A blog in desperate need of a new title
How I Obsessively Manage My Music
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
One of the reasons I prefer to own my music as opposed to streaming, is because I'm ridiculously anal about my music files. Every track I have has been tediously tagged to help me find exactly what I want to listen to, no matter what mood I'm in at the moment.Aside from the default tags (song, artist, album), there are three tags that I concentrate on...GroupingThis gets set to "radio", "radio friendly", or left blank. The radio flag simply means the song was released for airplay. Radio friendly means I think the song would be a good radio track but perhaps was never actually released as a single. For example, Peter Gabriel's "Party Man" appeared on a movie soundtrack, but was never released as a single.RatingRather than use the ratings for how well I like a song – which is completely subjective and actually changes dramatically based on my mood that day – I use the ratings a bit differently. Each star means something. One star means the file is broken and I need to re-download this song. Two stars means the song has explicit lyrics, so I can filter out these tracks when sensitive ears are present. Three stars indicates this song is one of the best by that artist. Four stars indicates this song is one of the best songs for that genre. And five stars means this song is so good you shouldn't dare speak over it... and I'll break your wrist if you try to skip it!CommentsThis is where the magic happens. In the comments field I add a comma separated list of keywords to help group the songs. For instance I have a keyword, "80s". You can't just assume that a song is an 80's song just because it came out between 1980 and 1989. For example, Nine Inch Nails' first album came out in 1989. Likewise, Led Zeppelin's final album came out in 1982. Neither of those are 80's bands and don't belong in the same playlist as "I Wear My Sunglasses at Night". Conversely, "Personal Jesus" was released in 1990, but clearly belongs with other 80's songs.I also have a tag, "soundtrack", which is followed by the name of the movie the song appeared in. This allows me to build a playlist for movie soundtracks but keep the songs with the artist and album where it belongs. Similarly I have a "commercial" tag for songs that appeared in TV commercials.Other keywords include the genres for the song, "remix", "live", and so on.About GenresI don't use the genre tag for my music. I think most music falls in multiple genres. OneRepublic is alternative, but also pop. By using the comma separated tags in the comments field, I have the ability to tag songs in more than a single genre. I also tend to make up some genres. Like, "loud", which covers bands like Foo Fighters, but also Deftones. Or, "background", which are songs that can span multiple genres, but work really well to play in the background when I'm having people over.Building the PlaylistsOnce I have all my tags carefully managed, I am able to build amazing smart playlists by specifying the appropriate tags. If I want my own 80's radio station that doesn't play the hair bands: [grouping contains radio]; [comment contains 80s and pop]. If I only want my favorite songs from that set, I can add: [rating is between four and five stars]. If I want the best of Phil Collins: [artist contains Phil Collins or Genesis]; [rating is between three and five stars]; [comment contains Phil Collins] (to weed out the Peter Gabriel Genesis tracks).When you own thousands of tracks, this sounds overwhelming, but it's really not. I'm typically tagging full albums, not individual songs. And I tag each album when I first get it, so maintaining this system isn't terribly difficult.