This week, I finished rating every one of my 4,000 mp3s – for the third time.
Every time something happens to my computer – a new hard drive, restoring a backup, etc. – The finicky XML file that represents the information in my iTunes library has a brain fart and loses all the ratings information for my songs. (Why does this matter, you ask? It makes smart playlists that much more powerful. For instance, I can create a smart playlist of all R.E.M. songs that are rated 4 stars or higher. Or I can create a mix that includes no 1- or 2-star songs.)
It’s a long, arduous process, encompassing several weeks of listening to snippets of each song, determining its quality, and rating it on a scale of 1 to 5. Some are easy: I’ll give Mike Viola’s “The Strawberry Blonde” 5 stars without having to listen to it, and I can rate 75% of the Beatles’ catalog without playing them.
But for well over half, I have to actually play the song. Some songs I’ve never even played before, and I wonder whether I really need them. Others I have collected over the past 10 years, but I know I’ll never play. (Really? Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue?” Maybe at an 80s party…)
It’s times like these when I seriously contemplate the usefulness of my iTunes library.
I’ve tried several cloud streaming services including Spotify and Pandora, but can’t seem to find the perfect match. I have yet to find a service that streams everything I want to hear: unknown demos from obscure artists or live shows, for example.
But the real reason I keep my iTunes library is this: it’s the last bastion of my music.
I look at my library the way I used to treasure my case of old 45s. I make sure they all have cover art, year and genre. I look through the list chronologically, pausing at each song from the 1980s and associating a memory with it.
Music is my past and present. I can listen to most songs anywhere, but my list is like my journal, my bio and part of my soul. I suppose that I could make do with just a list of songs that represent me, and maybe that will eventually happen.
But for now I will keep rearranging my songs, dusting one off every once in a while. I’ll decide that Duran Duran really is New Wave, not New Romantic. And I’ll finally delete “Electric Avenue.”