A once-great app for iTunes bites the dust

Trying to figure out what led to TuneUp's demise.

UPDATED: Late last year I slapped around TuneUp Media for completely botching the 3.0 release of its excellent TuneUp software, which helped clean up and organize your music library in iTunes, fixing tags, music info, cover art, and more.

At the time, the company was in a meltdown. The 3.0 release was getting the company excoriated on its Facebook page, to the point that it had to release the older 2.4 version without a mandatory update to 3.0.

I decided to see if they've gotten their act together, and sadly, they have not. An update posted February 1 said that as of the previous day, TuneUp Media had ceased operations. The service for cleaning MP3s would be up for a little while longer.

This is a major shame. TuneUp Media was founded in 2007 by Gabriel Adiv, who had the same problem most of us have: a library full of songs titled "Track 01" with no cover art or artist information. iTunes lets you fetch cover art, but you have to have the track's info perfect. If the file names are off by one character, it won't find them.

TuneUp Media racked up a total of $6.3 million in three rounds of funding. Its software was sold in Best Buy and the Apple Stores and was very well-reviewed. The app itself was a simple interface that used Gracenote's MusicID service (formerly CDDB), the world’s largest database of music-related metadata.

Some people on a few music sites thought the sale of Gracenote was what did in TuneUp, but it was not. On December 23, Gracenote's owner, Sony, sold the service to the Tribune Company for $170 million. This is undoubtedly part of Sony's restructuring, as it pares off distractions and non-core businesses. Don't forget, it spun off its VAIO business, too. I thought that deal might have been the end of TuneUp, but was mistaken. Gracenote informs me that was not the case. Tribune did not cut off TuneUp.

Why would they? It really makes no sense for them to cut off TuneUp. Tribune is a media company. It would want to make the service more widely available and not cut off a top-selling product. And a Gracenote spokesperson says they do plan to grow the service and make it more widely available.

The death blow was the 3.0 release. They released 3.0 in August and the complaints immediately appeared. The company kept popping out point releases, but the software got no better. As the final months of 2013 ticked by, it seemed like there was no fix in sight. TuneUp Media retreated, communicating less and less before finally taking down its home page in advance of shutting down. 

In hindsight, it looked like no one was left who could fix the problem and as it turns out, that was the case. One of the key developers wrote me to say he left after the 2.4 product due to a difference in opinion on the direction of the product, and 3.0 was the bright idea of the people who remained. When it tanked, they couldn't fix it.TuneUp quickly went from a rock star, must-have app to a failure. 

So TuneUp is dead, and that's a shame, because it was a fine product. Sometimes apps get saved, like WinAMP, and sometimes, they go to the boneyard.

(Updated to include the news from the TuneUp developer.)

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