iWish: iTunes “Works”

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I’ve written in the past about the complications of using iTunes and the iPod to store and play back classical music. Well, there’s a simple way that iTunes could improve the user experience for classical music fans, and it’s something that the iTunes Music Store already uses.

[Since I first posted this article in late 2004, nothing has changed. I’m re-posting it now just in case anyone at Apple is reading my blog, and happens to notice this. We classical music listeners need this functionality in iTunes and the iPod.]The iTunes Music Store lets you purchase “works” for many classical albums. While some are simply presented in a list of movements, others have works grouped together. As you can see in the above screen shot, Apple groups multi-movement works together to make it easier to purchase single works rather than entire albums; it enters the name of the work in the Grouping tag. But why doesn’t Apple use this same possibility in iTunes after you buy the music? And why can’t you use this same grouping in iTunes for your own music?

While I point out in this article that it’s easy to join tracks when importing them, this has drawbacks: you can’t see the names of individual parts of a work (which is especially annoying when listening to an opera or other long work with many parts) and you can no longer choose to listen to a specific part or movement.

Clearly, iTunes has this ability; at least for the iTunes Music Store. This would be a great feature to provide in a future version of iTunes, not only for classical music fans, but even for those who want to group their albums together in this way. In fact, you can see this in action on the iTunes Music Store listing for the Complete U2 set. Each album is listed at one level with the contents of the album at the next level.