Help me discover how accurate iTunes Top 25 is and/or how to make it more on point
May 23, 2012 4:38 AM   Subscribe

How accurate is iTunes Top 25 most played and can I make it any moreso?

I'm not going to lie and pretend this is for a science experience, I'm just very curious about my own listening habits and whether or not they are being documented accurately. I assume iTunes takes what is listened to on the iPod into consideration as well? And does the iPod's list take both devices' listening into account (as opposed to simply making a playlist that's a copy of the computer'smost played songs)? If not, this entire thing is fairly irrelevant. If so, how come usually when I sync my iPod, the Top 25 don't change? When DO they change, in other words update to the most current relevant information? Do I have to restart the computer? Is it biweekly? Is it while I sleep :)? If I've been listening to the iPod nonstop for a week, you'd think the numbers would change some and update, right? Or wrong?

The other thing I think is that it might mess with the numbers and make them inaccurate if it only counts the song as "listened to" if you listen all the way through to the next track, as many people, myself included, will skip around to other tracks in the final fading seconds of their current song.

I guess those are my two main issues - are they correct? And if so, is there anything I can do about it to make it more accurate or to make it update itself? I would try my best not to skip any tracks as the last 3 or 4 seconds fade out but I don't want to alter my behavior for the purposes of data collection, even if it does make it more accurate, it feels wrong.

Bonus question: Why do I have one Top 25 Most Played playlist with 25 tracks in it and another one with the same Top 25 but 25 more in addition, so Top 50 but still called Top 25?
posted by jitterbug perfume to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
Yes, pretty sure the play count only increments when you reach the end of a track.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:54 AM on May 23, 2012

iTunes only counts a song as listened to if you reach the end of the trackā€”a behavior that annoys the snot out of me.

Also, you have to sync your iPod automatically (not manually) for the song counts to sync between iPod and iTunes, which I didn't realize until about a month ago, and I've been in the iPod/iTunes universe since basically 2003. This behavior also annoys me.

So: sync automatically, and stop skipping the ends of songs (at least ones ones you like).
posted by General Malaise at 5:18 AM on May 23, 2012

If you want to check what iTunes is doing you can also just show the column for Plays and see what happens to the numbers when you listen to songs/sync your iPod. On a Mac you would hit Command-J and you can see all the available columns; you can also right-click (or control-click) the column headers to see a list, which I assume would work on a PC too.

Why do I have one Top 25 Most Played playlist with 25 tracks in it and another one with the same Top 25 but 25 more in addition, so Top 50 but still called Top 25?

They're just regular old playlists; you could rename one Top Monkeys and iTunes wouldn't care. You can just delete the one you don't want, or right-click (or control-click) it and choose Edit Smart Playlist to change its criteria to something else entirely.
posted by bcwinters at 5:52 AM on May 23, 2012

Newish versions of iTunes will actually increment the play count even if the end of the track is not quite reached. You can test this out pretty easily, start listening to the last part of a track, and then hit fast forward a couple of seconds before the very end.

I'm not sure what exactly iTunes' heuristic is, but I think it might relate to the fraction of the track that's remaining.
posted by vasi at 9:18 AM on May 23, 2012

Are you aware of It tracks all my music listening from my iPhone and my desktop, so what I see is a reasonably accurate representation of everything I choose to listen to. There are even tricks to track which albums you listen to "off the grid" (LPs, CDs, cassettes, what have you).

My profile is linked to my MeFi profile, so you can check it out from my profile page if you're so inclined.
posted by blue t-shirt at 9:34 AM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

blue t-shirt, can you please explain how helps me track things like that? I looked at it and don't understand its use in this circumstance.

And everyone - I experimented and I think if you skip within the last ten seconds of the song, it still counts as listened to.
posted by jitterbug perfume at 3:36 PM on May 25, 2012

Sure, jitterbug perfume. (Just read that book, btw - I think I enjoyed it, but I'm not sure!)

You install a piece of software on your computer that integrates with iTunes and reports everything you listen to back to their central server.

Now, I've had great success with the official app for tracking my listening within iTunes, but I've had issues getting it to consistently track plays on my iPod (which has been decommissioned since the Dr. Pepper incident - RIP little buddy). For that, I used another program called LastPod, which I would run AFTER attaching my iPod, but BEFORE launching iTunes and syncing. (I disabled the automatic launching of iTunes upon connecting my iPod).

There is software to accomplish this for every major modern OS. If the official app works for you, then great - if not, you'll want to look into third party solutions. These third party apps and plugins still integrate with the official server through the open API that makes available.
posted by blue t-shirt at 11:35 AM on May 30, 2012

To clarify, this won't make your Top 25 in iTunes more accurate - it will replace that list entirely with a web-based alternative.
posted by blue t-shirt at 12:22 PM on May 30, 2012

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