How Smart Are Your Playlists?

iTunes features two types of playlists, the first being the standard bucket-like playlist, where you can drag and drop tunes to your heart’s content, and the second, smart playlists which fill with songs based on criteria you choose, whether they be by genre, artist, song length, or any other criteria. With so many options to choose from, the opportunities are seemingly limitless.

Typical examples of smart playlists are things like “80’s rock bands”, where you would select “Genre contains Rock” and “Year is in the range 1980 to 1989″, or “5 Rating” where you would select “My rating is five stars”. But once an iTunes library grows to the several thousands of songs, as some do, especially as computer hard drive capacities and iPod capabilities expand, smart playlists can be an essential part of making sure you get to all your music.

For me, I do have some of the typical smart playlists, tracking music by the year they were created (i.e. 1980s, 1990-95, 1996-2000), but I’ve also tried to make sure I don’t forget about some great music. While the “Party Shuffle” function may randomly catch a track I hadn’t given recent attention to, I can force the issue with a smart playlist I call “The Neglected”.

In “The Neglected”, I feature songs where “Last played is not in the last 6 months”, with Live updating checked. Sometimes, this playlist can fill to the point where I have 12 hours or more to go through before it is empty. But if I make “The Neglected” my starting point, I’m sure not to be repeating songs I heard recently.

Taking things a step further, I also have two iTunes Store-related playlists, one called “Just Off the Rack”, where “Date Added is in the last 30 days” with live updating and another called “Bad ROI”, where “Play Count is less than 5″. It turns out I’m a big music hog, because right now, my “Bad ROI” playlist has 3.2 days worth of music. I get the feeling that no matter how much I listen to iTunes, that this playlist will always have plenty of music.

How do you use your smart playlists? Do you use them to track artists or genres or the year songs were created? Do you, as I do, use them to help manage your iTunes Library and listening habits? For such a versatile feature, I don’t know that smart playlists get a ton of attention, and just maybe they should.


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