October 13, 2019

Combining Playlists with Shortcuts 🎶

Before the iCloud Music Library came along, I had a good system of smart playlists in iTunes which built on other smart playlists to create what amounted to my own personal radio stations. These playlists were dynamic, ditching tracks which once they were played, to keep from hearing the same track over and over again and giving other tracks a chance to breathe.

Once the iCloud Music Library came along, these playlists became a little obsolete. They worked just fine within iTunes on the Mac. But, for whatever reason Apple has, they never synced to the cloud based on the fact they were built off of other smart playlists. I’ve tried other work arounds, including trying to build all these rules into a single playlist, but things can get messy quick.

Enter Apple acquiring the app Workflow which has been since rebranded as Shortcuts. Shortcuts allows you to create what are essentially macros, which makes repetitive tasks streamlines and quick, for iOS and iPad OS. In this case, Shortcuts has solved my problem with combining smart playlists while on the go. With this workflow (which I found on Reddit then added a small edit), I can select the playlists I want to build off of and create a song queue, shuffled and with no duplicates.

This allowed me to get a little creative with some smart playlists. The way I had things set up before was to have playlists within a certain genre set by how new the music is, which goes as follows:

  • New - From the current year (or two) which was added to my library within the last nine months
  • Recent - From the last five years, excluding anything in the new music list
  • Classic - Anything prior to five years
  • Decade lists - 80s, 90s, and so on.

With this, I added a little twist. For each of these options, I created three separate playlists with song limits of 50, 100, and 200. I think of it as measuring the amount of each ingredient I want. I’ve also made a smart playlists of favorite bands with a song limit of 100, to insure through all the randomness I have in my library, that I’ll definitely get something I like. All these playlists kick a song out once it’s played, allowing a new track to move in. Running the workflow looks like this:


At this point, you select the playlist you want to build from, hit done, and the rest takes care of itself. You have a fresh custom playlist every day. The key here is you can list the playlists you want to build off of, you just have to make sure they are spelled correctly. But, this means if you want to use Apple Music’s own frequently updating playlists, you certainly can.


You can download the Shortcut here.