Smarter Genre Playlists

Smart Playlists
OK, this is my strategy for creating Genre-based playlists.

What I do is enter multiple Genres in the Genre field, seperated by commas. For instance, Blondie's "Heart Of Glass (Live)" from the "Blondie Live" album has the following Genre:

New Wave, Live, Disco

So let's say I want to hear only Disco songs. I create a new Smart Playlist:

Genre - contains - Disco
Live updating

and label it "Genre: Disco"

And I can get my groove on to my heart's content.

Why not just label it "Disco" and use the built-in Genre picker list? Because songs, like people, cannot be easily summed up in a one word description. However, several words usually works (for songs anyway). This makes Genres much more accurate and useful. Songs can now cross over different Genres and appear in multiple Genre playlists.

You can also create more complex and interesting playlists this way. Say I only want to listen to live New Wave stuff today. I just use the "Genre: Live, New Wave" Smart Playlist:

Match - all
Genre - contains - Live
Genre - contains - New Wave
Live updating

Not only do I get Blondie's Heart Of Glass (Live)", I also get:

"New Religion (Live)" - Duran Duran
"Doctor Doctor (Live)" - Thompson Twins
"Loveland (Live)" - B-52's

You get the idea. There's no end to the interesting Smart Playlists you can create!

I am hoping that in the future Apple will change the built-in genre browser to identify the genre strings separated by commas as multiple genres, and not just one string run together. That way the Smart Playlists won't be needed. Instead you could just highlight "Live" and "New Wave" and get the same playlist. Until then, Multiple Genres and Smart Playlists are the perfect combination.

by Louis on Nov 30 | 12:24 am


Wow, that is pretty neat. I'm usually trying to simplify my genres, but I've definitely thought about adding more detail, as you've done, from time to time.

by dfbills on Dec 02 | 12:07 am

The only problem with that is that you end up with a lot of 'spam' in the Genre pulldown menu, as every time you enter a new genre (or combination) it adds itself to the list. If you later change it, or remove the song in question, the modified genre stays. You'd likely be better off putting the genre info (if multiple) into the comments field.

Of course, that means you have to use smart playlists instead of the already existing genre lists on your iPod or iTunes.

by Unseelie on Dec 02 | 11:42 am

Yeah, that is a problem, but you can always use the autocomplete to fill out the genre from you. I never actually pull down that menu.

by dfbills on Dec 02 | 12:17 pm

Unseelie - True, but I don't use the Genre browser much. I suppose if you wanted to be very, very organized, you could arrange your genres by alphabetical order in the Genre tag, and then the Genre browser would make slightly more sense. Either way, I thnk more information is better than less, and I just can't see putting Genres in anywhere but the Genre tag. In my mind anyway, that's what it's for.

If Apple changes the way it reads the Genre tag, though, then the Genre browser would work perfectly. I suppose I should start a campaign for the Ethical Treatment Of Genre Tags...

by Louis on Dec 02 | 6:25 pm

Ooh, the ethics of genres. Have you ever looked at the level of detail on All Music Guide?

by dfbills on Dec 02 | 6:44 pm

That, and I wish you could clear that information out of the genre pulldown without having to edit XML.

by Unseelie on Dec 02 | 10:10 pm

So you've actually been editing a plist file to change the menu?

by dfbills on Dec 02 | 11:04 pm

David, yes, I am very well aware of All Music Guide, it is the Greatest website ever.

Anyway...I have gotten into the habit of copying the Style and Tone information from AllMusicGuide into the comments field of my songs and then creating smart playlists for each style. I have probably over 100 of them from "Southern Rap" to "Album Rock" to "Alt-Metal", "Swing" etc. It really is amazing.

It's taken some time, but I have several thousand songs categorized that way, and it makes my iPod sooo much more fun now.

by Mike C on Dec 04 | 5:21 pm

You should submit this excellent hint as a separate smartplaylist!

by dfbills on Dec 04 | 6:56 pm

I too have been using AMG for genre/tones. I spent a week or two trying to figure out how to handle this and settled on using the Genre field as a broad general category and then adding more specialized genre/info in the Comments field. This has proven to be very flexible (IMHO)

For instance:
Echo and the Bunnymen - Heaven Up Here
Genre: Alternative Pop/Rock
Comments: Post-Punk, Neo-Psychedelia, Dream Pop

Then on a song by song basis I add "tone" info to the Comments field. So using the above example for the song "Over the Wall" I would also add:
Comments: Brooding, Nocturnal

Yes it is a great deal of work (considering my CD collection is in the 900-1000 range) but one of the things that really turned me onto iTunes/iPod was the limitless possibilities of playlists and to me this is the best way to fully utilize it.

by Clark Crawford on Dec 08 | 3:14 pm

I use very broad genres suck as rock, rap, pop, reggae, and latin. And use the grouping field as a more specific genre like, Genre: Rock, Grouping: Alternative. I find this makes it a lot simpler while browsing through genres and allows you to still make specific playlists. Although I'm not really sure what the grouping feild actually is meant to be used for. I also use the comment field for certain moods of a song.

by xEckoONEx on Apr 27 | 6:21 pm

I have sort of the opposite problem.

What I want to do, is have all the sub-genres listed at allmusic.com, and be able to select based on those. I don't know how to do this. I'll describe the problem maybe someone can think of a way around the problem.

Say I rate music in the following categories:


These examples will demonstrate my problem.

Now I want to catch much that have only the genre "Rock". I don't consider pop/rock as real rock music, so I don't want to listen to that in my rock playlist. I can't use "IS" if it multi-genre because something might be "Rock;Prog-Rock".

I also can't use "contains", because it will return any of the above five genres, instead of just the one with Rock.

I used to use Media Player and it could do this, unfortunately it also had a bug that if a song matched on more than one of it's multi-genres the song would be added to your playlist for each match.

Anybody know a good way to do multi-genre selecting like this?

by Darren on May 04 | 12:20 pm

Sorry, I got a better example.

I originally thought I could solve this problem by mapping the Genre from allmusic.com to genre in iTunes. Then map the styles (sub-genres) to grouping.

That works for a lot of cases, but here is one that doesn't. There are more...

Artist: Alison Krauss
Genre: Country
Styles: Bluegrass
Progressive Bluegrass
Traditional Bluegrass

I have no way of making a list of any artists that has the bluegrass style. I can't use "grouping is bluegrass" because I'll have more than one style in the field. I can't use "grouping contains bluegrass" because I'll also get Progressive and Traditional bluegrass.

Although this example demonstrates my problem well, since I only have music from 2-3 bluegrass artists it's not really a problem for me. :-)

Basically it's a problem in any case where a word that defines a generic style is also part of a more specific style.

by Darren on May 04 | 12:58 pm

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