Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Written in the Stars

The First Five Times - Stars (mp3)
Best I Ever Had - Vertical Horizon (mp3)

I'm two days behind Bob.

In music on my iTunes, that is.

This only sank in about a month ago. My daughters and I were watching the very cool visualizers available through iTunes* while listening to the imitable Taylor Swift, when my oldest looked down and gawked at the string of numbers on the bottom. "Daddy, what do those numbers mean?" she asked. I explained it was basically like an advanced clock. The first number was days. The second was hours. Then minutes. Then seconds.

"You have 21 days of music??" she asked.

I had to pause. "Well. Yeah, I guess I do. Almost 22, actually."

Except I wasn't really proud of it. I was a little ashamed.

When I first started moving my CD collection to iTunes, I would only rip the songs that I really liked, songs worthy of consideration for a mix CD or for a great playlist. Anything shy of that failed to make the cut. This meant that most CDs were cut down to about a third in the transition into my computer. Few got more than five.

As I started to buy more albums online, and as my iPods began to get increasingly cavernous, I started ripping whole CDs so I could listen to them more on my iPod. Then I started going back to my CD collection and filling in the missing songs from albums I particularly enjoyed. I put in my entire collections of Rush, the Police, Cheap Trick, Patty Griffin, etc.

And here we are in 2010. I have almost 22 days' worth of music. I possess at least four or five entire days' worth of that music ain't really worth listening to. Ever. (Or almost ever.)

Frightened by this prospect -- of wasting an entire work week of my life listening to music I don't enjoy coming out of my own collection -- about six weeks ago, I began a project. Using my iPod and my iTunes, whenever I was playing music, I would use the previously-never-touched STARS feature Apple offers.

You can rate all your songs with 1-5 stars. Maybe you've used this. Probably you haven't.

Loosely, here was my rating thoughts:
  • ***** An all-time favorite. Can't imagine Shuffling into this song and me skipping over it.
  • **** Very good song. Has importance to me lyrically, musically, or as a priceless chronological marker in my memories. I'd let this play through on my iPod almost every time it came up.
  • *** Good song. Certainly worth having on my iPod, but it wouldn't often make a playlist or a mix CD unless it had thematic relevance or additional reasons for its inclusion. Were my iPod a classroom, this song would earn a good solid B.
  • ** Meh. Don't dislike the song, but it's easily forgettable or dismissable. I probably skip it when it comes up on Shuffle.
  • * Not only do I skip this song, but I tend to wonder when and how the hell it got on my iPod in the first place. This song shouldn't be occupying a part of my 21-day collection of music, sucking away time I will never get back.
At present, I've rated almost 1,400 of my 7,900 songs, with the ratings breaking down like this:
  • ***** 98 songs
  • **** 316 songs
  • *** 695 songs
  • ** 262 songs
  • * 35 songs
Only six out of every 100 songs have earned 5 stars. That feels about right for someone who to this day couldn't give you a consistent "All Time Top 20 Best Songs" list for more than a week or so.

Doing the math, by the time I've rated my entire collection, I will have roughly 500 songs worthy of being called "one of my all-time favorites." That translates, potentially, into 36 straight commercial-free hours of music that makes me cream my sonically metaphorical pants. Or, for those of you familiar with the first season of True Blood, 36 hours of all-time favorite music is the equivalent of drinking an entire vial of vampire blood.

I'd never listen to all those songs straight through. It just ain't healthy. But it's good to know I could if I wanted to.

* -- The girls love messing with the Visualizer options. If you didn't know about this cool feature, just open up the Visualizer and click the ? button on your keyboard. Up will pop all the ways you can take control of the iTunes Visualizer screen!


BeckEye said...

I have such a problem keeping my ratings consistent, so I just gave up on trying that.

And I'd like to cut out some of my musical "fat" too, but I can't see paying for a CD and not importing the whole thing. Especially if I plan on selling a bunch of them.

Bob said...

Can you organize tunes on the Ipod by rating?

cinderkeys said...

I don't use the ratings, but I put every favorite into a playlist I call "45s."

It contains 322 songs, 22.7 hours of music.

Billy said...

@Beck -- I'm giving myself a margin of error of 1. This is most important, it seems, with the 2-star songs that, in a worse mood, might earn a 1-star and thus be deleted from my collection. But it's possible I overrate a few 5-stars based on a giddy mood or underappreciate some of my 4-star songs.

@Bob -- Yes you can! And then, you can lump all songs with one rating into a playlist and organize them in a secondary way, which is cool! (I'll show you sometime.)

@Cinder -- Love the idea. Ultimately, my ratings are to remove the 1-star songs from my life. Cut the dead weight from my iPod balloon, so to speak. The 5-star and 4-star lists are just bonus!

Anonymous said...

Spring cleaning, iPod style:) Just did it myself, but I don't have some 8000 songs like you guys.