Written by 8:26 pm Sampling

A Quick Sampler’s Guide To Managing Your Digital Music Collection


Need help organising your digital music collection? Then this mini guide might be useful.

The death of the iPod classic was a watershed moment in music technology. It effectively marked the end of pocket sized music collections. Sure, you can play millions of tracks on streaming services like Spotify and Google Play but unless you plan to get a Sony Xperia Z5 or XZ for example (both expandable to 200GB and 256GB respectively), you won’t find a new portable media player like the “classic”.

Having an iPod invariably means you also use iTunes. Lord knows it has its foibles but you just can’t get around using it at some stage. Whatever your weapon of choice, it’s important to keep a good eye on your music collection. I’m a pedant when it comes to meta tag management but organising your music based on samples is a whole different ball game. If you e-dig like me, you’ll have a heap of vinyl ripped albums ready for sample mining and it can be hard to keep track of everything. With these tips, you can keep on top of your collection.

Use the star ratings strategically

Consider this paradox: say you heard a song and it was so bad, you felt it warranted a 1-star rating. By those standards, it shouldn’t even be there. But is there much point in rating it at all if you’re going to delete it anyway, and further still, is there much point in having that 1-star rating if using it would deem the rated song surplus and “remove” the rating. I’ve probably confused you with that but the point is ratings are rarely used unless a song is 4/5 or 5/5. But there’s a way you can put that 1 star to good use.

Whenever you hear a song worth sampling, just give it a one star and make a smart playlist of all the one star songs and you have yourself a sample playlist. For two stars, I use this for songs I want to delete but don’t have access to iTunes at the time (usually when I’m on the go). To dissect the samples further, you can narrow them down by genre with extra smart playlists depending on your mood.

Do you really need that song or album?

A while back, I reached the limit of my iPod. That’s 160GB. And I still had more music ready to add to my iTunes library. What was I going to do? A cull had to take place but I had no idea what needed to be cut. In the end, I decided to be ruthless. I use Spotify Premium meaning I don’t have to own every song I listen to and that provides a vital pointer in knowing what needs to go.

Can I listen to this on Spotify? If the answer is yes and you don’t already own a physical copy, consider it for deletion.

Have I listened to this more than once since I got it? Don’t keep hold of music you’ve listened to once in the past 2+ years. Revisit and if it didn’t move you, get rid. Life’s too short to keep music you don’t fully enjoy.

Do I need to keep their full discography on any iPod? I have most of James Brown’s records in my digital collection. I’ve listened to a handful of them. I realised I didn’t need them all on my iPod when it was unlikely I’d listen to them more than once. I also have Madlib and Michael Jackson’s discographies. They get regular play so they stay. It’s all about compromise and what you think you will listen to regularly.

Make use of your smart playlists to rediscover old music and decide what to

I’ve touched on the idea of smart playlists already but they can play a role in more than just sample selections. A list of songs you’ve only played once in the last year can expose potential “throwaway albums” you downloaded on a whim. Listen again – is it worth keeping or did you miss a gem? In this culture of disposable media, we often rush through the arts without fully appreciating them. It should take a few listens before you truly get the concept of an album (most of the time at least).

Then there’s the “Never Played” playlist which explains itself. And for organisational purposes, a playlist for tracks without artist names or genres can help you assess what you’ve actually got and keep things tidy. You might even find an undesirable track or two (I once found a Plies track in my library).

These little hints should go a long way in reducing your library size and freeing up space on your iPods. If you have any tips, please let us know in the comments!