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iTunes Top 20 smart playlist strategies Apps

iTunes has one play-tracking limitation that, if fixed, would yield some very cool playlists: the ability to see how many times a song has been played recently. But there's no timestamp saved for each play; it just increments the playcount and records the last playdate.

Nevertheless, it is possible to determine which music is recently popular and find your recently favorite music. I've made some new playlists that I believe improve iTunes' ability to accurately represent my real Top 20.

[robg adds: Read the rest of the article for some interesting playlist options. Curt Siffert originally published this in his weblog. You can find the original in his archives; he submitted it here for republication.]

Right now my Top 20 has the following criteria:

  • Five Stars, AND
  • Last Play is in the last 2 weeks
  • Limit to 20 songs selected by most played
I set it this way so that if there was a song that used to be popular and had a ton of plays, but that I was sick of and had stopped listening to, it would drop off the playlist.

However, I noticed that sometimes when playing randomly from all my five-star music, some of this music that was highly-played but not so well-liked anymore would still get played once in a while - as often as any other - and then jump back into the Top 20.

I realized that I didn't have a way to capture recently popular music, music that I'm currently obsessed with, and give them a chance to get more plays to catch up with the list. I also noticed that I was so intent on not giving the Top 20 a false advantage that I was avoiding playing from the Top 20 playlist, and wasn't giving recently popular Top 20 music a priority in my actual listening rotation.

So here are three new playlists I've devised to help me catch the music I actually love and give recent obsessions a chance to rise to the top.

Favs - Hot

  • Five Stars AND
  • Last Played is in the last 3 days
I usually start this playlist on Shuffle once a day, and I'll skip any song I'm not in the mood to listen to. This playlist includes some of the songs on my Top 20.

Favs - Recycle

  • Five Stars AND
  • Last Played is not in the last 1 week
  • Last Played is in the last 2 weeks
When a song falls off the "Hot" list, it goes MIA for a cooling off period of four days, after which it appears on this list. I'll check this list every few days, more than once a week, and give it a shuffle-play, again skipping the songs I don't want to listen to. Songs that I listen to are therefore immediately promoted back to the "Hot" list. Songs that aren't heard for two weeks then fall off this list as well. Note that if this song is on the Top 20 list, it also falls off the Top 20 at this time.

Favs - Forgotten

  • Five Stars AND
  • Last Played is not in the last 4 weeks
When a song falls off the "Recycle" list, it goes MIA for a longer cooling-off period of two weeks. At that point it reappears on my "Forgotten" list. This list contains all my five-star music that I haven't listened to in the last four weeks. Every once in a while I will give this a shuffle-play and go through the whole thing, skipping the tunes I don't want to hear. After getting through the whole playlist that way, I can look at the tunes that haven't been played in the longest amount of time, and consider demoting them to four stars.

I think this is a great system because now I can use my Top 20 as purely a reference, perhaps to export the playlist, or the occasional playthrough for friends. There is no need for me to listen to my Top 20 directly and risk falsely rewarding songs simply for being on the list. All my recent favorite music is now on my "Hot" list for rapid playcount climbing, and if any fall off before I'm ready, I can just promote them a few days later from the "Recycle" list. Overall, a much better system to find and reflect my current favorite music.

Current Top Five:

  1. Josefin's Waltz by Dervish (At The End Of The Day)
  2. Little Born by Curt Siffert (piano prelude)
  3. Chinese Invade by Phillip Glass (Kundun Soundtrack)
  4. Escape to India by Phillip Glass (Kundun Soundtrack)
  5. Ode To A Butterfly by Nickel Creek (Nickel Creek)

  • Currently 2.67 / 5
  You rated: 2 / 5 (6 votes cast)

iTunes Top 20 smart playlist strategies | 19 comments | Create New Account
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iTunes Top 20 smart playlist strategies
Authored by: Twitch on Mar 12, '03 11:32:16AM

I absolutely love reading these. I'm so addicted to creating hot lists in Itunes it's pathetic. I wish there was a section just dedicated to the art of playlisting ;-)

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Authored by: Hanji on Mar 12, '03 01:39:08PM
I just wish that iTunes let me
  1. Edit smart playlists after creation (If there is a way to do this, someone PLEASE tell me :-p), and
  2. Use real boolean logic, so I could do things like
    • 5 stars AND
    • (Artist is ___ OR
    • Artist is ___ OR
    • Artist is ___ )
  3. And grab my top songs from certain artists...

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Authored by: mosin on Mar 12, '03 02:05:59PM

You can change already created smartplaylists by "alt"-clicking on them.

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Authored by: mervTormel on Mar 12, '03 02:13:35PM

also, get info on a smart playlist will bring it up for editing

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Authored by: dfbills on Mar 13, '03 12:03:45AM

Click on the playlist and hit apple-I to edit.

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Authored by: wtmcgee on Mar 13, '03 06:09:17PM

cmd - I will let you edit your playlists.

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iTunes Top 20 smart playlist strategies
Authored by: seven5 on Mar 12, '03 01:53:12PM

i just wish my music would get rated magically! I have over 450 albums, and have only managed to rate a couple of them. It will take me forever to rate them all.

At first i didn't see the need for it, untill i rated all the albums of one artist. And realized how easy it would be to create a best of album after doing it! man its sweet....

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iTunes Top 20 smart playlist strategies
Authored by: stillm on Mar 12, '03 02:58:23PM

I created a smart playlist called "unrated" which simply showed every song I had that didn't have a rating. Sometimes while I'm working I just put that playlist on and rate the songs as I go. As soon as they are rated, they slip off the playlist, so eventually everything will be rated and the list will be empty.

