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Grabbing iTMS Preview Tracks the Geek Way

by Erica Sadun

Have you ever tried to copy a preview track from the iTunes Music Store onto your iPod? I'll give you a hint: you can't. iTunes won't add those 30-second free previews of audio and video. Drag those previews onto the iPod playlist all you want. Ain't gonna happen. Unless you think different. In this article, you'll discover how. Here's a twisty, backdoor way of getting the job done by asking the store directly for the preview files from the command line, as if you were the iTunes browser itself.

Why Copy?

So why would you even want to copy a preview file onto your iPod? Here's one reason. There are many great iTunes Music Store tracks under thirty seconds in length. When you listen to the previews for these short tracks, you're essentially listening to the entire track for free. Which is one reason you might want a copy. Some are novel, delightful, or just strange. Others are extremely lame to say the least.

Another reason is that you may want to hear the preview as it sounds on your iPod. Computer playback doesn't offer the same acoustical experience. You may want to take the preview for a real test drive, kicking its aural tires before you plunk down your money. You're not going to get that experience unless you somehow copy the preview.

Finally, you may just be a geek. You may want to copy music or video previews to your iPod just to show that you can. Never overlook the sheer thrill of geek accomplishment, of the "oh, so that's how to do it" satisfaction.

Getting Started

1. The first thing you need to do is to create a playlist for your preview tracks. Add a new playlist, name it, and drag items from the music store onto that playlist. This is different from adding songs to your cart. An Add Song button appears for every track you add in this way. Also remember, you will download the free previews--you are not purchasing the songs or generally downloading the entire track.

figure 1

Fig. 1. Unpurchased tracks appear in your playlist with the Add Song button.

2. After setting up your playlist, Control-click (right-click) the playlist name. A contextual pop-up menu appears, allowing you to Open the playlist in a new window, Export Song List, Burn Playlist to Disc, Copy to Play Order, or Delete the playlist. Choose Export Song List. A Save dialog appears.

figure 2

Fig. 2. Choose Export Song List from the playlist's contextual pop-up menu.

3. This is important. In the Save dialog, make sure to choose Plain Text from the Format pop-up. (Other choices are Unicode and XML.) Specify a name for your listing and save the file to the Desktop.

figure 3

Fig. 3. Save your text in Plain Text format.

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