Stars vs. Hearts in iCloud Music Library

For ages I’ve used SizzlingKeys to rate iTunes songs I like or dislike in the background, as they roll by. I then use Smart Playlists to sift and sort — the lowest rated become candidates for deletion (I’m as interested in pruning the collection as I am in growing it), and the highest rated become sources to draw from when creating custom playlists, or when I just want to hear the best of the best.

Unfortunately, my perfect little system broke down completely when I moved 100k tracks into iCloud Music Library a few months ago — changes made to star ratings on my master machine had no effect on the corresponding Smart Playlists on my laptop. WTH? The problem turns out to be related to those stupid “hearts” Apple introduced with iTunes 12. Here’s what they don’t tell you about iCloud Music Library (which I otherwise love):

Star ratings don’t sync between devices, but hearts (“Loves”) do.

I have absolutely no idea why this is the case, but I figured out a little workaround you can use to provide a working Smart Playlist of best tracks on all your devices.:

  1. On the machine that holds your master collection, go to a Smart Playlist holding all of your 4- and 5-star tracks
  2. Use Cmd-A to Select All
  3. Hit Cmd-I (Get Info)
  4. Click the Heart icon (pictured below). If some of the tracks already had hearts, the heart will appear half-full. Click it repeatedly until it’s all the way full.
  5. Hit OK to add hearts to every track in the selection. iTunes will churn through thousands of tracks at once, “Love”-ing them all.
  6. Create a new Smart Playlist with the criteria “Loved = True”
  7. On your secondary devices, quit and restart iTunes or the Music app. Give it a minute, then access that new playlist.

It’s not perfect, but at least you now have a way to access your best tracks via real-time updating across all devices.

Look for the heart icon in the Info panel to set “Loves” for hundreds or thousands of selected tracks at once.

Create a new Smart Playlist to track Loved tracks instead of rated tracks.