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!