Reader Carl Jonard writes to inform me that the new “Album Artist” field in the Get Info panel provides a useful workaround to the Album Sort Bug I re-mentioned the other day as part of the Showtime overview.
I’m unsure how the ID3 spec expects Album Artist to work (I tried looking, I failed) but in practice it is used by jukebox software to form a unique album ID. Album Name alone doesn’t cut it for all the reasons we’ve covered already (collisions, collisions, collisions), but the Album Artist/Album Name combo does… assuming an artist isn’t so much of a jerk as to name several of his albums identically. It seems like the kind of thing Sigur Rós would do, but in most cases it’s just fine.
iTunes uses Album Artist in a number of places, notably in Artwork view and Coverflow view, where it will handily infer the artist if said field is empty. As a bonus where the album is marked as a compilation, iTunes will infer the album artist as being “Various Artists”; a nice touch.
Still, this field (and others) will confound a great number of people with substandard tagging. If Artwork view or CoverFlow view are screwing you around by dividing a single album into several chunks, I’d suggest making sure all the tags for tracks in that album are consistent.