Now Hear This: Beatlemania and How to Organize Your Digital Music

I know, there is nothing new to be said about The Beatles. They are the most influential, recognizable, and adored rock band of all time. I’m not here to break down their song structure or to try and find a new angle at which to explore their music. I’m here to use The Beatles vast catalogue as a means with which to discuss organizing digital music collections.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of using the iTunes rating system for organizing my music. I have about 200 GB worth of digital music in my collection, and only a 16 GB iPod. I use iTunes star ratings to determine what goes on the iPod and to create epic smart playlists. My ratings are as follows:

No stars: Unrated. I either don’t know it, or I haven’t gotten around to it. 
1 star:
I don’t like it.
2 stars: I don’t like it, but I’m not quite ready to write it off. Maybe I need to know it better.
3 stars: Average, but doesn’t stand out.
4 stars: Great song.
5 stars: Love it. I could happily listen to this track on repeat and/or in any circumstance.

A couple of years ago when I got the Beatles Remasters Mono Boxset, I didn’t import any of the albums. I don’t know why. Last weekend I undertook the project of importing and rating all 13 discs worth of Beatles tracks. Even at an average track length of 2.5 minutes each, it took 5 days to complete rating all 185 songs.

Was it worth it? Let’s see…

I created a Smart Playlist appropriately titled “Beatlemania” and the rules are such that any song with 4 or 5 stars by The Beatles is automatically added to the playlist. Now when I feel like throwing on the Beatles, I never, ever have to hear “Yellow Submarine,” but I can hear “Eleanor Rigby” and “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” 100 million times if that’s what I want.

Yes, I think it was worth it.

I have also used this system to make a playlist of all my favourite songs by creating one simple rule: “Rating is equal to Five stars.” Now every time I plug in my iPod it automatically updates the playlist to include anything new marked with 5 stars, and any songs I’ve gotten sick of are removed by simply reducing the number of stars.

Funny discoveries have come out of using this rating system. iTunes will average out your song ratings to rate the album they are from. I’ve always declared Tom Waits my favourite artist of all time. But, upon viewing my average album ratings, Tom Waits’ albums all sit at 3 stars average, while every Bob Dylan album averaged out at 4 stars. I guess Bob Dylan is actually my favourite artist of all time?

I’ve found the rating system to be a great way to sort out what I  want to listen to, and automating that toughest of tough decisions: “What tiny selection of my music collection do I put on my iPod today?”

How do you organize your collection? Do you have any tips or tricks to share?

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