In celebration of having nothing better to do today, I converted my iTunes library and Last.fm profile to a composer-centric cataloguing system (rather than the performer-centric one I’d used up until now). I’ve gradually come to the realization that the iTunes ecosystem just isn’t designed to support track info for “classical music”, where the “artist” and “composer” are different people. Even though iTunes does support the “composer” tag, it’s only useful for organization within iTunes, because no other programs recognize it.
In my re-organization, the name of the person or group most associated with the creation of the track goes into the “artist” field. For example, “Jean Sibelius” for Finlandia, not “Berlin Philharmonic”. For album-centric music, the primary creator can be the performer, not the composer: “Bill Evans” is the artist for a My Funny Valentine, even though Rodgers and Hart wrote the original song. Despite requiring me to make these judgement calls, I think the new way is more intuitive. Also, my Last.fm profile will now tell me more about my listening habits; instead of an incomprehensible list of performers and disembodied tracks, I’ll see a nice, clean stack of composers and pieces. My performer tags are now in the “comments” slot, and don’t get uploaded. A new year, a new profile.
Oh! This also gives me the opportunity to recommend one of my favorite sites: Doug’s Applescripts for iTunes. Applescripts are tiny programs designed to automate repetitive tasks; this is how I was able to re-tag 9,000 tracks without going through each one by hand (I don’t have that much free time). So, for instance, one Applescript switched my artists to the “comments” field, then my composers to “artist”, and another one reformatted the composers to “First name Last name”. You can find a script to do pretty much anything you’d ever want, and they’re accessible from a menu right in iTunes— a huge timesaver for anyone with a big library.