My biggest music-related project (yet) is nearing completion.


31 Jul 2010, 19:15

1 year, 2 months, and 28 days.

That is how long is took me to rate every single song in my music library.
As it stands, my library consists of 8970 songs. That is a couple of thousand more than my track-count on May 4th, 2009. My poor documentation preferences, combined with the fact that I was unaware of how big this project would be, mean that I don't have much more details to offer regarding the beginning of the project.

It's simple enough though. On May 4th, 2009, I decided that I wanted every track in my library properly rated from 1 to 5 stars. Doing so would open a world of opportunities: A sampling of those include:

- a "Best of (Tier 1)" Smart Playlist that automatically includes all 5-star-rated tracks.
- a "Best of (Tier 1) - 6 months" Smart Playlist that automatically includes all 5-star-rated tracks that have not been played in the last 6 months.
- a "Best of (Tier 2)" Smart Playlist that includes all 5-star and 4-star-rated tracks (a bigger selection of fairly good tracks).
- a "Best of [enter band name here]" Smart Playlist that includes all 5-star-rated tracks for that specific artist. So far, I have Best of playlists for Rammstein, Mark Lanegan, Monster Magnet, Screaming Trees, Social Distortion, The Black Keys, Type O Negative, Eagles of Death Metal, and others. Haven't you ever wished you could listen to the best of a band you loved without wading through their entire discographies? This is how it's done.

And so on.

Rating songs is a tricky task. You could love a song today, and change your mind tomorrow (I have occasionally changed ratings on songs, sometimes more than once). Furthermore, the ratings are susceptible to your current mood, how your day is going, and anchoring biases (comparing the song to the ones you just listened to instead of judging it on its own).
Therefore, as a scientist, future-researcher, and all-around systematic guy, I decided that having a semi-clear definition for each rating would help make the task easier:

Bad. In all ways. Should be deleted. Hence, I have no one-star songs in my library (unless the track belongs to an album the rest of which does not suck, in which case, I keep the track for the sake of cohesiveness).

* *
Not that good, but I may decide to play it again at some point. Keep it around just in case.

* * *

* * * *
Good. Not excellent, but is good enough to be considered for many purposes (playlists, smart playlists, mixes, recommendations, etc...)

* * * * *
Good/great. Here is the unique defining criterion: I can listen to this track, anytime, and not skip to the next. As in, I will always enjoy listening to this track.

I made a Smart Playlist that automatically includes all non-rated tracks, and used that. The trick is to turn off Live Updating, otherwise, the instant you rate the track, iTunes will stop the track and remove it from the playlist (since it no longer satisfied the criteria of the smart playlist). With Live Updating turned off, iTunes automatically updates the playlist to remove all tracks that no longer satisfy the smart playlist's criteria every night exactly at 0000 hours..

Now there are different ways you could go about rating your unrated tracks. One is to just put the unrated playlist on shuffle. However, I find that a better way is to listen to the tracks on an artist by artist basis. As in, (assuming iTunes is your music player of choice) put iTunes on Artist view mode, and listen to all the artist's unrated tracks in chronological order. I think that helps one make a better judgement regarding the songs.

As I write this, I am listening to and rating the last 27 tracks remaining in my unrated tracks playlist. (specifically, Disco Science, by Mirwais - from the Snatch soundtrack).

1 year, 2 months, and 28 days.

- S

Post-post note: My next project is to properly tag the year and genre for every album. So far, I have been keeping name, artist, and album tags properly maintained, but not secondary tags like year and genre. Looking forward to it.


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