8 iTunes Smart Playlists You Should Be Using

Phil Morse | Founder & Tutor
Read time: 4 mins
Last updated 28 March, 2018

Smart Playlist
Playlists that have a mind of their own? We teach you how Smart Playlists can take your playlisting a step further in this article.

One of the benefits of using iTunes to organise your DJ music is the Smart Playlists feature. In this article, you’ll find eight ideas for using smart playlists to help you in your playlisting and DJing.

Smart Playlists are a great feature of iTunes. Whereas a normal playlist is “manual” – you add tunes to it yourself – a Smart Playlist can be set to automatically update itself with tunes that fit one or more rules you choose. So as you add new tunes to your collection, your Smart Playlists update accordingly. You can play from them inside your DJ software, or use them to help you explore your collection in iTunes itself.

Here are some playlists you could set up for yourself:

8 Smart Playlists To Make

1. A “review for deletion” list

Smart Playlist 1
This rule creates a Smart Playlist of tunes you haven’t played in a year, which you can use to decide whether or not you’d want them in your library.

Keeping a lean, clean music collection is a smart move as a DJ. Assuming you use iTunes to play your music when you’re not DJing with it in your DJ software, you could have a list called “review for deletion”, that auto-populates with music you haven’t listened to in, say, more than a year

2. A set of “energy level” lists

This Smart Playlist will filter all tunes you’ve added four starts to, to represent an “energy rating” of four out of five. You’d have similar lists for the other choices, too.

We strongly advise DJs to use the iTunes “rating” column as “energy level” – 1 means strictly chill out, 5 stars means absolute floor-filling banger, and everything in-between. Unfortunately, most DJ software won’t show this rating in its library. But by having five Smart Playlists that filter according to star rating, you can access all the tunes that are of the same rating in your DJ software easily

3. A “new tunes to listen to” list

Smart Playlist 3
This Smart Playlist rule will create a playlist filled with tunes that you’ve added to your collection in the past two months but haven’t played yet.

This one has music you haven’t listened to at all that’s been recently added. In other words, good tunes that you may have added to your collection but for whatever reason just not got around to auditioning since you added them in the last month or two. Just the list to put on your smartphone to do some “homework” next time you’re out and about with some time to pop your earbuds in…

4. A “missing genre” list

Smart Playlist 4
This Smart Playlist rule will put all tunes without the “Genre” tag into a playlist.

Actually, it could be a missing anything – this is a “work needs to be done” list. You find a field (in this example, genre) that’s empty and get all those tunes into one playlist. Then, you know that anything in there needs you to decide what genre to file it under, and add that info to the “genre” column. As soon as you do it, bam! It disappears from the list.

5. A “potential crossover tracks” list

Smart Playlist 5
In this Smart Playlist, you’re filtering tracks into it that have the words remix, re-edit, and mashup in their titles.

“Crossover tracks” are those that are originally from one genre, but “cross over” into others. For instance, a house remix of a big pop track, a hip-hop track with a heavily sampled pop chorus, a “chill out” version of a house track, a cheeky bootleg or mashup of a couple of big tunes, and so on.

These are valuable to the DJ because they let you play your style, while keeping people who wouldn’t normally be interested, well, interested. By filtering all tracks with “re-edit”, “mashup”, “remix” etc in their titles into a Smart Playlist, you can make a list of potential tracks for further auditioning or to work out weaving them into your mixes.

6. A “New Year’s Eve” playlist

Smart Playlist 6
Here we’ve set up a sample Smart Playlist that’ll get you tracks you’ve added in all of 2015 that you’ve played at least once, and aren’t of the chill or low energy variety (you don’t want your crowd to go home before midnight, do you?)

Here you’d filter by year, possibly by genre, and maybe even by plays – you can tell iTunes to only give you those you’ve played at least a handful of times to narrow the list down to stuff you actually know well (New Year’s Eve is no time to be experimenting with tunes you’re not familiar with). Again, this one would depend on you using iTunes regularly to play music in, not just for sorting, or the plays count would not really matter.

7. A “forgot I had it” list

Smart Playlist 7
This Smart Playlist will filter in tracks that you’d added earlier than the past two months that you haven’t played yet.

Related to the “new tunes to listen to” list, this one instead has music you haven’t listened to at all but that you’ve had for longer than that time period. In other words, good tunes that you may have added to your collection but for whatever reason just not got around to auditioning. Again, a good one for some belated discovery listening…

8. A “replace with a decent version” playlist

Smart Playlist 8
This Smart Playlist rule will pull all MP3 files that are lower than 320kbps in bit rate, which is handy for spotting tracks that you want to change with better quality versions of.

You can sort by bitrate in iTunes, too. That lets you, for instance, filter anything 128kbps or 192kbps (or lower) into one place to tell you that, really, you ought to be replacing those tunes with better sounding, higher bitrate versions. Same applies to type, so for instance, you can get all your MP3s, AACs, WAVs, whatever, into a single folder (useful if you’re trying to replace all tunes in a format you don’t want anymore – for instance, some systems and software won’t play FLAC files…)


Of course not every DJ likes or uses iTunes. The most important principle of DJ music is to only admit to your collection that which you’ll actually play in your DJ sets, and to be ruthless is removing stuff you don’t need in there, to give you half a chance of knowing all the tunes you carry around with you.

But if like the majority of DJs you do decide to use iTunes, Smart Playlists can give you endless fun slicing and dicing your music dynamically, to help with music discovery and learning, playlisting, and having just the right tune at your fingertips when DJing, too. I hope you’ve found some of these useful.

How do you use Smart Playlists? Let us know in the comments…

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