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iTunes Top 20 smart playlist strategies
Authored by: mahood on Mar 13, '03 07:31:28AM

I did something similar when I was ripping all my CDs...

I created smart playlists for 'No Rating', 'No Year', 'No artist' and so on... Even some quite clever ones to find missing genre info, or compilation albums without the real Artist stored. (I keep them as Artist:Various Artists, but put the real artist int he composer field, to avoid filling the browse window with thousands of artists, each with one song).

I can post a complete list if people want, it means all my tracks are tagged, and if I ever download any I can quickly see what's missing.

It meant that anything missing from the tags could be easily flagged and corrected before I archived the MP3s to CD/DVD.

I also have smartlists for each decade, stuff I've not heard... I love this feature!

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iTunes Top 20 smart playlist strategies
Authored by: tferey on Mar 14, '03 04:38:19AM

Yeah ! Please send you list... Your suggestion was really helpful...Now I have a iTunes library that starts looking good and the Not Rated category list is melting...

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iTunes Top 20 smart playlist strategies
Authored by: arru on Apr 04, '03 05:13:52AM
The "no rating","no genre" etc. is an excellent idea! If you have motivational issues in dealing with your 370 unrated songs I suggest an additional clause to these lists: Ceck limit to 10 (or whatever) songs selected by most played Also uncheck Live updating. This way you can rate only so many songs (the most played would be those in most need of rating?) and be content with that. The next time you launch iTunes a new 10-song list will show up!

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Authored by: englabenny on Mar 12, '03 03:19:56PM

Cool! Made me spend 40 mins working with my music library, but still, there are too many songs to rate..
(btw. I also noticed the added date option. neat.)

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Another "geez, I wish I could make a smartlist that"
Authored by: tcurtin on Mar 12, '03 03:54:35PM
could be based on location or path! I have a huge amount of MP3s (30+ gb - I use some pretty high bitrates to rip) on a PC drive at home. On my ibook, I have a much smaller collection.

I disabled "advanced prefs", "copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library", and then did File:Add to Library on the samba-mounted PC music folder. No problem - now itunes knows about all the music on the PC and on the ibook. When I'm at home, I just mount the PC drive, and I use shuffle to play anything in my library on both computers.

The problem is, how to listen when the ibook can't be connected to the PC? If itunes tries to play a file it can't find, it just stops. For now, I made "all tunes added before" and "all tunes added after" lists for music on the ibook, and on the pc respectively. A smartlist that could select files based on matching paths would be perfect, especially if it could live update.

Any ideas? Perhaps I could cobble something like this together using a script, especially since the library file is just XML. However, no use reinventing the wheel!

What I'd like to do, is keep high-quality copies of all my MP3s on the PC. Then, when I need a change in ibook music, periodically use the tip here to downsample the bitrates of a batch of music from the PC onto my ibook. After then getting rid of unwanted files from the ibook, I'll obviously want the "files on ibook" and "files on pc" playlists updated.

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iTunes Top 20 smart playlist strategies
Authored by: dfbills on Mar 13, '03 12:15:33AM

I wish iTunes would time stamp the song when the rating is changed. That way I use recent changes to build playlists.

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iTunes Top 20 smart playlist strategies
Authored by: Onyx on Mar 13, '03 01:17:51AM

Great! I finally have a reason to rate my MP3s.

I also added:

  • Not Rated
  • Not Played
  • Need to Rate
  • Check Rating
based on rating and play count to help me get 600+ songs rated.

I do all of my listening on the iPod -- it would be nice to set ratings from the iPod.

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iTunes Top 20 smart playlist strategies
Authored by: tunesmith on Mar 13, '03 06:33:14AM
Author of the article here - I also have a great system to motivate myself to rate all my music - basically when my listens pass a certain threshhold, the song disappears from my iPod onto a special iTunes playlist until I rate it. Works really well. I might write that up a bit later, although I have some notes about it over on my weblog if you search for it.


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average rating by album
Authored by: quazi on Mar 13, '03 07:19:08PM

I'd like it to be more SQL-like.

For example, I'd like to select all of my five-star albums. It would look something like this:

select each [album] with [average(rating)] [=] [*****]

But oh well, these are good though!

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iTunes Top 20 smart playlist strategies
Authored by: miles_thatsme on Mar 17, '03 10:02:30AM

I wish ID3 tags could include multiple genres--playlisting would be so much more flexible. No music fits neatly in one genre. Or another scale for "heaviness".

Sometimes I play a particular genre, but usually I choose between heavy and softer, and favourite or new.

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iTunes Top 20 smart playlist strategies
Authored by: arru on Apr 04, '03 05:47:05AM
There is - kind of - a solution to this within the current ID3 system. The tricks are

1. most sub-genres are named (or can be named) in the format , ie. latin pop, power metal
2. you are free to make your own genres
3. the wonderful smart playlist

I, for instance, am kind into dance music and have tons of songs that loosely go into the category "disco". But: these are labeled either "Disco", "Disco house", "Euro disco", "Computer disco" or "80s disco". I can of course select one of these genres individually - but also do this:
Genre ends with "disco" gets all songs in the disco branch, ie. not Disco house, being on the house branch. Genre ends with "house" would similarily get me the house styles "House" and "Disco house". Also, Genre contains "disco" yields all disco styles and the related Disco house.
In the same manner one could have "Jazz rock", "Progressive rock", "Corporate rock" which all merge into the greater "Rock", also select only the Jazz branch of rock together with pure Jazz. The key is genre naming, and using "ends with" (or "begins with" if you dare...) in the playlist rules.
Be creative!

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