// Internet Duct Tape

Creating Random Playlists in iTunes 8

Posted in Music, MP3s and Internet Radio, Technology by engtech on September 09, 2008

Music, MP3, iTunes

I’m one of those cogs who uses Apple mp3 players simply because I feel they do really good job. I tried to fight iTunes for the longest time, but I eventually gave into it because, like Microsoft Outlook, it’s the default music program that everyone uses and every 3rd party application supports.

I’ve been using a couple of 3rd party application to enhance my iTunes experience. I use last.fm to keep track of what songs I’m listening to so that I can display them on my Facebook/FriendFeed profiles. It also does a good job of suggesting new music to me based on my listening habits. What last.fm can’t do is generate random playlists based on the music I already have in my library.

I had been using software from the Filter for generating random playlists. Unfortunately, since I updated their software I can’t find the “create playlist” feature anymore. That made me pretty excited about the announcement today that iTunes 8 will support generating random playlists using a new feature called “iTunes Genius”.

The Power of Random

I’ve been an iTunes_iPod user for four years. In the past month I picked up an iPod Shuffle because I usually leave my 60 GB iPod at the office, and I wanted something more portable and more suitable to an active livestyle. I’ve been really impressed with the batterly life and the portability of my iPod Shuffle.

What I’ve enjoyed the most is the “Zen of Shuffle”. Since the shuffle only selects and plays random lists of music, I’m having more and more occassions of “wow, I love that song! I haven’t heard it in so long!!” instead of listening to the same 10 albums I’ve been listening to for the past month.

The Gotcha

Of course, the big gotcha with Apple’s new iTunes Genius feature is that you have to sign up for an iTunes Music Store account. At first glance, you might think this means you have to give away your credit card information, but click the None button to make that all go away.

Keep reading if you don’t see the “None” button.

How To Unlock the iTunes Music Store

A lot of people don’t bother turning on the iTunes Music Store because it requires a credit card. Actually, there’s a couple of ways of bypassing the credit card requirement. The most common method is:

  1. Find a free iTunes “redeem” code somewhere on the web
  2. Open iTunes and go to the iTunes music store
  3. Click on the “Redeem” link (on the right side, near the top)
  4. You’ll be prompted to create an iTunes music store account, but with the “None” option unlocked so you don’t require a credit card.

I got my free redeem code by following this link. Another option is to pick up a cheap iTunes gift card at a local electronics store.

If that code doesn’t work, then try this search to find a new one:

http://www.google.com/search?q=itunes+free+redeem+code

Starting Genius

The first time you try to use Genius, it’s going to take a while. Especially if, say, you try to use it with a 100 GB music library on the day the Apple iTunes music store opens up for the first time. I’m guessing it’ll take around an hour to scan your library, so you don’t want to try it for the first time while sipping a latte at the local coffee shop.

It took an hour for my library to scan so that I could start using Genius.

Using Genius

Play a song and click on the atom icon at the bottom right hand corner to start using Genius. Unlike TheFilter, you can only use one song to “seed” a random playlist. Playlists can be saved, but they aren’t saved automatically. The playlists are named with the name of the song you used to start the playlist.

Genius playlists are limited to 25, 50 or 100 songs in length. They can be refreshed to get new tracks.

The good news is that you can create even larger smart playlists based off of multiple genius playlists. This could be a great way to build a large constrained random playlists for your iPod Shuffle.

Unfortunately the playlists are stored in your iTunes metadata file, so there is no easy way to access them from your Xbox 360. Sounds like a good idea for a new freeware app. :)

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