iTunes: Needs a ‘smarter’ artist list

Posted by Pierre Igot in: iTunes
May 5th, 2006 • 1:48 pm

My collection of tracks in iTunes is becoming rather large. I have nearly 18,000 tracks, from 2,762 albums, by 3,146 artists. While iTunes still performs relatively well even with such a large music collection, there is one aspect of its interface that I think could use some improvement.

The problem is that, while I have many tracks by many artists, I have a small number of (favourite) artists for whom I have many tracks. In other words, out of the 3,146 artists mentioned above, there might be 3,000 artists for whom I only have a single track, and then 150 artists or so for whom I have quite a few tracks.

Yet in iTunes’s browser pane, in the “Artist” column, there is absolutely no visual distinction between an artist for whom I have a single track and an artist for whom I have 300 tracks. They both have the exact same importance in the list.

I don’t think that’s quite appropriate. Obviously my favourite artists are artists that I tend to listen to more often. They should therefore be easier to locate and select. Yet the “Artist” column is always sorted in alphabetical order. There is no way to sort it in any other order. There is also no indication of the number of tracks of each artist in the list.

Apple could easily improve this, for example by indicating the number of tracks for each artist between parentheses after the name of the artist in the list. They could also highlight in bold artists who have more than 50 tracks, or more than 100 tracks. This way, favourite artists would stand out in the list and be easier to locate and select.

(I know you can select an artist by typing the first few letters of his name, but since the artist name usually consists of the first name followed by the last name, there are often many artists whose names begin with the same letters.)

6 Responses to “iTunes: Needs a ‘smarter’ artist list”

  1. JMTee says:

    I agree with you, but haven’t personally found this to be a big problem in the iTunes. However, in the iPod finding your favourite artist can be a pain sometimes. Maybe some kind of favourite artists, or artists with most tracks, selection could be in place. Hmm… the iPod (or iTunes) could do somekind of 20:80 selection of artist and give a direct access to the 20% (or whatever) artists with most tracks…

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    Yes, I agree that it’s a problem with the iPod as well. The iPod and iTunes interfaces are good, but they could still be improved, and unfortunately there haven’t been any significant improvements lately.

  3. Martin McKenna says:

    I can’t stand my Artist list being contaminated by artists with only one or two songs to their name. To this end, I append the name of the artist to the name of the orphaned song and change the artist field (and the album field too) to ‘Assorted’.

    If you’d rather sort these orphaned songs by artist instead of by song title, you could obviously just prefix the artist name to the song title instead.

  4. Arden says:

    This is something that’s been bugging me for a while. I’d also like to be able to see at a glance which artists I have lots of songs from. Additionally, I’d like to be able to see who I don’t have much of, so I can find more music. Currently, I have to scan through each artist from the browser, finding them out manually.

  5. Pierre Igot says:

    Arden: You’d think that this is something that a “Smart Folder” should be able to do, right? Unfortunately, the options available when defining smart folders are pretty limited… Not so “smart” after all.

    Martin: I just can’t stand the idea of using the ID3 fields for a purpose other than the intended one. The beauty of a standard is that it guarantees interoperability. If you start using these fields in a non-standard way, you are exposing yourself to all kinds of consequences, both in your own use of the software and when sharing files with other people.

  6. Paul Ingraham says:

    I’ll chime in here and agree that this is a frustrating problem. In fact, I would actually call it the most annoying limitation in iTunes for me at present, although it’s hard to call… the need for smarter smart playlists is also great.

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