Forgive my use of the words “power users.” I don’t write exclusively for the advanced. I tend to write simplistically even when the task is a bit in-depth. This one is actually pretty easy (but explaining the default sorting abilities is a nightmare). I’m using 7.0.2 I believe, so if you are the type who grabs the bleeding edge (and often bug ridden and little-tested) updates then your newer version might not be exactly as I describe it. Most should apply though.

Skipping Articles of Speech & More (The, An, DJ)

Want to order your artist by skipping over common beginning titles like DJ, tHe, Mr., or language specific prefixes? Advanced Global Artist Sorting is possible in Windows by navigating Windows Explorer to [Drive Letter]:\Program Files\iTunes\iTunes.Resources\en.lproj\Localizable.strings. Open this with a plain text editor like Notepad or your preferred editor [but not Microsoft Word].

Line 570 has a line that says “Reordered Artist Strings.” You can jump to this by searching for this using the Find feature to go to Reordered Artist Strings. Below your search there should be some code like the one below except it contains variations on THE. The code shown will bypass names starting with DJ, so DJ Kool Herc will get sandwiched between Kool and the Gang and Kurtis Blow.

"146.007" = "DJ ";
"146.008" = "%1, DJ";
"146.009" = "dj ";
"146.010" = "%1, dj";
"146.011" = "Dj ";
"146.012" = "%1, Dj";
"146.013" = "D.J. ";
"146.014" = "%1, D.J.";

This segment of code can be added/edited below 146.006 and you can add more in pairs of 2. Also make note of the space at the end of every other line. This makes sure that gypsy jazzman Django Reinhardt doesn’t get interpreted and sorted as ango Reinhardt, Dj. I found this out from Sven who used this to patch omissions in his language in iTunes 5.

Sort Tags for Last Names

A newer feature of iTunes are the tags Sort Name, Sort Artist, Sort Album, etc. You can use these to mask names for sorting purposes. If you are ambitious you can adjust artist names to reflect last name alphabetizing. You’d have to go through a time-consuming process but it can be done. Select a single track by a songwriter (it won’t matter which one). Hit CTRL+I (Get Info), select the Sorting tab, fill in the Sort Artist with Last Name, First Name. Press OK, then with the same track you just edited, right click, Apply Sort Field > Same Artist. Now that artist will be ordered by the last name.

Sort Tags for Related Projects

Sort ArtistThis technique is as valuable for artist with pseudonyms or separate side projects. Paul Westerberg’s Grandpaboy alter-ego can be sorted with Paul Westerberg’s actual stuff. This reacts funky in the browser though. It displays duplicate instances of Paul Westerberg and Grandpaboy in chunks that they occur when sorted by artist (which then sorts by Album title alphabetically; see screenshot). iTunes is not smart enough to link the Artists in the browser but only makes it convenient in the main window.

This problem can be alleviated by renaming Grandpaboy’s Sort Artist to “Paul Westerberg & His Alter-Ego” or something shorter like “Paul Westerberg 2.” Now the Paul Westerberg and Grandpaboy won’t mingle, but will be right next to each other- Grandpaboy follows all entries of Paul Westerberg. This won’t sort perfectly with Album by Year, since Grandpaboy is seen as a secondary neighbor to Paul Westerberg instead of identical. Until iTunes fixes this, your specific Sort Artist is up to you whether you want the jumbled browser window, or less functionality in the main window.

Sort Tags for Grouping Multi-artist Comps

If you have mixes (compilations) with all different artists and you don’t want to see the album scattered when sorting by artist, you could do two things. The first would be to overwrite the artist names and just rename the artists to “Various Artists.” Completists like me like to retain all metadata, so another method would be to keep the artist tag untouched, select one of the songs in the mix and hit CTRL+I (Get Info), select the Sorting tab, fill in the Sort Artist with a name that you want it sorted under. If you want it to be listed at the bottom of your library make it “zzzzzz” or if you want it in the V’s next to other titles actually labeled Various Artists, then name it “Various Artists.” The problem is there is no way to do this for multiple tracks. You have to do this to each music file individually.

Compiling Compilations

Files labeled as compilations are stashed in a single compilation folder (Compilations/Album/Song) instead of Artist/Album/Song. If you are importing CDs with iTunes, Greatest-Hits-type albums are automatically tagged as compilations. Depending on what you want to use compilations for, you may not want to describe a one-artist album as a compilation.

For easy access you can “Group compilations when browsing” if you select this option in your iTunes preferences (under General tab). Now in your browser pane (that shows Genre, Artist, Album), you should see Compilations at the top of the artist list and when clicking this, you’ll get all compilation tracks. Compilation Artists are omitted from the Browser Artist list so you must find the album first because the browser does not show the artist unless they appear on a non-compilation (very confusing, but also see related Album Artist explanation).

Another perk in iTunes is that you can make smart playlists based on whether it is a compilation or not.

Too Confusing: Album Artist?

The “Album Artist” tag is pretty pointless unless you use coverflow to see your album art or sort by “Album by Artist.” Album by Artist is nearly as confusing. It first sorts by Album Artist (or by Artist), then by album. It then puts compilations (that don’t have universal Album Artists) on the bottom so that no albums are scattered with multi-artists. It is no different then plainly sorted by album other than respect for Album Artist and compilations.

Album Artist does not group albums in the organized file directory structure. The only practical purpose given by Apple for this tag is to group albums with different featured artists (and a main artist) and it will register as one album. Apple describes how album artist is used. Compilations provide different options and it’s hard to sort out these semi-related tags.

Another application I see is to use this tag as an alternative to my “grouping multi-artist comps.” You’d have to transfer all Artist tags to Album Artist tags, then find compilations and change their Album Artist to “Various Artists.” After you did this, you could add the Album Artist column to the main window and sort by it.