Smart playlists in iTunes have been around for a long time, but they're pretty easy to forget about if you don't use them on a regular basis. With that in mind, here are a few of our favourites for whipping your music library into shape.
Automatically Create the Perfect Workout Mix
As we've pointed out before, the best music for exercise tends to be between 120-140 beats per minute. You can automatically generate playlists that fit that criteria. You need to get the BPM added because iTunes doesn't do it automatically. While it's pretty old software, we like Mixmeister BPM Analyzer as a free way to add BPM to your iTunes library automatically. Just drop your music library folder into BPM Analyzer and wait for it to do the work.
Once you're done, you can generate workout playlists easily. Make a new smart playlist (hit the big "+" in the bottom left corner and select "New Smart Playlist") with this rule: BPM is in the range of 120-140. It won't be a perfect list (some not particularly energetic songs still fall in the 120-140 BPM rule), but it's a quick way to make a near perfect workout mix with no work.
Clean Out Old Podcasts
If you're anything like me, you're a podcast hoarder. These days, I just use Downcast to listen to podcasts, but at one point they all filtered through iTunes. How many? Well, in my case I had 1239 podcasts -- that's 27.28GB of podcasts just sitting on my hard drive wasting space.
If you want to clear out all those old podcasts, just make a smart playlist with this rule: Media Kind is Podcast. Then hit the + sign and add this rule: Plays is 1. This means you're shown the podcasts you've already heard so you can quickly delete them without futzing about in the podcasts tab.
Reassess Your Ratings
This is an old one from 43 Folders, but it's especially helpful if you're the type to rate songs higher than you really mean. It checks your five star ratings against how many plays the track has to see if you were a little overzealous with the rating. Just set the smart playlist rules as: Skips is greater than 1. Then add a second rule: Rating is greater than three (or four) stars. You'll get a playlist of all your top rated tracks that you still skipped so you can better rate them. If nothing else, you might find a few hidden gems you forgot about.
Review for Deletion
If you're the type who downloads a lot of music but doesn't end up actually liking half of it, then you know how easy it is to end up with a bloated music collection. The best way to filter out that junk you don't really like is with a smart playlist.
You actually have a few ways to do this. Personally, I like the simple rules: Last played is [one year ago]. If you rate music a lot, you can also do: Rating is less than two stars. Or if you really want to get into the songs you ended up hating: Skips is greater than three.
Keep You Music Library Fresh
Whether you sync iTunes to your smartphone, or you just want to make sure you actually listen to all that new music you're buying, then keeping a running list of your newest additions is an easy way to listen to the music you buy.
The rule here is really simple: Date added is after [whatever date you want]. If you check the "Live updating" box, this playlist will keep up to date with everything new you add. If you just want all that new music, reader Sudhir Khanger suggests just doing something like: Year is 2013.
Reveal Missing Metadata
Want to finally clean up your library and whip your metadata into shape? A smart playlist can help. Just make a new playlist with the missing data you want to clean up and leave the text box empty. For example: Genre is [blank]. You can do this with artists, albums and pretty much everything else.
Automatically Make Topical Playlists
While you can't sort your songs by lyrics for some reason, you can at least do it by keywords in the song. This one's easy to do, just set the rule as: Name contains [whatever topical thing you want]. You can instantly make smart playlists of goofy love songs, seasonal mixes, and plenty more. While you're at it, you can also make specific mixes for people. Say, for Mother's Day, you could make a mix with the rules: Year is in the range 1960-1975 (or whatever years you were terrorizing your mother for).
Use Smart Playlists to Exclude Holiday Tracks from Genius Playlists
It's not all about making great smart playlists to organise, it's also about making it so other playlists work better. For example, if you want to keep holiday songs out of your genius playlists you simply need to make a smart playlist with this rule: Genre contains holiday. Then, hold down the command key and click a checkbox next to those songs to uncheck them all. This will keep them out of your genius playlists moving forward.