A couple of weeks ago I was having an email dialog with my friend Dave Oosterhuis about iTunes metadata. We had been discussing the finer points of dealing with duet albums. Are they compilations? No. What artist field do you set? It's all just a bit annoying for the obsessive-compulsive crowd. During this exchange he suggested a feature in iTunes that I now really wish I had. If only I would have been able to remain ignorant. His idea is that iTunes should support "song linking". He isn't a blogger, so I decided to put this idea out there in the hopes that millions of people on the Internet will barrage Apple with requests to make this happen.
The basic premise behind Song Linking is that sometimes you have more than one copy of the same song, or maybe a just slightly different version of the same song. Immediately the song If I Can't Change Your Mind by Sugar came to my mind. Sugar was more prolific with singles than most bands. This song appears on their first album, Copper Blue. It then appears again on their Besides collection as well as on The Joke is Always on Us collection. Additionally it is on the Helpless single not to mention that the two different singles titled If I Can't Change Your Mind with the song appearing once on the 'yellow cover' version, and twice on the red cover version. Oh, and just for fun it appears on Bob Mould's solo album The Silence Between Us. Whew.
So, after all this iTunes looks like this.
So, what would song linking do? Song Linking would allow to me select multiple songs and then link selected metadata for those songs. The songs would be unchanged in their various album locations, but I could have the option to link play count and last played date. These are not independent songs and when building a smart playlist based on last played date they should be treated as linked. They are independent songs if you are playing any of the albums that they are on.
To link you would simply select any grouping of songs and invoke the link feature. You could then select checkboxes for what metadata to link. This should contain rating, play count, last played date, skip count, last skip date and genre.
Using this feature in the example above, I would be ecstatic to link items 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8 into one set. Items 2 and 4 would be separately linked since they are both solo versions. Item 1 would not be linked since it is a fairly different rendition of the song (as indicated by the different rating I applied). iTunes could show a small chain icon next to the tracks that have links, and on hover could provide links to the linked tracks.
I could see using this feature a fair amount and it would really help make Smart Playlists more effective.