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How I tag my library to make it useful for my needs


Senior Member
Oct 7, 2022
I've got quite a large music collection that's been growing for over 20 years, and it's been getting hard to keep it "useful" with regards to shuffling, but I think I've come up with a good system now. I use MusicBee to view and play my collection, and leverage it's "auto playlists" (filters) and "playlist mixers". Also all the following tagging/playlist work helps with the MB "Device" feature that fills up portable devices for you based upon playlists, prioritised by order.

My problems with a big library;
1) Too much crap when shuffling: I found when pushing shuffle on the whole library that far too many "non-songs" would get played. Things like intros/interludes/etc, but even stuff like bonus live songs I don't like in my shuffle mix. So this stuff needed removing.
2) Shuffle feels repetitive: Some bands are very old and have a lot of albums, and they seem to appear too much in shuffle.
3) Not enough new stuff in shuffle: Similar to #2, but bands that I've been listening to for 20+years just take up the bulk of the collection and crowd out everything else.
4) Further to #3, but some bands that I've been listening to for a long time I just don't want to hear so much of at the moment.

Things I previously tried to improve the situation;
5) To solve #1 I had a "no shuffle" tag on songs I didn't want to play during shuffle, and then used the auto-playlists to filter out those songs. This worked but was a bit granular.
6) #2 could be solved in MB with "gap before artist can repeat" setting on playlist mixers.
7) #3 can be solved by using playlist mixer to mix 2 playlists together, 1 old and 1 new stuff. But what is old and new? New by release date, or new as in new to me? You can do either or both (mix many playlists together).
8) I didnt' create manual playlists because that seemed too much work.
9) #4 was a bit harder to improve. Originally I tried put ratings on my albums and filtering that way, but that doesn't work because I might rate an album highly but not want to listen to it too much right now.

So taking all that in to consideration, here's what I've been using the last few weeks;

Firstly I upgraded my shuffle tag to a "layered" approach. The values I use are "No" for when I never want to hear the song in shuffle, "Remove" for when the album gets demoted to a certain point and means the song will get removed from shuffle, and "Add" for when the album is demoted below the shuffle mix but I still want that particular song in the shuffle mix. Technically no value is the 4th value and means the song is included if the album is included.

Next thing to handle was the "demotion" system, and I just repurposed the album rating feature for this. There's a setting in MB to not allow half-stars, so I use that. So the values are unrated, 0 (bomb), and 1-5. I purposed these as 5 = must have, 4 = great, 3 = good, 2 = rarely, 1 = never, 0 = exclude. Now you might think why even have 0 and 1 ranked albums in collection, but that's mostly reserved for stuff like b-sides or EP's that might have 1 or 2 original songs on them that I want to "Add" to the shuffle mix, but that I never want in the shuffle mix entirely. 5+4 are basically equal (all great music that I want to hear), the difference being if I'm copying songs to a small device then I want the 5's to have priority. And that leaves 3+2 as the effective levels of demotion.

Another tag I added was for "DATE_ADDED", and I just do it as text like "2023-11" for Nov 2023. This way I can have a playlist where the DATE_ADDED is filtered by "starts with" 2023 for example. Also I can have an album "browser" ordered by the date added field, so the newest albums in my collection are at the top.

So putting all that together, I made some "partial" auto-playlists (ie filtered playlists).
  • The first is my "best" shuffle mix, so I have ((rating>3 & shuffle!=no) || shuffle==add).
  • Then I have a "new to hear more" playlist that is (date_added>2020 & rating>3 & shuffle!=no,remove & play_count<10). With this playlist I can force more of these particular albums in to the mix so that I get more familiar with them.
  • The last one I have at the moment is "low play count" where (play_count<5 & shuffle!=no,remove), which helps prevent the "illusion" of some songs/albums just never appearing.
Then in a playlist mixer I'm currently mixing those 3 playlists with 2 tracks from each, and "gap between same artist" set to 8 (still doing trial and error on those numbers).

And that's it for now, but wow, my shuffle mix is potent at the moment! And so maybe this info will give you some ideas on how to wrangle your music collection too?
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