iPhone Life magazine

Compilations...

Issue: 

iTunesTags5NIs the Artist column in your iTunes Library cluttered with hundreds of artists you never heard of? You may be the victim of "compilations." A compilation album contains tracks by multiple artists. Examples include tribute albums, benefit concerts, and soundtracks. For example, the (mythical) album "One Hit Wonders of the 80's" might contain 25 tracks each by a different artist (that's why they were one hit wonders). If you downloaded this album, each artist would be listed in your Artist list, with one associated track. You can quickly end up with hundreds or even thousands of artists, making your Artist list virtually useless. Fortunately, you can clean up the Artist list by using the compilation tag and an iTunes menu option.

Marking an album as part of a compilation removes the artist from the artist list.

  1. In the Albums column, find the albums that are compilations (soundtracks are often compilations).
  2. Select each compilation album and open the Item Information window (Command-I on the Mac; Control-I on the PC).
  3. In the Options tab, check the "Part of a compilation" box and select "Yes" from the dropdown menu and click on "OK" (Fig. 5).

iTunesTags6N After you have finished tagging albums as compilations, go to the "View" menu and select "Column Browser" and make sure the option "Group Compilations" is checked. After you've finished, you'll see "Compilations" in the Artists list instead of the name of every individual artist.

The image on the right is from iTunes' Artist listings; the one on the right is the equivalent listing on the iPhone. Noate the additional artists (Bad Ronald, Barbara Streisand, etc.) in the iPhone listing. these arists appeared on compilations, but the iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV do not have a "Group Compilations" option. 

This solution works fine in the desktop versions of iTunes. The problem is that it doesn't work consistently across Apple's mobile devices. For example, some iPod models have an option just like in iTunes to "Group Compilations", so artists that are part of Compilations are grouped at the top of the Artist List, just like in iTunes. But other iPod models (and no version of the iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV) has an equivalent option, so artist lists on these devices become needlessly long.

This oversight is particularly irksome on the Apple TV as it is more difficult to scroll through an enormous Artist list using the remote than it is to flick your finger on the iPhone or iPad. The Internet lists a variety of workarounds, all of which have side effects worse than the symptom.

Here's hoping Apple fixes this in a future iOS release.