Harnessing the Power of iTunes Star Ratings

During the past few months I’ve grown a little bored with my music. Even my favorite tracks have become routine. So to inject some life into my iTunes library I’ve been getting my hands on a monthly playlist of Indie Rock tracks (from completely legal and reputable sources, of course). But as I’ve been listening to these lists of 100-200 songs I have run into a new problem — how to rate them.

Of course my favorite songs, the ones I would listen to over and over again, get a 4 or 5-star rating. But the rest of the tracks invariably end up getting a 3-star rating. I tend not to use the 1 or 2-star rating because in my mind if a song is rated that low then it’s not worth keeping.
And then there are other problems with the star rating system. For example, what about holiday songs? Sure, that Relient K Christmas album might get a 4-star rating, but I don’t really want it picked up in my “highest rated” smart playlist unless it’s actually Christmas. And if I begin to exclude every “exception” then my smart playlist ends up with 35 rules.
The rating system is such a powerful tool since it’s one of the few ways to actually “tag” your music on the go and I didn’t want to abandon it altogether. So, in an attempt to learn how to use iTunes star rating system to the fullest, I have asked friends, colleagues, and the internet for ideas on how to harness the star to create perfect playlists.

1-star as Punishment

This idea helps identify which tracks you definitely don’t like. In fact, these are the tracks you hate so much you don’t even want them any more. Which is handy when you’re in the car or at work listening to your iPod where you don’t have the ability to delete the song you’re listening to. Instead, simply give the song a 1-star rating. Then create a smart playlist which collects all the 1-star songs and delete. But be sure to follow the advice on how to permanently delete songs from playlists otherwise the songs will remain in your library.

Stars as Intensity

If you’re not a huge fan of the “genre” tag or want a broader way to categorize your music, you can use the star rating system to assign each song to an intensity or beat level. All slow-dance songs from middle school, for example, would get a 1-star rating. Likewise, the latest club music might get 5 stars. This method also helps in identifying which songs are best to work out to — just create a smart playlist where the rating is equal or greater than 4 stars and you’ll have the perfect workout mix!

Wait and See

This method requires the use of a smart playlist to identify the songs with 2 stars that haven’t been listened to for X-number of days. The thinking is that songs with 2 stars are candidates for deletion, but if you come back to listen to it then perhaps it’s worth keeping.

2-Star = Unique

As I mentioned before, sometimes you have songs (or podcasts or videos) that you really only need once a year. Christmas music is my favorite example. Instead of editing your smart playlists to exclude the “holiday” genre AND the “christmas video” genre, etc. you can simply assign those “unique” tracks 2 stars. That way you can simply add one argument to each smart playlist that excludes all tracks with a rating equal or less than 2 stars.
Does rating your music library take time? Of course. But in my opinion the star rating system can be a powerful ally in getting your music library under control.
In what ways do you use the iTunes rating system?