depending on source, Xbox, Zune, Amazon, etc. next time I get the great idea of changing where apps want to put their files, someone please suggest I reconsider.

But that’s a chore for another day. For now, I think I’ll go listen to my Great Big Sea’s “Turn”… all five copies of it.