Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tesla iTunes Playlist Solution & Free Download

October 2016 Update: Tesla updated their operating system to 8.0 in late September, 2016, and in doing so delivered a complete overhaul of their USB Music system. There are many, many improvements and refinements they added, but this still have NOT addressed the lack of a Playlist solution. 

To add insult to injury, the 8.0 solution knocked-out my free solution, as seen below. In other words, it no longer works. The reason it no longer works is prior to 8.0 Tesla used the Filename to determine alphabetical name order, which was retarded. They fixed this and now use the file metadata for the actual song name.

That being said, I am working on a new solution, which I think will work well.

On a positive note, here is a list of thing Tesla improved:

1. Album Artwork is now shown from the actual MP3 files!!!!
2. The UI on the dashboard now shows: Song Name, Album Name, Artist Name, as well as the name of the USB drive!!!!

In the future I will likely write a review of the new USB music UI. 


Until today there has been no user-friendly way to export an iTunes playlist so it can play in a Tesla Model S or Model X using the USB option. Today, that changes, and best of all, it's completely FREE!!!

Tesla iTunes Playlist Solution

The Tesla Model S and Model X are, in my opinion as close to perfection as you can get in a car today. When I first bought my P85D, I was in absolute awe, and I TRIED, on a regular basis to play music from my iPhone, which turned out to be an extremely unpleasant pain-in-the-ass. Why? It was horrible because Tesla does NOT have the ability to remember where via Bluetooth were you were in a playlist, so I would have to constantly navigate back to where I was in a playlist. Also, having a great music collection on my 128GB iPhone took up way too much room, and I was constantly running out of memory from shooting photos and video on my iPhone.

I am a music fanatic of the highest order, in the sense I listen to music a lot. Over the last decade I have created hundreds of playlist in iTunes, which I have invested thousands of hours building. I simply wanted to transfer them to my Tesla. Sounds simple enough, doesn't it?

I realized the Tesla Model S had the ability to play music from a USB drive, so I tried it out and it was an even worse nightmare.  Basically, there is no way to move playlists from iTunes onto a USB drive where they can be played in the Tesla. I look at this oversight by Tesla engineers as a HUGE BLUNDER!!!!?! 

I searched the internet for a meaningful solution and came up empty-handed, so I put together an Automator Script for Mac that works PERFECTLY for achieving the goal of successfully transferring playlists from iTunes to the Tesla. This solution is not perfectly elegant, but it definitely does a superb job. 

The screen shots below shows how the solution works. This first screen shot shows a Beach Boys playlist I want to transfer to the Tesla, and make certain I maintain the play order. If I drag and drop the files onto a USB drive, without using the Automator script, the Tesla will automatically play them in alphabetical order, this destroying my playlist playback order presence.
Basically the Automator Script allows you to select the songs in a playlist you want to export (as seen above), and create a folder with all the selected songs in the exact same order as on the playlist. The only caveat is each song will have a 4-digit numerical prefix added to the beginning of the song file name that represent the play order of that song as it appeared in iTunes. In other words, as you see in the example below, Surfer Girl by the Beach Boys is in song position 1, then Catch a wave is in position 2, etc. This is achieved because the Apple Automator script amends the file name with the numerical prefix, establishing the play order which originally came from iTunes (as seen above), and is not ready for Tesla.

Note: the Automator script can be used not only for transferring playlists, but also for transferring albums, as well as making a playlist on the fly.


1. Click here to Download Free Apple Automator Script for Mac in Zip File Format named, "Tesla-iTunes- Playlist.Zip" The Zip file will automatically be downloaded to your "Downloads" folder on your Mac, unless you previously changed this default preference. By default, your Mac should automatically unzip the file, and place a folder in your downloads folder named "Tesla-iTunes-Playlist"

Once downloaded you can store and run the script from any folder on your Mac. For the sake of simplicity and the following instructions I recommend moving it to your Desktop to run. You can move the file later to anywhere on your computer.

