The Strange Behaviour of iTunes 7 Artwork

Under the new artwork views, iTunes groups tracks together as an album and shows one piece of artwork for the whole lot. Which makes sense, but gets more complicated in practice.

Two problems occur: iTunes groups together more tracks under one piece of artwork than I’d like. Or iTunes divides a group of tracks into two or more groups with the same artwork when it shouldn’t.

The first key thing is that the artwork can be attached to each track. So I might have (and indeed do have) different artwork for tracks on disc one from disc two. iTunes just ignores this. It appears to show the artwork from the first track in the album that has artwork. This means that more tracks are grouped under one piece of artwork than I’d like.

The first issue where the opposite problem occurs concerns the new “Album Artist” tag. This has to be the same for all the tracks on the album for them to be grouped together. This is fine, and logical. However how does iTunes decide what goes in this tag? It’s new, it should be blank! Yet my files (which admittedly I’ve tagged in various different softwares) seem to have randomly different “Album Artist” tags. Furthermore, just looking at the file info seems on occasions (and I can’t see any pattern here) to change the “Album Artist” tag. It’s all very wierd.

The second issue where this occurs is a little less obvious. Where tracks on an album are encoded in different formats (eg AAC and MP3) iTunes treats it as two albums. Why have I got albums with their tracks encoded differently? Because often I take one track from a compilation, and then go and buy the others online.

Update: Aha, here’s the first script for iTunes 7, useful for knocking the “Album Artist” field into shape, but be careful. If you use it on an album where one or more tracks has a guest or a different artist, you’ll experience the strange behaviour described above!

Update 2: I done made a mistake. The format thing (AAC/MP3) has no effect on album grouping. In the case in question, the one AAC track had “part of a compilation” ticked. Notably, when I wrote in the “Album Artist” it no longer cared.

There seems to be a higherachy of grouping. Where the album and album artist ar the same, they get grouped. If the album artist is blank, it will look next at just the artist field, and then the part of a compilation check box. And goodness knows what else besides…

If you want to use the groovy new views, better do a bit of tag housekeeping!

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See for more...

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