Troubleshoot Apple Music with Smart Playlists

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Cassette tapes
In the olden days, playlists were stored on tapes.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Think about your music library for a second. Which of the songs in your library come from Apple Music? Which ones did you add to the library yourself? And which ones have you added to iTunes Match, but haven’t actually made it to your iCloud library yet?

These things are a little confusing. The beauty of Apple Music, and the iCloud Music Library, is that all of your music is there, in one place. But this simplicity also makes it hard to see what’s going on. Happily, iTunes is still more than up to the task, and can even split these songs into individual playlists. Let’s check it out.

If you click the Songs tab in iTunes’ sidebar, you can see a kind of Excel-spreadsheet-style view of your music. If you click on the column headers to reorder your library, you can slice and dice the view to find exactly what you want.

But it’s messy, slow and temporary. It’s much better to use another great iTunes feature to make permanent, always-up-to-date lists using Smart Playlists. This feature let you create all kinds of complex (or simple) lists, based on multiple criteria.

Create a new Smart Playlist in iTunes to get started.
Create a new Smart Playlist to get started.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Think of your Smart Playlists as powerful saved searches. You can show all the songs you’ve loved, and when you love another song, it is instantly added to the list. Like loved songs by Leonard Nimoy, for example. But you can also combine criteria: loved songs by Leonard Nimoy and Leonard Cohen, which are downloaded, and which you have never skipped.

Today, we’re going to look at a single “rule.” This rule has several options that let you filter songs by their iCloud Status.

Create iTunes Smart Playlists for iCloud Status

First, create a new Smart Playlist. Go to File > New > Smart Playlist in the iTunes menubar, or hit ⌘⌥N on the keyboard. You’ll see this:

The iCloud Status rule has plenty of options.
The iCloud Status rule offers plenty of options.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Click on the first rule (it defaults to Artist), and pick iCloud Status from the drop-down list. Then, you can click on the third dropdown box to get a look at the variety of neat options available.

You can choose from the following options:

  • Matched
  • Purchased
  • Ineligible
  • Removed
  • Error
  • Duplicate
  • Apple Music
  • No Longer Available
  • Not Uploaded

Troubleshoot iCloud Music using Smart Playlists

Several of these are great for troubleshooting your iCloud Music Library. Error, Not Uploaded and Ineligible, for example, can help you find songs that you have added yourself, but that somehow haven’t been uploaded to your iCloud Music Library. Ineligible might list songs that don’t meet the criteria for uploading to the cloud. Not Uploaded won’t tell you the problem, but it can help you track down troublesome tracks.

List only your own music

This is my favorite iCloud Status playlist. By using the NOT command in the middle box, you can set up the following playlist:

Show only your own music.
Show only your own music.
Photo: Cult of Mac

That’s a playlist where the iCloud Status is NOT Apple Music. This shows only the songs that haven’t come from my Apple Music subscription. I could also add another line to only show songs whose Location is on this computer. Such a playlist would show me only my own music, and only the tracks that exist locally on my Mac.

Apple Music Smart Playlists work on iOS, too

As you can see, you can really get in deep using Smart Playlists. And they all work on your iPhone and iPad, too. Any smart playlist created on the Mac will sync to your other devices, as long as they are connected to your iCloud Music Library.

You can even edit the name and the accompanying thumbnail artwork from your iOS device, if you like.

If you never used iTunes Smart Playlists before, you should totally check them out. You can create some excellent custom-tailored lists. I love them, as it helps me find old songs that I’d forgotten about, and to check out new music more easily. Explore, and see what you can come up with.