Note: This Tesla Automator script only works on a Mac running OS X. It does NOT work on a PC running Windows :-(

2. Inside the Finder Folder named, "Tesla-iTunes-Playlist" you will find a file named, "Read Me", that contains simple installation and use instructions. You will also see an automator script file named, "Tesla iTunes Playlist" with a Martian looking dude icon as seen below.

3. Before you click on the automator file named "Tesla iTunes Playlist", go to iTunes, and select a series of tracks. They can be in your library, or in a playlist, but they MUST be downloaded on your Mac! (meaning it won't work with songs that were added to a playlist from Apple Music without purchasing them).

4. When all desired tracks are selected, run the automator script by double-clicking the Automator file named, “Tesla iTunes Playlist”. 

5. The first time you run this script, a folder named "Playlist Output" will be created on your desktop. Each time you run the script, it will "look for" this folder to output the files to.

This means you can rename and move the "Playlist Output" folder when the operation is complete. In doing so, the script will automatically create a new folder on your desktop. If you don't modify name of the folder, it will continue to write to the same folder. Be careful

6. When the script has completed, all tracks will be copied into the newly created desktop folder named "Playlist Output", and will be given a numerical prefix to maintain the order of the tracks when played on your Tesla.

Note: The Secret Sauce here is that the Automator script is outputting a new set of files with updated file names that include the numerical sequence numbers, since the Tesla by default plays song files in a folder in alphabetical order. 

7. To organize and play these tracks on your Tesla, move them into desired folders (per playlist) onto a USB drive. When browsing the drive, your folder titles will let you organize “Playlists”, and the tracks will maintain their playback order!!!

In other words, if you have a playlist on your Mac titled "Favorite Beach Boys Songs", You could create a new folder named "Beach Boys", and move the songs into that file from the folder named "Playlist Output." Next you would move the new folder to your USB drive, and when you plug it into the Tesla, it would show up and look like the screen-shot a the beginning of this story.

NOTE - Each time you run the script, it will output files to the same folder. This means if you run the script a second time without removing the previous files, the new set of files will be added to the folder, which becomes nearly impossible to correct without starting over from the beginning!

I hope you enjoy!!! It took a lot of time and experimenting to achieve this superb solution.


Update July 11, 2016: I am confused about why the Tesla does not display any album artwork for songs played from the USB drive, so I went searching for and found this fascinating thread:

Basically, Tesla left the USB music option half-baked, and in the thread above, a Tesla Model S owner mentioned he was a programer, and that he thought Tesla should "Open Source" the USB User-Interface code so that he and others could basically finish and polish it in their spare time. I think this is a brilliant idea, and I plan to reach out to Tesla to suggest they take this course.

The issues I experience when playing music from the USB drives are:

1. No album artwork is ever displayed!?!! (as seen in the photo below). This is absurd as all my songs have the album artwork embedded in the MP3 file. Tesla should have an option where user can choose if they want album artwork to be displayed from the embedded artwork in the MP3 file or to have it come from CCDB Gracenote. [Yes, I spent zillions of hours perfecting my album artwork, since many services like CCDB Gracenote commonly put up the wrong random artwork. An example of this would be you are listening to The Beach Boys, and the UI is falsely displaying album artwork for Men At Work].

It seriously pisses-me-off that the Tesla UI is so beautiful and when I play music, it ALWAYS shows a blank generic screen for album artwork, which totally defeats the purpose of having a beautiful screen.

2. It only displays the Song Name and USB drive source (as seen in the photo above) and omits the Artist, Album or Playlist names, which I would prefer. In other words, I would prefer if it displayed the Artist Name and Song Name. I don't really need to see "USB 1, or USB 2" on every song as I already know it is playing from that source which I chose.

3. It is a known issue that if you par the car and, in effect, turn it off, music from the USB playlist will keep playing in the background. In other words, if I have playlist playing in the car when I park the car, and lets say I sm on song number 22, when I come back to the car 24 hots later, it will not pickup where it left off, but will randomly be on something like song 188 in a playlist.

4. It will seemingly randomly scan the USB drives for music, and when it does this I can't listen to music until it is done scanning. There should be a manual "Scan USB Drive" feature so this does not happen. Why does it need to randomly scan the drives?

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