The title of this post says it all – I am addicted to iTunes.
I am not ashamed of it and I will happily talk for hours about the hours that I spend on iTunes – either listening to my library, organizing it or just looking at how pretty it is.
I’ll try to describe how I have my iTunes set up which could take a while, I might even have to do my first ever two-part post – so grab a coffee and make sure you are sitting comfortably…
I’ve been using iTunes as my main music player for the last six or seven years and to say it has grown and grown is an understatement.
I’m sure I have iTunes OCD as all my music has to have a specific set criteria of “tags” before it is even allowed to be played. This is fine going forward but when I initially decided to be so anal about my music it was quite a hefty task cleaning up all the “dirty” music – I swear I developed RSITunes with all the typing and mouse clicking I had to do. However, it was worth the pain and anguish!
To give you an idea of the giganticity of my library here is a quick snapshot:
The minimum amount of information fields that I need to have completed for each mp3 file are Name, Artist, Year, Album Artist, Album, Grouping and Genre. Obviously, the artwork needs to be there as I hate seeing a track with the blank iTunes music note as the artwork – indicates laziness :). The grouping field is used for one of my (many) smart playlists so I can distinguish between singles and albums. I also use the composer field to put in “Live acoustic unplugged session” or “cover” so that it can be picked up by the relevant smart playlist. I use the comments field when I need to use a count. These will both become apparent later and below is an example of a completed mp3 file (Polly Scattergood album now available :))
Now that I have all the details I need for a “perfect” mp3 file, well, I say perfect but it is always going to be a work in progress as there’s always things I want to improve. However, assuming we have cleaned up all the files I will now discuss some of my playlists.
I make use of the built-in iTunes features such as Ratings, Date Added and Last Played. I use the Play Count function as well but I have to admit I’m terrible for skipping a song a few seconds before it is finished, therefore iTunes won’t register it as a full play. So, I use the Scrobbler downloaded from Last.Fm (my username is SteveMcP) as this counts a play after about 60% of the song. Last.Fm then produces weekly, monthly and yearly charts for songs, albums and artists based on your listens and I refer back to them quite a lot. There’s also a good app called CloudScrob which will scrobble tracks played on mobile devices.
This leads me on to explaining my first Folder of Playlists.
The first two, Albums and Singles are fairly obvious, they use the smart playlists to search on the “composer” field to find “single” or “album” as explained above.
The Top 40 Albums is a smart playlist that I have 40 criteria each searching for an Album title taken from my Last.Fm Album Chart. I check on this every month or so to see if there are any changes and I update the playlist accordingly.
Even though an album can be in your Top 40 Albums there is always tracks on a particular album that you have not fully listened to yet. So, set up a smart playlist that has the criteria “track is in Top 40 Albums and has playcount less than 1″. This just helps you try to make sure you don’t miss out on any cool tracks on your favourite albums.
The Top 40 Artists works on the same principle as the Top 40 Albums above and uses my Last.Fm Artist Chart.
The Unlistened to Top Artist Tracks works the same as above also.
To find the Top Albums by Top Artists I use a smart playlist that has the criteria “composer field is album, playlist is Top 40 Artists and Album Rating is 5*”
To find the Top Tracks by Top Artist I use a smart playlist that has the criteria “playlist is Top 40 Artists, plays is greater than 10 and rating is 5*
Acoustic & Live is a smart playlist that looks at the grouping information field of the files for “Live acoustic unplugged session” which I would have manually added to any appropriate track.
Collaborations is a smart playlist that looks for “artist contains feat or name contains feat or grouping contains “collaboration” or name contains duet” trying to capture as many collaboration songs as possible in one playlist.
Covers looks at the grouping field again for Cover which I would have manually added to any appropriate track.
Eurovision refers to the Eurovision Song Contest – maybe the less said about that the better 🙂
Every UK Number 1 refers to every number one track in the UK in date order since charts began. I have every track up until last year (I need to update this) and I have put them all in a genre called Pop-Number One so this playlist just has criteria “genre is Pop-Number One”. I took it one step further and have them all showing in date order of when the song was number one in the chart. I managed to do this by using the comment field and entered 0001, 0002 etc so when I add in the comment field to the view and sort by it I have every number one in chronological order. Clever, huh?
Greatest Hits is a smart playlist that has the criteria “album contains greatest, best of, ultimate, collect, platinum, hits, singles, anthology” to capture as many “collection” albums.
Indie Playlist refers to BIRP playlists and this smart playlists has the criteria “album contains indie playlist”.
I have a genre for mash-up songs and Mash-Up is a smart playlist with the criteria “genre is mash-up”.
Mixes is a smart playlist that captures all the different remixes of tracks so it has the criteria “name contains remix or album contains remix or name contains version or name contains edit”.
Now That’s….is a smart playlist to capture all the “Now That’s What I Call Music..” albums as I have every one ever released, the criteria is “album contains now and album contains music”.
Smallville was set up when I was obsesses with Smallville and got to all the tracks from the series and created a smart playlist for them. I might delete this one now….
Soundtrack is a smart playlist that searches on any genre that is soundtrack – be it for movies, musicals or whatever.
Making sure all the mp3 files have the correct year is important for the Decades playlist.
Each smart playlist has the criteria “year is in the range e.g. 1950 to 1959 for the Fifties“. The reason I have 01 as a prefix is so I can set up the correct ordering.
I called the current decade the Tennies as I’m not sure what else to call them ?
There are so many different type of genre and it’s always hard to decide which artist belongs to which without it spiralling out of control. So, I decided to have four main Genres which would then divide into sub genres but all be included in the main genre. My six genres are Classic, Dance, Indie, Pop, R&B and Rock. They then have sub genres such as Rock-Britpop, Rock-Acoustic etc etc. I wanted to keep it simple.
These smart playlists simply search on the main genre and it brings with it all the corresponding sub genres. Simple!
The Just playlists capture all the tracks that I have Just Added by having a smart playlist with the criteria “date added is in the last two weeks” and Just Played with the criteria “last played was in the last 7 days.
These playlists are set up to collate songs that remind me of particular Places or Times. Now, iTunes is good but it can’t read my mind so these playlists have all been manually made by me dragging songs into the appropriate playlist. For example, some of the places I have set up are places I have stayed or worked and the times are things like Christmas, summer, holidays etc. I really like just putting on one of these playlists and I am instantly transported back to the time or place that the song reminds me of.
So far that is only halfway down my playlists so I think it is indeed a good idea to have this post in two parts. In the next part I will cover the playlists – Mobile, Rated, To & To Be, Tracks, Ultimate, With The Word and Wunder Years.
I hope you have found this insight into my iTunes….fetish(?)…. interesting and if you have picked up some good ideas than ever better. I’d really appreciate your feedback and suggestions. If you are a playlist freak like me then share with me, please 🙂