iTunes not updating play counts

iTunes is supposed to keep track of the songs you play on both your computer and on your iPod. Unfortunately, this feature seems to break early and often for a lot of people: songs played using iTunes on your computer will update their “last played” dates and “play count” totals, but songs played on the iPod simply do not.

Frustrated users at the Apple Support message boards report that this is a persistent and intractable problem. Folks there say the problem happens on both Windows and Mac, so it’s not OS-specific. Every version of iTunes seems affected, although version 10.x seems worse than others. It can happen on any model iPod, although Nanos and Touches seem to be the most affected. This started happening way before Apple released iTunes Match, the cloud-based service which backs up your songs (and complicates the play count process, since plays can come from multiple sources). Users have uninstalled and reinstalled iTunes, gone back to previous iTunes versions, and reset their iPods. A couple of people even went out and bought new iPods to see if that would fix the problem. But sadly, nothing seems to fix the issue.

But board member MVLaing came up with (what appears to be) a solid workaround… and it’s bizarre that it actually works! He (or she) suggests that before you sync your iPod to your computer, briefly play anything (on your iPod) that’s not a song, such as a podcast or an audiobook. 30 seconds is enough. Then connect your iPod… and be amazed that play counts are updated! Hooray!

Try it out and tell me what you think!

And lastly, a bit of a rant here. I went to several message boards looking for help with the problem, and was surprised by the amount of ridicule directed towards people who asked for help. Many responses were along the lines of “OMG! What a moran! Why do you even care when you last played a song! Your a tight-ass! LOL!!1!11!!”.

Well, Internet Tough Guy™, I can give you two good reasons why people care about play counts.

The first is Last.fm. It’s a website that keeps track of which songs you play, and offers streaming radio stations based on that info. It can also hook you up with other users who have similar music tastes, and you can see what music they listen to. It works so much better for me than either Pandora or Spotify. In fact, neither of those services have ever offered me a single new band that I liked. Not a one. Last.fm has introduced me to 14 new bands in the last month alone. And guess what? The whole thing stops working if play counts aren’t updated.

Secondly, there’s “Smart Playlists”. iTunes has a nifty feature where you can create a playlist consisting of (for instance) “every song I’ve added to my library in the past 60 days and played more than three times in the last 30 days”. And such playlists are dynamic, so they automatically update themselves as time passes. And guess what, Internet Tough Guy™? If iTunes isn’t updating the play counts on songs from your iPod, then this feature doesn’t work, either!

“Moran”.

22 Replies to “iTunes not updating play counts”

  1. Thanks! I’m about to try this fix so I dont know yet if it works, but I appreciate you calling out those who ridicule instead of help. I’d go one step further and say it shouldn’t matter why people might wish to keep track of play counts in the first place. If something isn’t possible then it’s not possible, but it’s not unreasonable to ask about it no matter how whimsical a desire might seem.

  2. Found this out this morning myself: iTunes doesn’t like going into hibernation. I like to hibernate my system when I’m not going to be using it for a while, since it doesn’t require a full reboot, but also shuts the computer completely off.

    iTunes was left up when I hibernated a few times, and was refusing to update the play counts / last played. Soon as I restarted iTunes, the proper play counts and last played dates were now showing, BEFORE I reconnected my iPod. Seems hibernation made iTunes no longer want to read the tracks’ metadata, but it was writing it.

    Just thought I’d share something else to be aware of.

  3. Great post. I’ve been trying to figure this issue out for a few days. Thanks for the info!

  4. I tried this (playing an audiobook and a podcast on two trials) but it didn’t seem to make a difference. I noticed that Last.FM updated playcounts for certain songs that I know I played recently, but iTunes didn’t. In other words Last.FM was able to read the information either from the iPod or iTunes on sync but for some reason iTunes didn’t similarly update. So perhaps there is a connection there. Maybe the Last.FM client is causing the issue? My PC doesn’t go into hibernation like Kanein suspects but I appreciate how they have posted their findings in several places to help figure out the issue. Thanks for the post Jim.

  5. Also I just ran the diagnostic in iTunes and found that while it could detect the device and connect to it, at the sync test it could not find any device. Maybe another data point.

  6. Thanks.. I been trying to get play track to work thinking that ‘perhaps’ the data gets transmitted when I sync so that iTunes ‘Genius Recommendations’ … I don’t know… not suck as much?
    btw.. thanks for that Last FM tip.

  7. I use last played on my audiobooks, so I can delete them after I have read them. I don’t always connect right after finishing a book so having the last played works great. Although, last played is no longer updating. I think it happened when I updated to OS5 on my ipod, the last ‘last played’ date showing is 3/5/12 which would be about when I downloaded the new OS. I’m not sure what to try next to fix this.

  8. The whole “play something else then sync” worked for me. Downloaded a random podcast, played 30 seconds of it, connected my phone and checked playcount – voila!

    Thank you SO much… this has been bother me for months.

