What is the iTunes Grouping Tag?

I wrote recently how Apple Music now uses the Grouping tag to indicate performers and composers for music when you browse Apple Music. The Grouping tag has been available in iTunes for many years. If you select a set of tracks and press Command-I, you’ll see its field:

Grouping tag

As you can see above, I’ve selected the 32 tracks of this recent recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations by Igor Levit. The Grouping field shows the name of the work.

When this tag contains metadata, you can also see it in the iTunes Store. With the album below, you can see how the Grouping tag organizes the album. Multi-track works are grouped under that tag, and single-movement works stand alone.

Grouping itunes store

There are two problems with the Grouping tag. First, if you look at a lot of music on the iTunes Store and Apple Music, you’ll find that not many classical albums use the tag. It’s up to the record labels to provide this metadata.

Second, while you can edit the Grouping tag in iTunes, and display a column showing that tag’s contents, you cannot view works using that tag. Ideally, iTunes would allow a work – defined by the Grouping tag – to display as a single line with a disclosure triangle. When you click the triangle, you’d see the work’s tracks. Even in the iTunes Store, where you see the down-pointing disclosure triangle above, clicking it does nothing; it merely serves as a bullet to indent the tracks that are grouped by that tag.

With Apple’s recent addition of the grouping tag to Apple Music, perhaps the company is going to improve its use in iTunes. For now, at least it makes browsing Apple Music a bit better.