Monday, 24 December 2012

Tips to improve your iTunes library's artists view.

Written for iTunes users who are passionate about organizing their music library.

Out of iTunes 11's four library music views ('songs', 'albums', 'artists' and 'genres'), I now enjoy using artists the most. It wasn't always like that; an erratic collection of compilations had resulted in a long scrolling view that was irritating to navigate. Tired of the genre view and wanting a fresh way to select my music-of-the-moment, I decided to spend time improving my artists view.

Tagging album and song information more appropriately (as described in the tips below) was a good choice as I now have a much better iTunes-user experience: I not only have a speedy way to select an artist's songs and benefit from a more varied listening-experience (than my past reliance on playlists or Genius Mixes), but now also can quickly use the linked 'iTunes Store', 'Listeners Also Bought' and 'Related' options views to find pre-releases, live and cover versions, novelties and remixes that I ordinarily would not have been aware of.

Follow these steps below and you can also have a better iTunes experience using your artists view:

1. Find and change your compilations' album artist titles
The highest selling albums in South Africa have tended to be compilations, which may pose a challenge for local iTunes users' artists view as iTunes prioritizes the 'album artist' field when displaying an artist's albums and singles. This may result in some of your favorite artists, DJs and tunes being hidden in this view, particularly if they are labelled 'Various Artists', 'Various' et al. in the album artist field and their album is also ticked as a compilation type. It's easy enough to check the extent of this challenge in your library, by opening the 'compilations' and 'various artists' "artists" in your artist view and seeing their size (you should also check that there are no namesakes (like 'Various'). It is easy enough to fix, select the songs of your 'best of' albums and change the album artist name to his or her name. (N.B. If you tire of being automatically redirected to the start of your artist view, remember to use the shift and letter shortcut to get back to where you were making changes).

2. Hide artists best viewed under genre
Your library may feature artists who's oeuvre is not large or interesting enough to merit your focus in the artists view. Simply change their album artist field to 'Various Artists' and they will be hidden in the artists view.

3. Change individual album artist names to their more famous band's (or vice-versa)
To ease selection, you may want to move an individual artist under their band's name (say Agnetha Fältskog under ABBA). Simply change their album artist field to their band's name. Of course, this may be reversed, where relevant (i.e. by placing Cream under Eric Clapton). Although nitpicking purists may frown at this, it's your music collection to label and the resulting streamlined view is likely to take priority over complete accuracy.

4. Order tunes and the best remixes under your favorite DJs and producers
In those cases where DJ mixes, re-mixes or producer work are so distinctive that they merit being featured under artists, you should enter the DJ or producer's name in the 'album artist' field. I suggest you also append all DJ's names with DJ (i.e. 'DJ Tonka' or 'DJ Armin Van Buuren'), which makes it easy to select and see the DJs you follow under the artists view's DJ section (just press 'shift' key, followed by 'd' then 'j'). Unfortunately,  iTunes only supports one artist entry under its 'artist' and 'album artist' fields, so you may be forced to choose which DJ to highlight a seminal collaboration (such as DJs Sasha and John Digweed) or to label the duo as a distinctive artist.

5. Group soundtrack albums by their composer or director
Following on from DJs, there are also some composers (such as Angelo Badalamenti) or directors (like David Lynch) whose soundtracks are so distinctive that you want to group them under the composer's or director's name. Again specify the 'album artist' field to arrange it.

6. Collate an artist's pseudonyms under one artist's name
Electronic music artists in particular are well-known for using multiple aliases and it is helpful to use the 'album artist' field to group work that would otherwise be listed under distinct artists (i.e. AFX, Blue Calx, Bradley Strider, Caustic Window, DJ Smojphace, GAK, Martin Tressider, Polygon Window, Power-Pill, Q-Chastic, Tahnaiya Russell, The Dice Man, Soit-P.P., and speculatively The Tuss, for the Aphex Twin).

7. Get rid of multiple titles for an artist
iTunes does not support attribution to multiple artists, which I have found particularly problematic with classical music; where the conductor, composer and orchestra have all been attributed under the 'artist' field. To address this, I have decided to only use the artist field for the most important performer and to cut-and-paste the composer's information into the 'composer' field. How you address it depends on your priorities; you are most welcome to label Mozart under "artist", for example!

8. Get rid of 'one hit wonders'
To reduce the artists present in your view, you can also remove any one hit wonders {who only play for a short time when selected, anyway}. However, before doing this, check the artist's 'In The Store' view, just in case the 'one hit wonder' describes your library's content, not the artist's output :) !

If you have any other helpful tips, please share them in the comments box below.

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