Smarten up my iTunes
April 7, 2009 9:07 AM   Subscribe

My iTunes recently crashed and while I managed to save all my music my playlists seem to be gone for good. So I am starting from scratch rebuilding all my smart playlists and I want your help. What are the best uses you have found for Smart playlists? What playlists are your favorites? Specific examples of the criteria you used to create them will be appreciated (ie show your work.)

About 60 percent of my tracks have ratings (I have already built a "Not Rated" playlist to aggregate music that still needs to be rated,) almost all of them have genres assigned, and the rest of my tags are solid so pretty much all fields can be used. I am especially fond of playlists that give me a good rotation of music when I sync the iPhone.

Also if there are any good web resources that cover this topic I would be interested in them as well.
posted by Bango Skank to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
I use Smart Playlists to get specific genres or artists onto my iPod. Because my library is much, much larger than the iPod's capacity, I need to selectively choose what goes on it.

For example, some of my smart playlists are:

Artist=Blackmore's Night
Artist=Blue Man Group
Title (contains) Cowboy Bebop

This will ensure I get all of those artists / albums on my iPod, without needing to manually update a list. If I get a new Blackmore's Night CD, I can rip it, and not need to worry about adding it to the list when I sync my iPod next.
posted by GJSchaller at 9:15 AM on April 7, 2009

I like to nest smart playlists to get something like database queries. Like, I'll have one called "RECENT" that pulls 100 random songs that were added in the past 2 months. And another one (say, "TOP") that pulls 200 random songs with 4 or 5 stars. Then, finally, one called "MIX" that pulls every song on either RECENT or TOP- so I get a 300-song playlist that's 2/3 established hits, 1/3 new stuff.

The one thing that I've had to get used to is periodically clearing out RECENT and TOP, in order to refresh them. I wish iTunes made that more intuitive.
posted by COBRA! at 9:44 AM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Lots of smart playlists suggestions over at
posted by jaimev at 9:44 AM on April 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

I just use one smart playlist that randomly adds checked songs from my library(only a few things unchecked that I specifically don't want to hear on the iPod) that haven't been played in the past 6 weeks, with a maximum size equal to what I'm willing to devote to music on my iPod. I might consider other criteria, but I'm not really big on ratings or meticulous tagging.

I also keep a few regular playlists, mostly albums that I like to listen to as a whole, or music I like to go to sleep to, and rotate those out as my whims dictate.
posted by owtytrof at 9:55 AM on April 7, 2009

I'm in the same boat as GJSchaller, my ipod does not hold nearly the size of my itunes library, so what I do to always make sure I'm rotating through my music is set up smart playlists that roll songs off after a couple listens. I don't have itunes in front of me, but if you set up a smart playlist for whatever other criteria you want, there's a couple ways of doing this:

1. Set "last played" to "is not in last 30 days" (or whatever date range you want)
2. Set "play count" to "is less than 3" (or whatever range you want)

These of course assume that you sync once a day. I don't really have a strong preference for either one; I tend to listen to my ipod on shuffle while I'm at work as opposed to listening to an album straight through, though, so I go with option 1. If you listen to albums all as one, you might want to go with option 2.
posted by pdb at 9:56 AM on April 7, 2009

I've got a "Recent Faves" playlist for songs added in the past 30 days AND rated 3 stars or higher. I've also got an "Unheard Lately," filled with the 100 least recently heard songs rated 1 star or higher.
posted by kidsleepy at 10:42 AM on April 7, 2009

A lot of good suggestions, but I wanted to second the recommendation COBRA! put forth, which is to break up Smart Playlists into chunks that you can assemble in different ways.

Of course, I'm a programmer, so I think that way.
posted by mkultra at 10:45 AM on April 7, 2009

I add a dozen or so new albums to my library every month and generally listen to them all the way through, so my "Recently Played" playlist is kind of unhelpful (as it contains a lot of filler album tracks). To counter this I have a smart playlist called "Recent Jams" that includes any song I've added in the past three months that I've rated three stars or greater.

In terms of web resources, I've found pretty helpful for getting ideas in the past.
posted by cosmic osmo at 10:50 AM on April 7, 2009

Best answer: OOoh - I'm a bit of a smart playlist nerd, so all this may be way too much for most people! My iTunes library is way too big to sync the whole thing, so I tend to use SPs pretty exclusively as follows:

Folder: "Not on iPod"

Smart Playlist: "Source Tracks"
Match: All
Playlist is not "Music Videos" (separate smart playlist)
Playlist is not "Do Not Shuffle" (manual playlist)
Kind does not contain "Video"
Kind does not contain "Movie"
Genre is not "Books & Spoken"
Genre is not "Podcast"
Podcast is false
Rating is not * (tracks with import errors/corruption are flagged to be fixed)
Album Rating is not * (manually set albums with broken tracks)
Match only checked items
Live updating

