That’s the only real reason that iTunes would inexplicably obliterate all the carefully-curated playlists I’ve had over many years. It happens at least once a year, and I’ve come to conclude that it simply loathes what I force it to play and its only escape is the occasional database seppuku. This time it wasn’t just the playlists that vanished — now iTunes acts like it can’t see my library at all. So goodbye playlists and all my nitpicky settings. Goddammit, iTunes…I’d leave you for good if there were any decent alternatives (though MediaMonkey comes close).
After rebuilding my playlists for the 487th time, a couple of years ago I finally got smart about it. I came up with a foolproof way to get those playlists back, and they’ll be up-to-date to boot. I’m probably not the first to think of it, but maybe someone out there will find it useful.
Here’s what to do. Let’s say you want to create a playlist for your favorite David Byrne songs (and why wouldn’t you?). First, create a Smart Playlist and configure it to show only songs that have “David Byrne” in the comments. Make sure “Live updating” is checked.
Next, when you want to add a track to a playlist, open the Info screen and go into the Comments field. Put something like “Playlist: David Byrne” and save it. That comment is saved right into the file itself.
Now, when you click on your David Byrne playlist, the song you just added the comment to will magically appear. Do the same thing with any other David Byrne song you want, and it’ll automatically show up in the playlist.
Using the comments and Smart Playlists together means that even if iTunes decides you’re unworthy of having such fancy-pants playlists and decides to wipe them out with no warning, you’ll never have to manually pick out your favorite songs again because the info is contained in the song files themselves, and those Smart Playlists will do all the work for you. iTunes can murder its own database all it wants, but it’ll never again be able to permanently take your playlists down with it!
“But what if I want to add a song to multiple playlists? OMG WHAT MUST I DO THEN???” OK, calm down! Jesus. No need to freak out about it. Just add multiple “playlist” comments to the song for different playlists, geez. I like to add a few spaces between them to make it easier to read when viewing them in the Songs view (remember to make the Comments column visible):
And that’s it! I first got this idea when I used to click the checkbox next to songs I wanted to sync to my phone. After several times of going through all that trouble and then losing all my work to iTunes’ abusive whims, I started using the Composer field to put the word “Checked”, and a Smart Playlist would show me what should have been checked but wasn’t, so I could easily identify and fix songs in one big swoop. You can use this Comments thing for all kinds of useful stuff. You can even make a playlist that contains all your playlist-commented tracks. I’m not sure why you’d want to, but you do you.
So today I’m rebuilding my iTunes collection and playlists yet again, but it’ll take a teensy fraction of the time it used to take. Wow…I feel, like, smart and stuff. I’d feel smarter if I could just give up iTunes altogether, and believe me I’ve tried, but I always come back to it because 99% of the time it’s great. I just come up with ways to get around its occasional weird behavior.