How do you manage your music library?
April 12, 2011 8:47 AM   Subscribe

How do you manage your music library?

I have an 80GB iPod Classic and just recently passed 85 GB of total music files on a PC I share with my wife. I used to just sync everything up, so there was no fuss and no muss. Now that I have more total music than available space, I'm left trying to figure out what to do next.

So, of course, I'm turning to the Green. :) What do people here do to manage their music libraries?

I know it must seem like an obvious question, but for some reason, I'm having a bit of trouble with this. How do you pick and choose which songs to leave on the PC and which ones to leave on the iPod? I'm worried that I'm essentially creating two music libraries, and one will get completely out of whack with the other. Plus, I have to admit I kind of liked the feeling that I was carrying around my entire music library with me. Short of buying a new iPod, that's no longer true.

I use MediaMonkey to manage my music library, but that shouldn't bear any difference. It works more or less the same as iTunes (but is much faster for large amounts of files).

Your help or insight would be greatly appreciated. No flames, please.
posted by zooropa to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
I have several terabytes of music, so I can't possibly carry it all with me. (All purchased.) I keep it all stored on an external hard drive. There are separate folders for Jazz, Rock/Pop, Classical, etc., and within those, each album has its own folder. I think iTunes is better for playing music than for managing it (in large quantities, anyway), so I clean it out periodically and copy albums into it as I go.
posted by cribcage at 8:56 AM on April 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have the a 32Gb iPod touch and just copy on a selection of albums manually every now and then.
posted by mary8nne at 8:58 AM on April 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

I use a playlist for my iPhone (called "iPhone" because I'm creative like that). I just drag any album I want to have with me all the time into the playlist, and that's all that syncs. By creating a playlist, I'm not really creating two libraries. Everything is still on my hard drive (which I consider its permanent home), but I have a subset of it with me. Plus I'll know what should be on the phone, as it's sitting there in the playlist.

I'm finding there are a lot of albums I could get rid of at this point. Pretty much most of the 90s, for example!
posted by clone boulevard at 9:01 AM on April 12, 2011

I use complicated smart playlists. What goes on my iPod must belong to one of those playlists. So, for example, one of those playlists includes songs that have been rated by me, but not with 1 or 2 stars, unless those songs are part of an album that has been rated with 4 stars or more. I also include any song that has at least one play, or was added to the library in the last 3 months, or belongs to a non-smart playlist manually chosen by me.
posted by smorange at 9:01 AM on April 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

I use Subsonic, which lets me stream my entire music collection to my phone from anywhere there's access. Which is convenient, as I've got about 180GB of music. I use MediaMonkey to keep track of it on the hard drive (auto-tag from Amazon to get the tags, auto-rename from tags to sort the files), then Subsonic to get it to my phone.

Of course, that requires having a device with network capability, preferably wireless broadband and not just wifi. But it's worth it.
posted by valkyryn at 9:06 AM on April 12, 2011

I create a handful of smart playlists, that update continuously.
  1. x GB of 'new' music (acquired in last 30 days)
  2. x GB of wife's music (not played in last x days)
  3. x GB of 5-star music
  4. x GB of background music (music rated 3-star or higher, not played in last 30 days)
  5. x GB of 'unheard' music (music played 0 times; not 1-star)
  6. x GB of kids' music
  7. a handful of permanent tunes; permanent playlists that should always be on the iPod
  8. x GB of genre specific music, not played in last 30 days
  9. x MB of 1- and 2-star songs -- songs I (think) I hate!
  10. x MB/GB of 'themed' music (seasonal! if the mood strikes)

I adjust the size of each playlist to create a balanced, listenable mix. This has become stable over time.

This ensures there's a healthy mix of everything and I just shuffle the whole lot. This is a good balance for me between fresh-and-exciting and old-and-familiar. Including genre-specific playlists ensures I can just put on some decent jazz as background music if company comes without worrying that kids music; weird music; hated music pops up in random shuffle.

