The never-ending quest to rate and organize my iTunes library - part 2 of 2

In part1 of this blog post, I indicated that I had been rating the music in my iTunes library for about 8 years. Having thought about this some more, I think its probably been at least a decade. But after all of that time, I am finally finished! For the last four years I've kept track of how many songs remained in my 'To Rate' playlist, and so I can graphically show you how I finished this very long marathon.

Here is an explanation for the various milestones along the way to having no unrated songs remaining in my library.

a) January 2009 At this point I was only rating music that I had purchased (CDs, iTunes, and Amazon) and had just over 1,500 songs left.

b) August 2009 I tend to buy CDs in splurges rather than regular purchases every week or so. This jump probably represented about 10 new CDs. Most of the small spikes on this graph represent new music purchases.

c) February 2010 Finished! All of my purchased music had been rated...but what about all of the other music in my library which I had legally acquired for free. How much could there be?

d) February 2010 Well quite a lot as it turns out. Since 2005, the South by Southwest festival (SXSW) has provided free torrents of music by people performing at SXSW (one song per artist). If you didn't know, a lot of artists play at SXSW and these torrents are big. You can still get hold of all torrents from this site. The current running total is about 9,000 songs (45 GB!) and every year the torrents seem to get bigger.

These torrents are usually provided as two files, with the second one being smaller (and released a little bit after the first file). So this big spike represents me starting to rate 5 and a half years of SXSW music. Sidenote: a shout out to Danny Novo who had made some cool SXSW iTunes album artwork every year that the torrents have been available.

e) March 2010 I think this smaller spike represented the second of the two 2010 SXSW torrent files, with the majority of the SXSW music included in the previous huge spike.

f) and g) February & March 2011 The two SXSW torrents for 2011. You may note that initially I seem to rate the music very quickly and then it slows. This is because I tend to sort the yearly SXSW torrent by song length. Songs that are extremely short (< 1 minute) or extremely long (>7 minutes) tend to be music that I don't like and I can quickly process these. I have also found that songs that feature 'death' in the song title, or 'black' in the artist name are also not to my liking. Finally, I am not a fan of rap music so artists with 'MC' or 'DJ' in their name can also be quickly filtered.

h) March 2012 SXSW 2012.

i) August 2012 A bunch of new CD purchases.

j) January 2013 I think I had finished all of the SXSW music at this point, but then discovered a whole bunch of previously purchased music that had slipped through the cracks (pretty much of all of my classical music), plus I also had another bunch of new CDs to rate.

k) March 2013 SXSW 2013.

l) April 2013 Each year I get quicker at doing the initial pass of that year's SXSW torrent, and I think you can see how quickly I go through the long/short/black/death/rap songs (see steps f) and g) above).

m) August 2013 Finished. Done. The End. No more rating. right?

What now?

The SXSW torrents represent a real mixed bag of music. If you drove coast-to-coast and kept on randomly flipping through radio stations — preferably college radio stations, there is not much mainstream pop music at SXSW — it would get close to the experience of listening to a SXSW torrent. So unlike the music that I buy, where I have pre-selected albums based on one or more songs that I have heard and that I like, the SXSW music provides no such guarantees.

What tends to happen is that I discover a bunch of new artists through songs that I really love. However, a large swathe of SXSW music is either not to my taste, or is just a bit 'meh'. In fact, I realized that I had ended up with about 1,500 2-star rated songs from my SXSW torrents. While having some 2-star songs in the middle of a CD that own is one thing, these 2-star SXSW songs represent a potential waste of disk space.

As I am a iTunes Match user, I deleted all of these songs from my iTunes library (after ensuring that they had first been matched by iTunes). This frees up some disk space but means I can still play these songs and download them again if I really want them.

However, it still irks me a little to know that these 2-star songs are part of my library, even if they are not taking up any space. So because I am a masochist, and because I can't abide to delete them all in case there are some gems buried amongst them, I decided to re-rate all of these songs. If I decide that I really do like a song, I upgrade it to a 3-star rating. Otherwise I permanently delete it (removing it from iCloud). So far, I've processed about 200 songs and it will probably take me several more months before I finish this.

And then I am done.

Really done.

Until the next SXSW!