iWant: Multiple Artist and Genre Tags in iTunes

Unknown.jpegI have a lot of stuff in my iTunes library that doesn’t easily fit in one tag. For example, I mentioned in a Macworld article about tagging in iTunes, published today, that there’s an album by Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane which poses problems for tagging. Which artist do you use? Thelonius Monk, The Thelonius Monk Quartet, or Thelonius Monk and John Coltrane? If you’re a Monk fan, but not a Coltrane fan, you might want one of those. But what if you’re a die-hard Coltrane fan? Perhaps you want to say John Coltrane with the Thelonious Monk Quartet.

And that’s the problem: creating artists with multiple names is messy. It would make a lot more sense to be able to apply multiple artists; in this case, one Artist tag would be Thelonious Monk, and another would be John Coltrane.

This would be especially useful with classical music. For any opera, you have the following artists:

  • The orchestra
  • The conductor
  • Perhaps a choir
  • Each of the solo singers, generally four or more

So, you may tag an album – such as a recording of Berlioz’s Les Troyens available from the iTunes Store – with the following “Artist”: Berit Lindholm, Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Jon Vickers, Josephine Veasey, Sir Colin Davis & Wandsworth School Boys Choir. Now, that’s a very long artist tag, and it’s one that’s hard to read in iTunes; even more so on the iOS Music app.

But what we should be able to do is have one tag for Sir Colin Davis, another for the Covent Garden [Orchestra?], another for Jon Vickers, etc. I should be able to click on any of those individuals and find all the music they’ve recorded that’s in my iTunes library; I shouldn’t have to perform a search to find them.

And going back to Jazz, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to list as Artist each of the sidemen on albums? So you can not only have Miles Davis as Artist for Kind of Blue, but also John Coltrane, Bill Evans and the others?

Movies and TV shows would benefit from this too: you could add the names of actors and directors to the Artist tag.

002.pngWhat about genres? I’d love to have more variables there as well. How about Baroque Sacred Vocal; or Romantic Opera; or Contemporary Piano. All of those would be possible if the Genre field allowed multiple entries.

For this to work, there would have to be a token system, where keywords would show up as they do in Finder tags; see the screenshot to the left. It’s not a big deal to add that to iTunes, though it would require a new paradigm. Perhaps there could be a setting for users to choose whether to use basic or extended tags?

Lots of users would like to see this feature in iTunes. Many don’t care, and they could ignore it. But those of us with big media libraries would be delighted to see it.

26 thoughts on “iWant: Multiple Artist and Genre Tags in iTunes

  1. “What about genres? I’d love to have more variables there as well. How about Baroque Sacred Vocal; or Romantic Opera; or Contemporary Piano. All of those would be possible if the Genre field allowed multiple entries.”

    At least with the Genre category, there is a clunky workaround that I’ve employed: Use “Classical Baroque Sacred Vocal” and “Classical Contemporary Piano”, then use Smart Playlists to filter Genre by words it contains, like “Classical”.

    As stated, it’s clunky. But it is something to consider. (Especially given that Apple seems less and less interested over the years in providing a good experience in iTunes for folks with large libraries, and thus will likely never implement the kind of sane suggestions you make.)

  2. “What about genres? I’d love to have more variables there as well. How about Baroque Sacred Vocal; or Romantic Opera; or Contemporary Piano. All of those would be possible if the Genre field allowed multiple entries.”

    At least with the Genre category, there is a clunky workaround that I’ve employed: Use “Classical Baroque Sacred Vocal” and “Classical Contemporary Piano”, then use Smart Playlists to filter Genre by words it contains, like “Classical”.

    As stated, it’s clunky. But it is something to consider. (Especially given that Apple seems less and less interested over the years in providing a good experience in iTunes for folks with large libraries, and thus will likely never implement the kind of sane suggestions you make.)

  3. Obviously iTunes could be updated to support multiple artists and genres, but the ID3 spec doesn’t support it. One solution would be for only the first entry to be written to the tag.

  4. Obviously iTunes could be updated to support multiple artists and genres, but the ID3 spec doesn’t support it. One solution would be for only the first entry to be written to the tag.

  5. I think it unlikely that we’ll ever see any modification to the way iTunes handles tags. The future for most music consumers will be some flavor of streaming to a mobile device. It’s just a matter of time:

    http://rainnews.com/owning-music-down-acquiring-music-up/.

    People like us who manage audio files “by hand” on a desktop/notepad (that is, via an accessible file system) will be SOL. Third party app makers (DJ software, music servers, and so on) are the best hope for future innovation in audio file management.

  6. I think it unlikely that we’ll ever see any modification to the way iTunes handles tags. The future for most music consumers will be some flavor of streaming to a mobile device. It’s just a matter of time:

    http://rainnews.com/owning-music-down-acquiring-music-up/.

    People like us who manage audio files “by hand” on a desktop/notepad (that is, via an accessible file system) will be SOL. Third party app makers (DJ software, music servers, and so on) are the best hope for future innovation in audio file management.

  7. I soooo wish iTunes had more sophisticated tagging especially for Genre. Like Prince – what genre is prince? it’s pop, rock, funk, R&B etc…

  8. I soooo wish iTunes had more sophisticated tagging especially for Genre. Like Prince – what genre is prince? it’s pop, rock, funk, R&B etc…

  9. You want multiple genres for an album? Easy. Copy the original album to the desktop. It copies with the existing genre tag. Change the genre for the original album in iTunes. The original moves to the new genre. Drag album from desktop back into iTunes. It appears in the genre it was originally placed in. Also works for individual songs. Copy the song(s) you want to have multiple genres onto the desktop. Change the genre for the song(s) in iTunes. Drag the copies back into iTunes.

      • Did not seem to duplicate albums…but you are right (and I stand humbly corrected) it does create duplicates. Really thought I had something there for a minute : / (Can I delete my post to avoid further embarrassment?)—-if something seems to easy, it probably is.

  10. You want multiple genres for an album? Easy. Copy the original album to the desktop. It copies with the existing genre tag. Change the genre for the original album in iTunes. The original moves to the new genre. Drag album from desktop back into iTunes. It appears in the genre it was originally placed in. Also works for individual songs. Copy the song(s) you want to have multiple genres onto the desktop. Change the genre for the song(s) in iTunes. Drag the copies back into iTunes.

      • Did not seem to duplicate albums…but you are right (and I stand humbly corrected) it does create duplicates. Really thought I had something there for a minute : / (Can I delete my post to avoid further embarrassment?)—-if something seems to easy, it probably is.

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