iTunes 12.4 Applies Song Ratings to Albums and Destroys Smart Playlists

In iTunes, you can rate songs and albums separately. For example, you can rate a song five stars, and an album four stars. If you do this, iTunes considers that every track that is not rated specifically inherits the album rating. And the album rating – if you have not set it expressly – is computed from any song ratings you’ve applied. This can be good or bad, depending on how you manage your iTunes library.

When iTunes 12.2 was released, the app changed some song ratings to album ratings. This means that if you have smart playlists that look for, say, five-star songs, iTunes will add all the tracks from the album with the five-star rating to those playlists. After iTunes 12.2 was released, this happened occasionally; but with iTunes 12.4, my entire library was changed. Every single song rating in my library got changed to an album rating. (Note that neither iTunes Match, iCloud Music Library, nor Apple Music are active on this Mac, so these services are not responsible for the changes.)

Obviously, this broke my smart playlists.

Empty smart playlist

What is particularly annoying is the fact that I use playlists like the one above to sync music to my iPhone. I had noticed that my iPhone had more free space, but I hadn’t thought to check how much music had gotten synced.

Yesterday, when looking in my iTunes library, I spotted the problem. Here’s one example: each of the following albums had a number of tracks rated five stars, some rated four stars, and some with no rating. iTunes decided to change the album ratings to match the highest song ratings.

Album ratings five

You can see that these albums now have five-star album ratings (the black stars next to the album names), and the songs have “computed” ratings (the gray stars). But none of them have actual song ratings, so smart playlists looking for those ratings will not find anything.

So, I set out to fix this. It wasn’t easy. Since I have Time Machine backups, I went back to an older iTunes Library.itl file, from before the 12.4 update. I loaded that, and created smart playlists for each rating: one stars, two stars, etc. I then selected all the files in each playlist, and created new “dumb” playlists from them. I exported those playlists as XML files.

I then re-loaded my newest iTunes library. I deleted all the album ratings using Doug Adams’ Album Rating Reset AppleScript. I imported the rating playlists, and manually applied song ratings to them. This process took quite a while. I had over 3,500 songs rated.

That first playlist above now contains 88 songs, and other playlists contain hundreds of songs that were missing before the fix.

Fixed playlist

When I synced my iPhone, 279 songs were copied, because many of the songs in those playlists are already synced from other playlists. But if I had depended only on ratings playlists to sync music, my iPhone would have been empty.


And here’s how the two albums in the screenshot above should have looked; you can see I had only rated a few songs on those albums:

Correct song ratings
So, if this happens to you, I hope you have Time Machine backups. Because otherwise, there’s no way to get back the ratings that you meticulously applied to your music. iTunes, you’ve failed me again.