iTunes: On Random Play

This was an interesting experiment…

I was building a bookcase, and I had my iTunes on shuffle while I worked. Now, I have close to 33,000 songs in my iTunes, so I figured the shuffle would pull up some real rarities…

Turns out, not really. I don’t know how iTunes randomizes things. It seemed to mostly pick songs from albums or artists I would probably have chosen anyway. I don’t know if it has some sort of algorithm in it to punch my joy button more frequently while giving me the illusion of randomized track selection… Or maybe I just love all of my CDs and am happy when any or all of it turns up.

It’s probably that second option.

I kept a list of the first 25 tracks, and included the album titles [in brackets], so you could see my on-the-job music mix.

Check it out:

01 Bo Diddley – I’m Looking For A Woman [The Blues, In The Beginning CD2]

02 Billy Childish & The Black Hands – I Love My Woman [The Original Chatham Jack]

03 Sam & Dave – Keep A-Walkin’ [Sam & Dave]

04 Def Leppard – Photograph [Pyromania]

05 Julie Doiron – The Best Thing For Me [julie Doiron And The Wooden Stars]

06 Violent Femmes – Add It Up (live) [add it up 1981-1993]

07 Black Flag – Police Story [Damaged]

08 Sloan – Witches Wand [Parallel Play]

09 Pavement – Baptist Blacktick [Slanted & Enchanted: Luxe & Reduxe CD1]

10 Searchers – Love Potion No. 9 [Greatest Hits]

11 Eddie Vedder – Long Nights [Into The Wild OMPS]

12 Guided By Voices – Come Make My Shadow [Suitcase 2, Disc 8]

13 Robert Pollard – Men Who Create Fright [Kid Marine]

14 Roots – The Unlocking [Do You Want More?!!!??!]

15 Death Cab For Cutie – Rocking Chair [Endless Highway: The Music Of The Band]

16 New Pornographers – Mutiny, I Promise You [Challengers]

17 Garth Brooks – Ain’t Goin’ Down (’Til The Sun Comes Up) [Double Live CD2]

18 Pearl Jam – Given To Fly [2003-03-03 #13 Tokyo CD1]

19 Tool – Lateralus [Lateralus]

20 Bob Snider – Fireman [A Maze In Greys]

21 Soundgarden – Slaves And Bulldozers [Badmotorfinger]

22 John Guliak & The Lougan Brothers – Still Be Around [The Black Monk]

23 Alicia Keys – A Woman’s Worth [Songs In A Minor]

24 Bruce Springsteen – Real World [Human Touch]

25 Bunchofuckingoofs – Oh Canaduh [Barrage Of Battery And Brutality]

Fun times!


Posted on June 26, 2014, in posts by aaron and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Cool list here. I would have skipped Alicia Keys personally but hey it’s all good!

    By pure coincidence my review tomorrow contains an iTunes bitch-fest, since I hate it so much. Hopefully will generate some debate/discussion without people calling me a dumb-ass!


    • Yeah, I thought it did OK, song-wise. What surprised me was that, given the amount of music it had to choose from, it gave me some pretty common tunes.

      I like Alicia Keys like that, one track at a time. I don’t think I’ve played the whole album all the way through.

      It’s pretty easy to hate on iTunes, I’ll be curious to hear your take on it. Since I’m an all-Mac guy for a long time time, now, I’ve found a couple of work-arounds for the major issues I had with it.

      Interestingly, I found a fix for the non-random random issue – turn it off and turn it on again!:

      Not sure if anyone would call you a dumbass, but people will be sure to have an opinion about it.


      • Interesting, but makes sense.

        However, it is not really random—not just in the sense that (most) random-number generators are imperfect, but rather it is intentionally imperfect. If I choose songs randomly, I might choose the same one again only shortly after hearing it once, so the algorithm was intentionally changed to avoid this.


      • Hi Phillip! Thanks for chiming in. You’re right, it’s the way Mac seems to have built their random into iTunes. I find myself wishing, though, for true randomization. This is a pretty powerful computer, it can whip through a more complicated algorithm faster than I can blink. It ought to be able to look at 33,000 songs and just randomly throw them up to be played next. I’m no computer programmer, but it can’t be that hard.

        Also, I think this was two separate issues: 1) the randomization of the player itself and, 2) the fact that even though it’s on random play, if you hit the back arrow you can go back through the list of songs played instead of it randomizing that direction too. I think maybe the advice at that link I provided meant to shake that part of it up.


      • Yes, two issues. Originally, it was random, as random as anything on a computer (but still randomized only once, so that the back command would work), but was changed because people didn’t like the results. As Jobs said, it was made less random so that it would appear more random.


      • Haha that’s a typical Jobs-ian comment.


  2. I like that Sloan/Pavement back to back!


  3. I quite like iTunes actually. I know it gets a lot of flak but I find it quite easy for organising things. I tend not to use it as a playback device now that I got rid of my iPod though and I’ve never been a shuffle guy. If you can’t decided what you want to listen to, just put on Danzig or Manowar. It’s THAT simple.


    • Yeah me too. It took me some time to get the parts of it that pissed me off to go away, but now it’s useable. I still have moments of hate for it (I may have ranted in these pages about it already). Burning hate. But on a strict playback and organization level, it has improved with each successive OS.

      I still think it’s trying to do too much. They should split off a bunch of its other program capabilities and beef up the actual music part of it.

      Danzig or Manowar. It’s a no-brainer, really. Hey, did Glenn ever return those DVDs to the library and pay that gigantic fine? I know he said he was going to do it this time, but we’ve heard all of that before…


  4. Daddydinorawk

    1. You Can Call Me Al – Paul Simon (Anthology)
    2. Motorhead – Metropolis (No Sleep Til Hmmersmith)
    3. Last Dance -Neil Young (Time Fade Away)
    4. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath – Black Sabbath (SBS)
    5. Maiden’s Milk -Meat Puppets (Live In Montana)
    6. Blitzkrieg -Metallica (Garage Inc.)
    7. Burlesque – Streetwalkers (Streetwalkers Live)

    Ha..had to stop there

    Had to listen to the whole thing!!



    • That’s a cool list. Was it also done in iTunes with the Shuffle feature on?

      I listened to both of those lists of 25 tracks that I’ve posted, and all the way through! I’ve got a boatload of work to do down here in the basement, so it’s easy to just let the thing play and keep track of the tunes as they came up. It also makes the work go faster, having the tunes on. Saves me singing and thus clearing the room of family and cats…


      • Daddydinorawk

        Yep, did exactly what you did, but I wasn’t working for anything I just wanted to see the results of my own experiment. I would never listen to random tracks from my entire collection like this. If I put something on it’s because I want to listen to it. I nearly did stop and play all of Times Fades Away, but when I got to the Streetwalkers track I said to myself, I want to hear Me An My Horse An My Rum, and My Friend he Sun so I cut the experiment short. After that I listened to some Robert Pete Williams, had a dram of Laphroaig and went to bed.


      • Next time you try it (if you’re feeling up to it), try turning the shuffle on, then off, and then back on again. See if that re-jigs the randomizer thingy for you.

        Oh yeah, the temptation to stop at good albums in my collection is huge, but I was only acting in the interests of science so I had to try to be rigorous…

        A dram before bed, perfect end to the day. Sláinte Mhath!


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