September 23, 2008

Is There a Long Tail to My iTunes Library? The Stats Tell All.

Having long ago passed the point where I could realistically listen to all my music on my iTunes library in a matter of days or weeks, I set up a number of smart playlists that help me to rediscover old music, sorted by the most recent time I played the song. (See: iTunes: Old Music Is New Again from March of 2006) By solely listening to this constantly re-generating playlist, I find myself avoiding repeated songs, and am constantly finding great music that's fallen by the wayside.

But as this playist has continued to expand, and I can't keep up, despite avoiding new purchases, for the most part, we now can further break down the list to see if there is a long tail to iTunes. Am I getting to every song, and what percentage of my songs have been listened to over specific time periods? Also, given I only have a finite amount of time, how many of the songs have been listened to only once?

Let's find out.

First: As of Midnight PDT on Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008:
There are 5,773 items, representing 23.7 days and 35.42 GB.

My iTunes Library, Songs Sorted by Last Played

Of these nearly 6,000 songs, I've managed to get to over 1,000 of them in the last three months, and an additional 500 or so in the prior three months (with no overlaps). But that means more than 4,000 songs have not been touched in the last six months, representing more than two and a half weeks of solid music.

While I've tried to get to every song with some regularity, there's still almost a day's worth of music that hasn't been listened to in more than 10 months.

My iTunes Library, Songs Sorted by Play Count

Additionally, of the almost 6,000 songs in my iTunes library, about 1,000 songs have been listened to greater than 12 times each since iTunes started counting. This compares with about 3,200 songs that have been listened to between 5 and 12 times apiece, and more than 1,500 that have been listened to between 1 and 4 times.

Using a small utility called iTunes Timer, the accumulative play totals for the songs in my library suggest that I've listened to iTunes for more than 195 days and 2 hours. Surely, if I stay connected to the laptop or my iPhone with some good regularity, I can power through those songs I haven't heard in more than six months, or listen to those tracks that haven't gotten enough airplay. But realistically, I shouldn't be letting the statistics drive my listening habits. It's common for people to find their favorite songs and play them a whole lot more than those that don't quite strike their fancy. But with iTunes, and the power of Smart Playlists, I can actually dive in and find out. And to watch me try and catch up, check out my page.

What do your iTunes stats show?