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Ask the iTunes Guy: Solving all your playlist problems in iTunes 12

Kirk McElhearn | March 3, 2015
Playlists are one of the best, and most creative ways to organize music in iTunes, and to listen to music on your iOS devices. But sometimes, it can be hard to figure out how to make complex playlists. In this week's column, I look at three questions about playlists, both standard and smart. And I also look at an issue where album art, for some albums, changes on iOS devices.

Unplayed tracks

Q: I want to make a smart playlist for about 100 tracks that have no Last Played date. The problem is that about 10 of those tracks have a Plays count of 1 (I don't know how that happened). How can I make this playlist?

Unlike some fields, the Last Played field in a smart playlist cannot be empty; when you choose that condition, the window shows you a date, in the form mm/dd/yyyy. What you can do, however, is zero the play count of the 10 tracks that say they have been played once. To do this, select all the tracks, right-click, and then choose Reset Plays.

Next, make a smart playlist with the condition Plays Is 0, and this will pick up all your unplayed tracks.

What changed my album art?

Q: I recently noticed on my iPhone that the album artwork for all of the songs in my Beatles box set is the same "box set" artwork, rather than the artwork that I manually added to each album. I also have the Led Zeppelin Box Set, but those songs have the proper original artwork. Is this a server-side issue with iTunes, or can I fix this?

I received this email in mid-January, and, shortly after that, I started seeing the same thing on my iOS devices. It drove me crazy, because I couldn't figure out why this was happening.

I have three "digital box sets" purchased from the iTunes Store: Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, and U2. I had replaced the artwork for each album with the original artwork, but, for some albums, I was seeing the "box set" artwork.

Since the original artwork for the box sets I have isn't in my iTunes library at all, I was perplexed. I spent some time digging into this issue, and I think I found out why it's happening, but I didn't really find a long-term fix. There's a lot more detail about this on my blog, but here's the short answer:

When you sync iOS devices, they connect to iTunes Store servers and download box set artwork for some albums (though I don't know why they don't do this for all albums). You can prevent this by putting your iOS device in airplane mode when you first sync the songs in question, but if you ever resync them, because you've changed tags, for example, they may pick up the box set artwork again.


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