How to fix your iTunes artwork
My first thought was that since iTunes now affords the ability to automatically import high-quality album art images, I might as well take advantage of that fact. So I finally jumped through the hoops that Apple makes you jump through (namely, signing up for an iTunes Store account with a valid credit card - no matter, since I don't intend to buy anything), and I was finally able to check the little option to automatically download missing album art. Of course, although this will help me gather up the missing bits, it does nothing to fix the ones that are currently wrong.
No matter, I though, I'll simply use the right-click option (I'm a Windows user - I'm not sure what the Mac equivalent is... something like Command-Shift-CapsLock-Tab Click while patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time - okay, sorry... that was uncalled for) to clear downloaded album art. Feeling proud of myself for thinking of it, I promptly highlighted my entire music collection (might as well fix 'em all at once, right?), and chose Clear Downloaded Artwork from the context menu. Unfortunately, here's what I saw:
Crossing my fingers, I clicked the Clear Downloaded Artwork button, only to find that the vast majority of my album artwork (including the wrong stuff) still existed. Crap. Now what?
I couldn't believe that there would be no way in iTunes to clear embedded album artwork from an MP3 file. It took some digging, but I finally figured it out. Maybe I'm the only person that is interested in this particular feature of iTunes, but it took me a while to find it, so I'm writing it up here in the hopes it helps someone else.
The secret is to choose Get Info from the context menu, rather than Clear Downloaded Artwork. This doesn't seem entirely intuitive, but trust me on this one. Try it with one song, if you like, just to see what I mean, but I promise it also works if you select a bunch of songs. If you select one song, simply click on the Artwork tab (the last one), highlight the image and click the delete button. If you're selecting a group of songs, it will ask if you want to edit information for multiple items (choose yes), then you get a more generic dialog, that looks like this:
Notice the checkmark in the checkbox beside the big Artwork box. I did that for you - you're welcome. So here's the deal, and it's the part I had the hardest time wrapping my head around, but it works. The trick is to check this box, like I just did here. When you click OK, having this checked will remove all associated album artwork from the songs you selected.
Depending on how many songs you had selected, this can take a bit of time, since it's chugging through all of your songs removing the image from the song file. But when you're done, you've got a nice clean set of song files, and iTunes will now dutifully download the appropriate artwork for each file as you play it. Of course, now you can right-click and choose "Get Album Artwork" for the set. In my experience that will work for some of the songs, and it's worth doing... but you'll want to leave the option checked to automatically download missing artwork, just in case it misses some.