iTunes displays the number of "plays" for each track. What exactly does this mean?

For example, playing a little bit of a track does not seem to increment the number. But playing most, but not all, of a track seems to.

Does playing n seconds trigger the increment? n percent of the track? Or something else?

I have a 4GB iPod Mini, if that matters.

The motivation is, I have iTunes set to automatically delete podcasts after they're played, and I don't want to accidentally trigger a deletion.

4 Answers 4


In the behavior I have seen in the 5+ years of podcast listening. iTunes marks it as played based on a percentage listened. My guess is that would be about 98-99% listened. A 5 minute show would basically be the end. An hour and a half show would be just the last few seconds.

  • Thanks all. This one matches my observed behavior the closest, so I marked it accepted - I believe I've stopped a podcast with something like 20-30 seconds to go, and it's counted as a play. That's more consistent with a percentage than straight time ("the last few seconds").
    – Reid
    Jan 21, 2011 at 4:23

I believe that you just have to listen to the last few seconds of a song. You can skip all of the beginning part, and it will increment the Plays if you listen to the end.

  • i realized this a year ago and it was weird.
    – tekknolagi
    Jan 20, 2011 at 0:38
  • However, if it did not do this, it would not be counting a podcast episode at all if you listen to it in pieces (and only the last few minutes on the last session).
    – Thilo
    Jan 21, 2011 at 6:23

In case Nathan G's answer wasn't super-clear: play count == number of times the file played right to the very end. That means you need to let an audio file play right to completion - either until the next track starts to play, or you are returned back to the song list (if it is the last track in the list).

  • 2
    This doesn't match my observed behavior: I can exit a podcast near, but not at, the end, and it still counts a play.
    – Reid
    Jan 21, 2011 at 4:22
  • This is accurate for music files. Podcasts may behave differently.
    – Bobson
    Mar 27, 2012 at 19:35

Nathan G. answer was right but I want to add some other info, if you let iTunes play last second of your song and go to another song it ++ your plays of that song, but if you click other song to play and the remaining time of current song is <5s still iTunes ++ play for that song.

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