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iTunes Tune-up: Managing Holiday Music

Ralph Graves is one of Crutchfield's blog editors, and part of the company's social media team. He writes about home audio/video gear, specializing in Apple-related and wireless technologies. Ralph holds a master's degree in music composition, and his works have been released on various labels. He's served as product manager for an independent classical and world music label, produced several recordings, and worked extensively in public broadcasting. Since 1984 he's hosted a weekly classical music program on WTJU, and is also active as a blogger and podcaster.

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In olden times my parents kept the family's holiday music in a separate part of the record cabinet. The LPs came out in November, and went back in early January. We carried on the same tradition with CDs, until I ripped them all into iTunes.

But changing the format brought a new problem. With a digitized music library, I can't physically place my seasonal music in a different place. Fortunately, it only took a few simple tweaks keep the seasonal songs out of the mix and ensure I didn't experience Christmas in July.

To do these tweaks, I just highlighted the song, and selected "Get Info" from the File menu.

1) Set the genre to "Holiday."
Regardless of style, I set all seasonal music to the "Holiday" genre. While Bruce Springsteen's version of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" rocks, I didn't want it cropping up in a Smart Playlist of Rock genre songs. This also makes it easy to set up a Smart Playlist for holiday music.

2) Use the comments field to sort subgroups.
This could almost be tip 1.1 -- when I had a lot of rock versions of seasonal music (or jazz, or any other genre), I would put that in the comment field. Then I could create a Smart Playlist sorting for the Holiday genre and "Rock" in the comments field. I then had a selection of holiday music that included Bruce Springsteen and Elvis, but excluded Frank Sinatra and Laurence Tibbett.

3) Mark the artists
For all of my holiday music, I put an "H" for "Holiday" in front of the artist names. So "Bruce Springsteen" becomes "H Bruce Springsteen." So if I just decide to listen to songs by Bruce Springsteen, I don't have "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" rubbing shoulders with "Born to Run" and "Long Walk Home."

4) Tighten up the Smart Playlists
I have Smart Playlists that use different sort criteria. After a Christmas carol unexpectedly showed up in a playlist of music from the 1990s, I realized I had to be a little more specific. That particular Smart Playlist was just looking for release dates between 1990 and 1999. It now also excludes selections with the "Holiday" genre -- as do all my non-seasonal Smart Playlists. It's possible a Christmas song may show up in Shuffle Play, which is why I created a Smart Playlist for Shuffle Play. It plays songs completely at random, with no criteria save it excludes songs with the "Holiday" genre.

This may be the last year we unpack the Christmas CDs. These few simple adjustments got our seasonal music collection ready to play for the holidays -- and only for the holidays.

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