  9. Unfortunately, playing a podcast doesn’t actually seem to correct the problem reliably. I’ve been doing this for several months now, and while sometimes the play count is updated, often it isn’t. (And I KNOW I can’t have forgotten to play a podcast before syncing, because every time I use my iPod Shuffle, I run for 50 minutes while listening to music on a smart playlist, then have a 5-minute “warm down” walk while listening to a podcast.)

    Whether the play count updates properly or not on any given day seems to be totally random, but of course that can’t actually be the case. I do know that both today and last Friday I switched the iPod off after using it and before syncing (something I often don’t do), and both times the play count failed to update the next time I synced the iPod. At this point I have no idea whether or not switching the iPod off is a factor, but it seemed worth mentioning. The next few times I use my Shuffle, I’m going to make a point of not switching it off and see if that helps.

  10. Yeah, I should mention that I bought a new 6th gen Nano a couple of months back and haven’t had a problem with this since. My old Nano got a little bit wet during a beach trip last September. The tide was coming in, and we hadn’t moved back yet when a wave came rolling up; I chose to save a friend’s Kindle over my own iPod. It still works, but the click wheel can sometimes be a bit wonky, and the battery doesn’t last as long as it used to.

  11. I love your article. I’m one of those “morans” who use the play count data a lot, for various reasons, and I do need the play count to be synced every time. Once in a while, it doesn’t do it and it messes up everything!

  12. This did not work, sadly.
    I’ve been reading other forums from Apple and I don’t know that there is a way to fix this.
    I’ve had this problem for a couple of months now, so I don’t know what can be done but thank you.
    I will definitely try this from time to time to see if it will work.

  13. I made a “not played” playlist in iTunes specifically for removing anything with more than one play. What I found when it came to iTunes not keeping playcounts, was that it was the same artists and specific files that were not updating. After loading these songs into Audacity, and “converting” them to mp3’s (they were already .mp3 files, I was just making new ones with Audacity) the new files worked fine and kept play count as they should in iTunes.

  14. I downloaded a podcast, then checked the “sync podcast” box on the window that shows your ipod status while it’s connected to your computer. My ipod synced the podcast automatically, along with my latest song play count. I then unchecked the box to go back to my normal settings and deleted the podcast from my ipod, not a necessary step I guess, except for I don’t do podcasts. Left the podcast on my computer cause I’ll probably need to do the same thing again. I hope this works for you. \m/

  15. I recently bought a secondhand 8GB 5th gen nano. First time I’ve used an apple device, I have over 50Gb of music on my main computer so that wasn’t going to auto sync onto the ipod. So I started to manually dragged files onto the device, after I’d half filled it I worked out that I could auto sync a playlist, so I set that up and filled up the ipod.

    Play counts were random, the syching says that I’ve played files that I haven’t, but sometimes it gets it right.

    Eventually I did a factory reset on the ipod, set it up to sync the itunes playlist and after it had done so I had an extra 3.5GB of space on the device.

    What I think happens is that if you have duplicate files that were both manually dragged onto the device and sync’d from a playlist, the duplicate files never appear on the ipod they just take up space and confuse the ipod’s play index.

  16. THANK YOU! I’ve been having this problem for years and have been looking for a solution, trying so many things and none worked. I’ve tried your trick twice now and it has worked perfectly! So weird, but it works. It was driving me crazy not being able to sync my plays because I build playlists based on play counts (e.g., creating a smart playlist of songs I haven’t listened to yet). I also rate all my songs and that wasn’t syncing either. This tip will save me a lot of frustration.

  17. Thank you for the tips!
    I’ve been going insane trying to fix this problem.
    I added and deleted some podcasts a couple of times and *boom* play counts updated. Hurrah.

    (playing 30 seconds of a podcast didn’t seem to have an effect).

  18. You just saved me from losing 110 play counts! Thanks!

    PS. I found QuietScrob on iOS to be the best way of scrobbling. Open it before you play music and it just scrobbles immediately when you play the track.

  19. This has been happening a long time going back maybe ten years. It has gotten worse again, ironically Last.fm always updates the play counts but my playlists and smart playlists do not. I’ve also lost metadata due to hard drive issues but the plays are recorded in last.fm online.

    I’ve also discovered that when even just listening on iTunes on my laptop, I have to change playlists to get the last played date to update. I wish this works better. I don’t even think I have any podcasts on my iTunes, but it is silly that this has been going on for so long especially when what you listen to does affect playlists both smart and otherwise and features like Genius and probably even Apple Music which I do not subscribe to.

    I also have songs stuck in limbo because I ripped them on an old mac which is in storage and iTunes Match won’t approve them until the computer that is in storage is connected to the Internet. The CDs are of course in storage with the old mac, I ripped them while packing everything away…

  20. Unfortunately for me even when I have done the tip, like playing a podcast the playcount doesn’t update and for me having a play count is convenient cause I like to know which songs I haven’t heard yet, so I can judge them before I know, yeah this one will stay and this one can go when i want to place new songs on it.

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