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Adding custom genres is fairly easy done in two steps. The first step is to add the new artwork image to the appropriate folder, while the second is to setup one iTunes configuration file to recognise the new genre.

All iTunes genre artwork are JPG images named accordingly to the genre it represents. The file used for the genre “Animation” will be name as “genre-animation.jpg”, and so forth. Additionally, all the movie artwork end with the letter “M” and TV Shows with the letter “T”.

Adding Custom Genres to iTunes

Before anything else, you need to be on the right folder. If you’re on a Mac, right-click on the iTunes application icon and select “Show Package Contents” from the menu. Once is open, navigate to the resources folder. All the files you need to change are in this folder.

It’s highly recommended to backup your iTunes resource folder. Just in case!

Step 1 – Add the Custom Artwork Genre to iTunes Resource Folder

Copy the new artwork to iTunes resource folder and you’re done! Keep in mind to save the file in the JPG format and respect iTunes standard sizes. Use 171×256 pixels for movies and 256×256 for everything else. Make sure to give it a name different from any existing genre images.

If you’re not into creating your own custom artwork I recommend the iTunes Flickr Group which contain a selection of great artwork others users have created.

Step 2 – Setup iTunes “genres.plist” Configuration File

The “genres.plist” iTunes configuration file is responsable for automatically attributing genres using certain keywords. Open this file using your most basic text editor on your system. If you’re on a Mac, right-click on the “genres.plist” file and choose “Open with Text Edit”.

This file use the XML markup language. If you’re not used to web language don’t feel taunted by it, you don’t need to understand how it works to edit it. You will notice that most of the file contain the following lines, repeated over and over again.

<dict>
<key>matchString</key><string>animation</string>
<key>resourceFile</key><string>genre-animationM.jpg</string>
<key>kind</key><string>movie</string>
</dict>

This particular code looks out for any “movie” with the genre “animation” and gives it the image “genre-animationM.jpg”. So, if you created a custom genre artwork for New Wave, and called it “genre-newwave.jpg”. Your code should look like this:

<dict>
<key>matchString</key><string>new wave</string>
<key>resourceFile</key><string>genre-newwave.jpg</string>
</dict>

Basically, you just have to edit this piece of code in accord to your own definition and add it after the last </dict> in the file. Remember to also include the line <key>kind</key><string>movie</string> for movie genres.

Finally, save the “genres.plist” file and restart iTunes. If everything is correct, the new custom genre should show up in grid view. If it doesn’t, the most likely problem is typing mistakes in the “genres.plist” configuration file.

Keep in mind that you might lose the new custom artwork with any iTunes update. I recommend you to keep a backup of your new custom genre artwork JPG files and the altered version of “genres.plist” in a separated folder just in case.