I find that the music I like sounds extra good when contrasted with music I might not otherwise choose.

Of course, all of this counts on having some basic organization of the music library to begin with.
posted by mazola at 9:08 AM on April 12, 2011 [14 favorites]

Playlists are your friend.

I had the same moment of angst when my 120GB ipod classic stopped being able to sync more than about 3500 songs (I've tried everything--as long as I don't push it too far it operates fine, if I go too far it freezes and has to be restored from the ground up).

I've made a series of playlists that fit under that 3500 song ceiling and are designed to offer interesting slices and dices of the greater collection. Examples: Genre, decade of release, era in my life when I first got the music, band configuration (female solo artists, trios), dead artists, city of artist's origin (Minneapolis, Boston), cover songs, instrumentals, and so on. Making these was fun. Note: iTunes gives you the ability to build playlists automatically based on criteria--like building database queries [on preview, "smart playlists"--I couldn't recall the terminology]. That's how I did my "decade of release" playlists. Oh, I especially enjoy the "songs under 2 minutes" playlist.

When I sync, I periodically uncheck one playlist and choose another or a couple of others (depending on size).

The great side effect to my ipod's capacity problem is that shuffling songs is now a much better experience. There's no chaff on my ipod at all, so every song that comes up is awesome.

Hope this helps. Have fun.
posted by dust of the stars at 9:10 AM on April 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have 450 gig of music and an 8 gig iPod, so I know what you're dealing with. I have a few different playlists, but the three I use most often are:

Recently Added (music added in the last 60 days)
Parking Lot (albums I always want to be able to hear)
Random iPod Mix (about 300 songs at random, with a few artists excluded)

At any given time, I will have all three of these playlists on my iPod. The Random iPod Mix playlist is set up to roll songs off if they've played once in the last 90 days, so every day I get another set of songs so I don't hear the same songs all the time.
posted by pdb at 9:11 AM on April 12, 2011

I have a 90+ GB library and I have a shuffle and an iPhone.

The shuffle gets used when I walk and in the car on road trips. I have an "active songs" list of all my favorite singles. The shuffle list fills up with the least recently played songs on that list (including new singles I've bought and haven't listened to yet".

I used to have a really complicated set of lists that synced to my iPhone when I had a smaller one, but when I upgraded my laptop, I wiped them all out. Now I have an iPhone albums list (basically the same one as pdb's Parking Lot, which is a name I may steal!), a Recently added Albums list (I manage this manually) and gaming-related music, which is all the mixes I've exchanged with the players in my 10-year-old PBEM. This amount of music doesn't fill the iPhone so I have plenty of room for other stuff. I back up my music to Time Machine and/or the cloud.

If I did want to listen to everything, I'd have things set to roll off when I played them so I always had less-recently played albums on my phone. That way I'd know I was listening to everything, which would be the goal of having it all on my iPod/iPhone for me anyway.
posted by immlass at 9:23 AM on April 12, 2011

Same problem here - 16 Gb Ipod with 20 Gb of music. I just found out that you can actually convert to 128 kbps when synching. This means that my entire collection suddenly fits on the ipod, while my notebook holds the higher bitrate versions. For some people this might be blasphemy, but when I'm outside I figured that I hear more traffic noise than compression artefacts. I may switch to smart playlist soon, though.
posted by swordfishtrombones at 10:16 AM on April 12, 2011

I actually enjoyed coming up with playlists - smart and not - to solve this issue. It appealed to the cataloguing geek within.

I have:

50 random songs rated 4 or 5, organized by least recently played
50 most played songs
50 random decent songs (rated 3 or higher), organized by least recently played
500 newest additions to my library
50 newest top rated songs
about a dozen "I must have these with me at all times in case of apocalypse" full albums.
the best of (ie, rated 4 or 5) of various genres and groupings, like "best blues" and "best trumpet" "best sondheim."
a handful of more specific playlists - stax and violent femmes and so on
the 5 latest unheard TAL and the Moth podcasts
and then, just in I get stuck in an elevator over the weekend or something, several genius playlists, which are huge and cover various genres.

