I have a shit-ton of MP3 files I’ve been collecting over the years and managing such a large compendium can be a chore. Below is how I manage my music.
To give you an idea of how powerful smart playlists can be, here are two I use regularly:
When I buy new music, I like to beat it up a bit and listen to it often. This playlist automatically populates with songs added to my library within the last 90 days and played fewer than five times and is highly-rated by me. This configuration allows me to have quick access to my new music but prevents me from burning out on it quickly (after five plays, it will be removed from the list).
The Old Friends playlist helps me get out of music ruts. I tend to listen to the same music over and over, burning out on it and getting tired of it eventually. When that happens, I can resort to the Old Friends, which are highly-rated songs, which havne’t been played in the last 30 days.
For smart playlists to work properly, you have to make an effort to keep your music metadata updated. For my method, this means rating every song, making sure the genre is correct, etc.
Another type of smart playlist I employ alot is to combine two regular playlists. For example, I have an “Acoustic Sunday” playlist and a “Bubbly Toes” playlist (John Mayer, James Blunt, Jamie Lidell, etc). Both of these playlists I maintain manually, adding songs as I acquire them. I also have a smart playlist titled “Playlist Mashup: Sunday Bubbly Toes” and that playlist combines the two manual playlists. With this setup, I can listen to just the acoustic songs if I want, or just the Bubbly Toes songs, or I can listen to both.