Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Ultimate iTunes Smart Playlist

Warning: This is a long long post and chances are you won't get a lot out of it, but I created it anyway since it's something I put some time into and I felt it should be documented.

Okay, so I use iTunes and my iPods (yes, plural) a lot. Seriously. Think about how much you think I might use my iDevices. You got it? Okay, now add a lot more to that. That's how much I use them. This post is meant to show that my time has not been for naught. I have created quite a few "smart playlists". If you don't know what smart playlists are, click here to learn. And I have combined a bunch of these playlists into what I call my masterlist. I'll explain my masterlist here.

Before I begin explaining the masterlist, let me say this. Yes, I know about party shuffle. It doesn't work as I would like it to. Hence I created the masterlist.

In general, I set up my masterlist to do the following:
  • Listen to a wide variety of songs - I want to treat my entire music library as one entity. I want all my songs that are 2 stars or better to get their shot at being played.
  • Keep things moving - if a song gets played or gets skipped, move it to the back of the line.
  • Always be exploring new music - put a special emphasis on listening to new songs (songs added in the last 6 months).
  • Listen to better songs more often - it makes sense that you'll want to listen to a 4 star song more often than a 2 star song. That masterlist should help with that.
My masterlist is based on these factors
  • song ratings - I set all my songs to 2 stars by default (as soon as they're added to my library) and then I adjust my ratings as I listen. My ratings system is as follows:
    • 1 star - not worth listening to ... basically ever. Each playlist is the masterlist will be set to cut out 1 star songs.
    • 2 stars - if this song comes on randomly, there's maybe a 50/50 chance you'll skip it. The song's listenable, but only under the right circumstances.
    • 3 stars - this is a good song. If this song comes on randomly, most likely you'll be pretty stoked.
    • 4 stars - this is a great song. If this song comes on randomly, it's extremely rare that you'd skip it. You are really into this song.
    • 5 stars - this song is unskippable. You'd be okay with hearing this song once a day for the rest of your life.
  • date last played - the last time a song was played
  • date added - date when this song was added to your iTunes library
  • play count - how many times a song has been played
  • date last skipped - last time you skipped this song. iTunes recently started keeping track of skip counts. If you fast-forward a song in the first 20 seconds of listening to it, that counts as a skip.
Soooooooo let's get onto the masterlist. It's an amalgamation of a bunch of other playlists. Click here to take a ganders at a screen shot. The playlists are:
  • (:O:) - this is my go-to playlist (the name (:O:) is meant to look like a head with headphones on). It's got all the songs that I would like to listen to during a workout or on the drive home. It's made up of a 3 other playlists:
    • (:O:) - this is a "dumb" playlist where I just pick songs I want to listen to a lot.
    • Hot List - songs that are 3 stars or better, have a playcount greater than 5, have been listened to in the last 10 days, haven't been skipped recently and are ordered based on what was added to the library most recently.
    • R. Adds 3+ 0-6 Mos. - songs that have been added in the last 6 months that are 3 stars or better.
  • Hot? - songs are the 2 stars, have been played more than 5 times and are chosen based on being added to the library recently. Maybe some of these songs should be 3 stars, eh?
  • LOP 2+ - songs that are 2 stars or better chosen based on being least often played (hence the LOP). I also make sure that these are old songs (not added in the last six months) and make sure that these songs haven't been skipped recently.
    • Note: I put the "haven't been skipped recently" check in lots of these playlists. This is meant to keep these playlists fresh. I don't want a song stuck in "LOP" for years if I'm skipping it each time it comes on.
  • LOP 3+ - similar mindset to LOP 2+.
  • LOP 4+ - same story.
  • LRP 2+ >6 mos. - songs that are 2 stars or better, are more than 6 months old and are chosen according to least recently played (LRP). I put in the "older than 6 months" thing because there are other playlists dedicated to songs less than 6 months old.
  • LRP 2+ PC>0 - songs that are 2 stars or better, have been played at least once (PC>0) chosen according to LRP. I make this PC>0 playlist so I know these 2 star songs have proven themselves.
  • LRP 2+ PC>5 - this is basically like the 2.5 star playlist. They're 2 star songs, but they're better than most 2 star songs as evidenced by the fact that they've been played 5 times.
  • LRP 3+ - you get the idea
  • LRP 3+ PC>19 - the "3.5 star" playlist
  • LRP 4+
  • MOP No Skippy - songs I listen to the most (MOP = most often played) that also haven't been skipped in the last 1 month.
  • NBP Not New 2+ - songs that are older than 6 months (hence the "not new") where the playcount equals 0 (NBP = never been played). Give these songs a chance.
  • R. Adds 2+ LRP 0-6 Mos. - songs added in the last six months that are 2 stars or better chosen by LRP.
  • R. Adds 2+ LRP 6-12 Mos. - songs that are older than 6 months, younger than 12 months.
  • R. Adds MOP 0-6 Mos. LRP - the new songs that have been played the most often.
  • R. Adds 2+ PC>0 LRP - new songs that have proven themselves by getting at least one play chosen by LRP.
  • No Skippy MRP 100 - 100 songs that have been played in the last week, have not been skipped in the last week, chosen by most recently played (MRP).
  • No Skippy MRA 100 - same as above, except chosen by most recently added (MRA)
So there you have it. Those are all the seed lists. You set up the masterlist to choose 1000 (or 100 or 10, whatever) songs in those seed lists. You can play that list. Or you can do what I do. Create a smaller playlist that pulls from the big masterlist. Click here to see mine. It also checks to make sure I'm not listening to songs that have been played or skipped in the last week.

Finally a note on the seed lists.
  • You can adjust the size of each seed list to "set the mood" of your masterlist. If you want to hear more 4 star songs, increase the size of your 4+ playlists. Then those songs will take up a higher percentage of the masterlist and you'll hear 4 star tunes more often.
This list allows me to listen to all 8,000 of my 2 star+ songs without really thinking about it. I like it.


Andrew said...

Bravo on the Smart Playlists mate! I've been creating my own for about 3 years now, but its always great to see other peoples ideas.

Anonymous said...

Came across your playlist recipe a few months back and finally got around to setting things up. Great idea and organization.

I didn't get quite as granular as you did with the star ratings since I don't always rate everything. I also have an AddedInLastWeek that always loads, but you really got me going on organizing my playlist. Thanks!