There's quite a bit of overlap here, which I assume saves space.
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:49 AM on April 12, 2011

I use MediaMonkey (the paid for version) to build and manage my music library from my PC. All my music is stored on a NAS (Synology 407e in my case) which hangs off of my router and has 4 1TB HDs in RAID5 mode.
I'm ripping and archiving all my music in FLAC (lossless) but I sync up a 2nd location on the same NAS with high bit rate mp3 versions for devices such as my PS3 which can stream from the NAS but can't handle FLAC. When I sync playlists to my iPhone from MediaMonkey I sync with medium bit rate mp3s so I don't run out of space.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:51 AM on April 12, 2011

Oh, forgot to answer the other part of your question: I use MediaMonkey's ability to define arbitrary fields to make my own criteria. To start out I actually use a lot of the genre/style/mood tags for music provided by AllMusic and Discogs (made a little python script that pulls that stuff from a URL I provide and spits out semicolon delimited strings I can put in my custom fields) and then I add in my own tags as well. In addition I've defined my own set of "occasions" to help drive auto DJs when I just need a ton of vaguely related music to play in the back. I cross the "occasions" with my track ratings (usually 3 stars +) and that results in pretty useful play lists I can use to either stream and/or sync mobile devices. Because I try to be diligent with my meta data and ratings I usually only have to massage the resulting playlists very little and remove a few mismatched tracks here and there.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:57 AM on April 12, 2011

1 tb external hard drive

folder : music

subfolders :

for others
from others
not to be classified

you could try using foobar2000 as a media player. takes a bit of time to set up but is very efficient and is very easy to sync with an ipod - simple as click click to delete the songs and same thing to put different ones on
posted by past at 11:05 AM on April 12, 2011

The only reasonable solution I've ever found is to buy a music player that can hold all my music at once at ~192kbps VBR mp3. Luckily, I only have about 350 GiB of music and I don't need FLAC when on the go, so it's doable.

Every time I've tried to carry only a subset of my collection with me, it's been infuriating in several ways.
posted by turkeyphant at 12:33 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you can use smart playlists in itunes to choose random songs that match whatever criteria you pick until your ipod is full. That's what I do.
posted by empath at 2:35 PM on April 12, 2011

I definitely use smart playlists as much as possible. Try the basics - "recently added", "recently played", "top 25 most played", and then you can move onto genre's and other fun topics as noted above. I have an ipod with a smaller amount of storage space, and have a huge collection on my computer library. I find that by using smart playlists, my ipod is always fresh - even if the songs i am listening to may be old!
posted by kmr at 3:37 PM on April 12, 2011

I've got a massive hard drive and a small iPhone. I've got a few playlists, both Smart and Dumb, that I update. In order of preference:

Coming Soon - this is a smart playlist of all the bands that are touring Australia. It helps me decide how to spend my money/get review tickets. i update it manually, but there might be a technological solution

Certain Songs - my 'desert island discs'. Hold Steady, Mountain Goats, Gaslight Anthem. the stuff I NEED to hear. changes maybe once a year

Recently Added - set to two weeks, usually

iPhone - a random mix. I make a Smart Playlist sorted by album. the criteria are Artist Contains '' or Artist Contains ' '. the size changes, but is usually around 7 or 8 gigs.
I don't use the 'automatically fill free space with songs' function because I might need to download apps/save voice recordings/take photos etc

Coming Soon is the most important, since it determines what shows I'm seeing. The rest are to provide a good mix.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:25 PM on April 12, 2011

I don't do anything.

I put about 16GB of music on my 32GB iphone, just scrolling through my ~150GB collection finding things I thought I might want to listen to in the next couple weeks.

When I get something new, or I go "I wish I had ___", I put it on there next chance I get.

When it gets full, I take off stuff I don't think I'll miss. Sometimes I'm right, sometimes I'm wrong.
posted by mendel at 7:33 PM on April 12, 2011

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