How I Use Smart Playlists to Manage My iTunes Library

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Computing, Music

I have a fair amount of music in my library, and because I’m a massive nerd I like to keep it in some sort of order. (My pre-iTunes library has some 20,000 tracks, half of which are utter garbage. I’m slowly moving over the good stuff.)

All of my tracks are managed in my iTunes library, but I don’t really want to sync everything to my phone; here’s where the smart playlists come in. I sync the following main playlists to my phone:

  • Rated
  • Recently Added

“Rated” contains all tracks with a rating of any sort (1–5 stars). “Recently Added” contains any tracks that were added in the last 3 months. Basically, the idea is that I want tracks to disappear off my phone if they’ve been on there for 3 months or more and I haven’t rated them. (A rating of 1 star isn’t a bad thing in my case — anything with a star is considered good.)

To help keep an eye on things, I also have a playlist called “One Month To Go”, which contains all unrated tracks that were added between 2 and 3 months ago. This list is an indication of tracks which will disappear off the phone soon, so I’d better rate them if I want them to stay.

I used to handle the phone tracks slightly differently, with a manual playlist called “iPhone”. This is still synced to my phone, mainly because I probably still have a load of unrated tracks that I want to stay on there. To help me clear out this manual list, I have a couple of helper playlists — one called “Not On iPhone”, which lists all tracks not on the two main playlists, and another entitled “Manually Added”, which contains all tracks in both the “Not On iPhone” and “iPhone” playlists. This way I can see all the tracks that would disappear from my phone if I were to remove the old manual playlist. (This playlist currently has about 650 tracks on it, and once it’s empty I can delete the helpers.)

That handles the syncing between devices; I then have a number of other playlists which I use to tidy up the ID3 data for newly added tracks. First, I have an “Added Today” playlist, which is where I look immediately after I’ve imported anything. With a combination of AppleScripts tidying up the formatting (capitalisation, punctuation etc.), I can quickly sort out the new files. I then look at another smart playlist called “Problem Data”, which shows any tracks with missing or malformed tags. It all leads to a wonderfully tidy library with no manual syncing required!

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