How to use your Mac to maximize your concert experience

Use iTunes to create a playlist of the songs you'll hear, and then turn it into a fun souvenir of your night out.

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With all the effort and expense it takes to attend a concert, a smart person makes the most of it—starting far before the concert happens and extending well after the final encore. In this column, you’ll learn how to use your Mac to milk every last drop of enjoyment from your concert experiences.

Find the artist’s current setlist

Since artists can’t play all their songs at any one event, limit your pre-concert listening to the songs they’re likely to play. To discover which songs are on the set list for the current tour, do a Google search for “[artist name] setlist 2015” (be sure to include the quotes so the search results include the whole phrase). Depending on the popularity of the artist, the setlist may be easy to find or you may need to root around a bit. That said, the website is particularly helpful.

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A Google search for “Dick Dale setlist 2015” yields the following results for the famous surf guitarist.

Gather the songs into a playlist

Once you discover which songs the artist is likely to play, create a new playlist in iTunes that contains only those songs. If you’re a big fan, odds are you own many of those songs already (or maybe they’re in Apple Music).

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You can select multiple songs by Command- or Shift-clicking them.

So fire up iTunes, locate the artist, and then select a few songs (or albums). Sometimes it’s easiest to create a temporary smart playlist that contains all the artist’s recordings by choosing File > New Smart Playlist and then entering the name of the artist. Next, Control- or right-click a selected item and, from the menu that appears, choose “New Playlist from Selection” (or press Shift-Command-N). When you do, iTunes creates the playlist, opens it, and highlights the name. Enter something meaningful, say, Dick Dale Concert July 2015, and then press Return.

Find the songs you’re missing

If you’re missing a few songs from the setlist, you can easily buy the albums that contain them or the individual tracks from the iTunes Store. To do it, click the ellipsis (three dots) at the right of any _song_—not an album, artist, or playlist name—you already own by that artist and then choose “Show in iTunes Store” from the menu that appears. Once the store opens, you can view other albums by the same artist by clicking the album icons or, if you’re hunting for a certain song, enter its name into the search field at upper right and press Return.

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When you click the ellipsis next to a song (circled) and choose “Show in iTunes Store” (top), iTunes switches to the iTunes Store (bottom).

On the other hand, if you don’t own any songs by that artist, just enter their name or a song title into the iTunes search field and press Return. In the resulting menu, click “Search for [artist or song name] in iTunes Store.”

Add some artwork

For fun, you can change the playlist thumbnail art to something related to your concert, such as a concert poster, a photo or screen capture from the artist’s website, or even a scan of your concert tickets. To do it, open the playlist and click the large playlist thumbnail at the top of the window. In the sheet that appears, click Other, and in the next sheet, navigate to an image file on your Mac and click Open. Use the size slider to set the zoom level of the new art.

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iTunes automatically assigns artwork to your playlist’s thumbnail, but you’re not stuck with it.

With your awesome new playlist complete, you can enjoy it as often as you like leading up to the concert, which is especially fun during your drive—or flight!—to the event, as well as after. If you can’t plug your iOS device into your car stereo, you can always burn the playlist onto a CD by selecting it in iTunes and choosing File > Burn Playlist to Disc (assuming you own the songs in question—you can’t burn playlists containing Apple Music tracks).

Read the lyrics

Aside from binging on the setlist songs prior to the concert, serious fans also memorize the words (if they haven’t already). In fact, if you click on a song in iTunes and then open the Get Info window by choosing File > Get Info or pressing Command-I, you get a Lyrics tab. Sadly, copyright laws prevent the lyrics from appearing automatically whether you import a CD or download a song or album. Fortunately, you can easily find lyrics on the web by entering the song’s name and the word “lyrics” into Safari’s search field. Once you find them, copy the lyrics and then paste them into iTunes’ Get Info window.

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The Lyrics tab in iTunes’ Get Info window is a handy place to store song lyrics.

If you’ll be listening to your playlist on your iPhone, lyrics are even easier. Grab the free Musixmatch app, which can find the lyrics of the currently playing song and sync them up to the playback. It’s even got a Notification Center widget that lets you see the lyrics without even opening the app.

After the concert

After the concert, give your future self a treat by inserting your concert ticket into the case of an artist’s CD. Aside from many other reasons to buy a CD—audio quality, permanence, and so on—the case is perfect for creating a time capsule of the event. After trimming your ticket to fit the case, either slide it into the liner note area of the case, or pop out the inside part of the back half and slip your ticket into it.

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Years from now, that ticket stub will bring back powerful memories of the event.

Until next time, may the creative force be with you all!

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