My Foolhardy Effort to Rate Every Song in my iTunes Library

I take an embarrassing amount of pleasure in pruning, tweaking and annotating my iTunes library. It’s strangely important to me that all of my songs display the right meta-data for song title, artist, album and so forth.

One of my long term goals is to rate every song I own. At the moment I’ve got 8487 songs in my library, and I’ve only rated 2856 of them.

So, most of the time, I have iTunes playing a particular ‘smart’ playlist through Party Shuffle. The playlist looks like this:

My Unrated Smart Playlist

When I remember, I alt+tab over to iTunes and rate the currently playing song. I play it through Party Shuffle because, otherwise, when I rate a song in my ‘Unrated’ playlist, it instantly stops playing and disappears from the playlist (it is, after all, only obeying the rules).

My rating system is largely ad hoc, and works like this:

1 star = Awful, and I usually delete these.
2 stars = Not great, but I want to keep it because I have the whole album. Also, it could be a specialty song, like a Christmas song or a novelty track.
3 stars = Average.
4 stars = I like it, and would be happy to hear it once or twice a week.
5 stars = Songs for the ages. If this song was playing on my iPod when I was killed by a bus, that’d be okay.

Do you rate songs in iTunes?


  1. I try to rate songs as I acquire them, on the first listen or two (I’ve got a “New To Be Rated” smart playlist for that), and am somewhat committed to eventually rating everything in iTunes, but I rarely go back and listen to older stuff specifically with that goal. As of now, 4248 of 13974 tracks have no rating, but that includes audiobooks, comedy, classical, etc. that I don’t intend to rate.

    You should check out SizzlingKeys ( if you ever use your Mac to listen to music. It lets you rate (and play, pause, skip, etc.) the current song without having to switch back to iTunes.

  2. I try to. However, my music collection got unwieldy & unorganized at one point, with files all over the place… and I *cannot* stand a disorganized harddrive.

    So I ended up wiping everything and starting fresh (importing everything into itunes new), not realizing I’d lose the several thousand ratings… fuck.

    The downside to this is that I play the same collection on two computers, since my mp3 collection is on an external harddrive that I plug into whatever computer I want it in at the time. So everything needs to be rated twice. I suspect I could get around this by telling iTunes to put its files on the ext. hd too, but I haven’t bothered looking into this yet…

  3. I echo the Sizzling Keys recommendation, but it doesn’t look like you’re using a Mac for music (jaw is dropped). I admire your tenacity and wish I had the energy to organize my 60 gig’s worth. One day perhaps. I hoping that an app will be created that does most of the work for me.

  4. Wader: I’m currently in Windows desktop and Apple laptop mode. The next time I buy a desktop machine, I plan to get a robust Apple machine and run Parallels.

    One complaint I have with this setup is that I back up my music to, but they don’t copy over the rating metadata. Boo!

  5. I only rate songs on my iPod, and generally it’s new acquisitions that I’m going through and deciding if I really like or really don’t like. This means I really only use 1, 4 and 5 ratings. Anything with 1 gets deleted whenever I remember to do so on iTunes on my computer.

    There’s no way I’d ever manage to catch up on rating all my music, though. I’m sure I’m averaging more than 50 new songs downloads per week, and there are already 60 GB of them on file.

  6. I do rate, but those which would be deleted are done so and I save the 1/5 for boring but not offending my taste

  7. I rate songs that I like which is kinda weird as I have numerous songs which I have on my itunes and have not rated them. Maybe I need to rethink my rating philosophy.

  8. I do rate songs but I’m so non-iPod literate that I rate them so that I can access them quickly with the Playlist “Highly rated songs”.

    🙂 Ooops.

  9. I do rate my music… though in addition to being picky about metadata I also only deal with full albums. Not very music 2.0 of me… but the real reason I am commenting here is to note that I can’t be the only one that would love to see your list of 5-star music that it’s OK to die listening to!

  10. I didn’t used to, but I’m now coming near the end of my goal to rate all of my Electronic Dance Music, which all I listen to anyway. I had a few thousand unrated, but there are less than 400 less to rate. There will always be some to rate, but I have Smart Playlists to make them easy to keep track of and rate as I get time.

    I find ratings extremely useful, I only wish songs had a “date rated” field to help me find songs that I have been in my library for a long time but weren’t rated so I didn’t listen to them.

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