Once you begin importing all of your music, what do you do next? Rate them! iTunes has a robust 5 star rating system that allows you to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Since rating music is considered to be a personal matter, there are some who think that it does not matter how these ratings are arrived at. Personally I believe in having some standards or rules when it comes to deciding how to rate music. Here are some suggested standards:
1) Don’t confuse bad music as being the same as music you don’t like. Good and bad is pretty relative (though not completely) when it comes to music. Strive to be objective about what you are rating for. Is it about how the music makes you feel? Do you like the instrumentals? The lyrics? Is it what the artist stands for? The production values?
2) Rate only music that you honestly can appreciate. If you don’t like Rap music, then don’t rate it until you have given it an honest try and can appreciate what it trying to do. I think its an form of intellectual dishonesty to rate something you don’t understand. The challenge is to blend personal opinion with some kind of objective criteria.
3) Don’t be lazy and rate everything 5 Stars or 3 Stars or whatever. Yep, I’m judgmental. Giving every song 5 stars is making the rating function useless and why even don’t bother using it?
4) You will likely rate different kinds of musical moods or themes more favorably than others. It is normal to have a natural bias. I personally have a low tolerance for sappy love songs from the 50’s. I find they are just too syrupy for me. Instead, I am attracted to artists who have a dark, ironic, and melancholy sound. According to my 5 star rating system, if the song is competently delivered, even if it is a theme / mood that I do not like then I will rate it the minimum of 2 Stars. Objectively the song is competent and fine, but it simply does not appeal to me.
5) You should listen a few times before rating the music. I have found myself changing some of my ratings higher or lower because I hear the song differently the next time I hear them. I tend to listen to the CDs three to four times, before importing it into iTunes. Once in iTunes, I then will listen to it a few more times before rating it. It is rigorous, but somebody has to too it. 😉
6) The purpose of rating music is to help you find out more about what you like. Its a process of discovery. Music is a fantastic thing that always offers something new as long as you are looking for it. A diligent rating system will organically and even magically create a personal stream of favorite artists / moods / and genres. Its almost like a form of self-discovery.
It takes work to do this, but if there is one quality that I possess, it is an almost obsessive need to complete things. Its a bit of my OCD coming out :-). And like anything that requires effort, the rewards reflect the energy you put into it. The question is what does a 1 Star song mean in contrast to a 3 Star song? I have created a rating system for iTunes that is a variation on the BilLOGs Rating System:
1 Star = A song better not released. To get labeled the same as a steaming pile is ironically not done from an emotional perspective, but from an attempted objective perspective. 1 Star songs are those cursed with terrible sound, usually due to poor production choices and/or technical problems. It signifies an amateur effort which should rarely happen in professionally released music. Another way of thinking about this: I listened to it and don’t want to ever hear it again since the poor production or recording issues gets in the way of enjoying the music.
2 Stars = A song that is okay/fine but does not appeal to me. This is where music genres that I might not fully appreciate or enjoy would go. A 2 Star rating is not an indication of bad music, but just a genre/theme that does not do much for me. This is where aesthetics or taste comes in in contrast to the 1 Star rating. Another way of thinking about this: I listened to it and would consider listening to it again if I was bored and had nothing else to listen to (which is highly unlikely).
3 Stars = A song that I liked and appeals to me. This is music that I would consider to be good music (from a personal perspective). These songs will be in a genre / mood / theme that resonates with me. Another way of thinking about this: I listened to it and would want to hear it about once a month, would hum along, and consider it to capture a particular mood.
4 Stars = A song that I am really fond of and have become attached to. This is music I would consider to be great music that best represents a particular artist or genre. Another way of thinking about this: I listened to it and would want to hear it again every week. This song would get me humming and moving along to it. It would be the best example of a particular mood or theme.
5 Stars = A song that I love. This is music that spans genres and generations. It is the best example of music. The stuff that reaches into my gut, gives me goosebumps, makes my hair stand on end, puts me into convulsions… alright I am exaggerating but you get the idea 😉 Another way of thinking about this is: I can listen to this song multiple times in a row, every hour, and every day. This is the best of music that cuts across time and place for me. It is not defined by a mood, but instead defines a mood.