Sub-folder: "Not On iPod/Groupings"
Sub-folder: "Not On iPod/Groupings/by Album Rating"
5x SPs "Album Rating = 0" through "Album Rating =5" (only criteria is that album rating is relevant number of stars, AND track is in the "Source Tracks" playlist)
1x SP "Favourite Albums" (playlist is "Album Rating = 4" OR "Album Rating = 5")

Sub-folder: "Not On iPod/Groupings/by Track Rating"
Similar 6x SPs as for Album Rating, with the addition of one "Rated" playlist (where track has a rating)

Sub-folders: "Not On iPod/Groupings/by Date Added", "Not On iPod/Groupings/by Last Played" and "Not On iPod/Groupings/by Last Skipped"
3x SPs in each folder with criteria where track was added/played/skipped in each of last 7 days, last 1 month, last 6 months, and one where track NOT added/played/skipped in last 6 months. In all cases, track is also in "Source Tracks" playlist as well as date criteria

Sub-folders: "Not On iPod/Groupings/by Play Count" and "Not On iPod/Groupings/by Skip Count"
4x SPs in each folder with criteria where play/skip count is 0, 1 to 5, 6 to 15, or 16+, and one where play/skip count is greater than zero

I then have a folder "Not On iPod/The Playlists" which contains the main cross-referencing:
"Added in last 6 months but not played" (in the "by Date Added/last 6 months" playlist AND "by Play Count/Play Count=0")
"Favourite Tracks on Favourite Albums" (in the "Favourite Albums" AND "Favourite Tracks" playlists, and I also added criteria for AND NOT in "Skipped in Last Month" AND NOT in "Played in Last Month" to keep it updated and fresh)

I also have others such as "Unplayed tracks on Favourite Albums", "Favourite Tracks that haven't been played for ages", "Played but Unrated tracks", "Favourite Tracks on Underrated Albums", etc.
These are all very easy to do once you've got the core "Grouping" playlists set up, which is a bit of a crucial step because iTunes can easily have multiple criteria to say "is on playlist x, is on playlist y and is not on playlist z" but where the underlying criteria of each of x, y and z would be too complicated in one playlist.

This all sounds horrifically confusing now that I've tried to write it all out here - I'm conscious that I don't want to take up too much space, and the explanation is hampered somewhat by the lack of formatting/indentation/screenprints/whatever. If anyone wants more detail, feel free to mail me!
Not sure if there's an easier way to share my criteria - I've tried to use Doug's Applescript to export the playlist criteria but can't seem to get it to work for everything... perhaps cloning the library and removing the tracks would work, so that the SPs could be re-imported by someone else??

Seconding too, as a lot of the ideas came about after a bit of trial and error from suggestions found on there...
posted by Chunder at 11:43 AM on April 7, 2009 [5 favorites]

Maybe this is obvious to other people, but it took me a long time to figure out that I needed to add a Genre=Podcast because I manually add podcasts to a playlist, and when I would delete them from a playlist, they would still be on my iPod, taking up space. Now I can go to my smart playlist and shift+delete to remove any podcast I want.
posted by joan cusack the second at 11:58 AM on April 7, 2009

Similar to other people with an iPod smaller than the library. My primary list is:
- 4 stars or greater. (so I get my favorite music)
- No played in the last 30 days (To keep the variety up.)

In order to get everything rated correctly I used to have a playlist that was "100 unrated songs". Then when listening to it I could rate songs (One star would get deleted, two stars would get reviewed for bad info, 3,4 and 5 stars were "good","great","fantastic"). After a few weeks in my spare time I had completely cleaned and rated my library. It was really painless and having a clean library is priceless.
posted by Ookseer at 12:05 PM on April 7, 2009

There are clearly many people here more expert at playlists than I am, but wanted to share one the thing I found super useful:

A smart playlist that eliminates all comedy, audiobooks, christmas songs, news clips, opera, etc - basically everything that would be a jarring surprise.
I call this one, with breathtaking originality, "random" - then build all my other playlists off that. ("playlist is Random," then whatever other rules you want to add.) This ensures I won't suddenly get O Holy Night on the subway in June.

(forgive me if this is too basic or obvious. I found it revolutionary.)
posted by CunningLinguist at 1:01 PM on April 7, 2009

I wrote a blog entry about smart playlists.

It does a great job of shuffling in new music as well as some classics. It depends largely on you setting up a decent rating system though.

posted by Darktan at 1:17 PM on April 7, 2009

Best answer: Sorry for the <cough>self-link</cough>, but I also recommend checking out:
posted by GatorDavid at 1:38 PM on April 7, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm rebuilding playlists as well. One Smartlist I created immediately is my "Desert Island" playlist...everything rated 4 stars or higher, which I want on my iPod no matter what else is on there. This is largely made up of whole albums (so relatively easy to apply ratings to) with a some individual tracks I've collected or culled from albums that don't make the "whole album" cut. This list is about 5GB, so leaves a lot of room for other stuff on my 16GB Nano.

I second creating a master playlist of things I don't want to hear ... holiday music in July, as mentioned above. I also go through and mark things I don't want shuffled ... symphonies, soundtracks, concept albums, etc.
posted by lhauser at 2:33 PM on April 7, 2009

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