MP3s are everywhere and back in 2014 I finally had a phone with enough storage to store a decent amount of them. I use MediaMonkey to add high resolution album covers and to rename the files in a predictable format: Artist - Album - # - Title. The only thing I was missing was a simple way of creating a M3U playlist: PowerShell to the rescue!

Generate M3U function

Let’s create a function that takes a directory and generates an M3U playlist file:

function GenerateM3U {
        [System.IO.DirectoryInfo] $directory,
        [string] $playlistFileName = "",
        [string] $pattern = "*.mp3"

    # make sure we add m3u as an extension
    if ( "$playlistFileName" -eq "" ) {
        $playlistFileName = $directory.Name + ".m3u"
    elseif ( ! $playlistFileName.EndsWith("m3u") ) {
        $playlistFileName = "$playlistFileName.m3u"

    # store relative paths in the same directory
    if ( ! [System.IO.Path]::IsPathRooted($playlistFileName) ) {
        $playlistFileName = Join-Path -Path $directory -ChildPath $playlistFileName

    # remove old file
    if ( Test-Path $playlistFileName -PathType Leaf ) {
        Remove-Item $playlistFileName

    # only read mp3 files
    if ( ! $pattern.EndsWith(".mp3") ) {
        $pattern = "$pattern*.mp3"

    # write m3u
    $directory.GetFiles($pattern) |
        ForEach-Object { $_.Name } | 
        Sort-Object |
        Out-File -Encoding UTF8 -FilePath $playlistFileName

Now we can call the function in a few different ways to create an M3u playlist:

# generate based on a directory:
GenerateM3U "./Gavin James - For You"

# generate named m3u:
GenerateM3U "./Gavin James - For You" "kees.m3u"

# generate named m3u of certain mp3 files:
GenerateM3U "./Gavin James - For You" "kees2.m3u" "Gavin*.mp3"

# generate m3u in a different directory:
GenerateM3U "./Gavin James - For You" "c:\temp\" "Gavin*.mp3"

Caveat: Out-File encoding

While working on this code I initially omitted the encoding. This led to an MRL exception in VLC:

VLC player showing an MRL exception for an M3U playlist with the wrong encoding.
VLC initially did not like the file we generated.

When inspecting the file in an online HEX editor, we see some weird characters:

Screenshot of the HEX editor showing the M3U file that was written WITHOUT the endoding.
The HEX editor shows which characters are actually used in the M3U file.

This is a UTF-16, little endian, byte order mark — which is not interpreted correctly by the VLC player. That is why we need to add -Encoding utf8 to the Out-File statement. This will add an EF BB EF to the beginning of the file, which means the file is UTF-8 and something VLC understands.

Final thoughts

Because of the default PowerShell Out-File encoding, generation of an M3U playlist is less straightforward as I thought. A HEX editor is a great way of debugging these encoding problems.


2020-08-06: Rewrote the article. Created a simple function instead of a script. Added an analysis of the encoding problem VLC was facing.