Converting podcasts to regular tracks in iTunes

I have spent the better part of the morning trying to work out how to convert podcasts to “regular” tracks in iTunes, so they would show up in shuffle, etc. Mostly this was for my collection of Jonathan CoultonThing a Week” episodes, but it would be useful for anything you wanted to move out of your podcast list into the main audio portion of the library. I suppose the reason it took so long to find the solution is I started by searching for it on Google instead of just looking through the iTunes menu options, though as you will see the solution wasn’t immediately obvious even once I had found it.

I knew that iTunes would let me change settings like “Remember playback position” and “Skip when shuffling” from the info dialog (Cmd-I), so I started there. The only setting that even mentioned podcast was the genre, and I already knew that was not what I needed to change. Some of the tracks already had “real” genres and only some were set to “Podcast”.

I also knew there is a separate podcast flag available for queries in Smart Lists and AppleScript, since I used it to create my “Active Queue” podcast playlist with selections of episodes from various podcast series (it’s like creating your own mix tape, but for talk radio). I tried to write a simple AppleScript to change the podcast flag of selected tracks to true. It turns out the flag is a read-only attribute. No amount of searching uncovered any way to change the setting using AppleScript.

The first useful looking suggestions I ran into were to convert the ID3 tag format to an older version, then convert it back. Doing that erased most of the comments and other meta-data associated with the tracks, though, so I didn’t like the results.

Next I found a few forum and blog posts that talked about an ITUNESPODCAST setting in the extended ID3 tags. They all mentioned a Windows program for removing or changing the flag, though. I examined a few of the files with Ned Batchelder’s python module id3reader, but didn’t see anything that looked like “ITUNESPODCAST” in the output.

Going back to Google, I finally found a reference to converting the files to AAC using an option in the Advanced menu. That seemed like overkill, but at this point I was becoming fed up and just wanted to be done with the whole thing. I could always re-encode as MP3, after all. Well, iTunes didn’t have a menu option to “Encode as AAC”. It did have “Convert selection to MP3”, which didn’t make much sense to me. As far as I knew, the tracks were already MP3 files. But lo and behold, selecting that menu option did enable them in the iTunes Music Library. It made copies of all of the tracks as it converted them, so I could even delete the podcast subscription.

So, if you want to add podcast episodes you have already downloaded to your music library and turn off the podcast flag, select the track and choose Advanced->Convert selection to MP3.