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Relationship 2.0: Two People, Two iPods, One iTunes Library

Tomorrow's Valentine's Day, which means I'm almost through being bombarded by press releases with headlines like "Valentine's Day Gadget Gift Idea."

These pitches have suggested a remarkable variety of tech trinkets--portable hard drives, laptop bags, a multifunction printer, phones and camcorders in red or pink--as the ideal token of one's affection. But for all that creativity, they overlook a huge opportunity: Today's tech-savvy couples don't need some new gadget or program, they need better ways to share one collection of music between people whose tastes in music only partially overlap.

Those of you who are attached or married may be nodding your heads in agreement; for those who aren't, I'll try to explain from my own experience.

Back when my iPod was single, life was simple. After I'd copied all my music into iTunes, I could edit smart playlists all night, every night. I could subscribe to whatever new podcast caught my eye, then dump it whenever something more attractive came along.

But then my wife got her own iPod--a newer and better model than mine. And things got complicated. Of course Katie wanted to sync her iPod to the established music library, but she also wanted to copy the CDs I'd left out before. I think you can imagine why I'd skipped over those discs.

It's not that I had to hold my nose while feeding them into the computer (instead, I asked Katie to copy them for me). Rather, my concern was about what would happen next: I didn't want to be rocking out on my iPod when, say, something from the "Evita" soundtrack came up.

Even more alarming, what if Katie felt the same way about some of my own music?

On its own, iTunes doesn't deal with this scenario too elegantly. One of Apple's suggested workarounds, for example, would require us to add the same music to iTunes twice if we both liked it. The easiest option turned out to be setting up playlists to group and exclude the more... divisive music in a shared collection.

Here's how to do that:
* First, craft a smart playlist to fill your iPod with a fresh selection of randomly chosen songs each time. Call it "My iPod" or whatever works for you.
* Then, put all of your significant other's worst music in a new playlist. Call it "Not For Me" or something else that won't offend him/her when he or she sees it.
* Then, add a line to the first playlist to reject anything in the second playlist: "Playlist... is not... Not For Me."
And now iTunes will only load your iPod with music that won't make you feel ooky.

This is not a perfect solution, since only one of us can rate songs on iTunes' one-to-five scale. But it turns out that I'm much more of a curator than Katie--my CDs have always been sorted alphabetically, and I understand why some people would sort them autobiographically instead. So she was happy to leave that work to me... I trust she'll understand if certain songs get whacked with a one-star rating.

How have you dealt with this issue? Share your own solutions in the comments!

By Rob Pegoraro  |  February 13, 2008; 1:20 PM ET
Categories:  Music , Tips  
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