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Nicolas Online Level 1 (0 points)



I would like to know the exact differences between Compilations and Album Artists.


I know you can use either one to combine different tracks into a group.


I would like to know how each one behaves relative to iTunes and to the Music app on iOS.


Which one do you use? Or do you use a combination of both?


I read that Compilations is being used less and less in favor of Album Artists.


Is there an advantage of one over the other?





MacBook Pro with Retina display, OS X Mavericks (10.9.1)
  • John Guo Level 5 (5,260 points)

    Usually compilations are used to group different artists within the same album. I would only use compilations if you want to group different artists in the same album. If compilations are used, iTunes will group the songs based on the album name and if the compilation option is checked. I would only use album artists if there's only one artist within that album. There is no advantage over the other. It is just another way to group songs.

  • Limnos Level 8 (46,075 points)

    Something about the forum today is giving me an error every time I try to post a URL so you'll have to turn the line below into a URL to go to a page discussing this.


  • Chris CA Level 9 (78,255 points)

    Nicolas Online wrote:




    I would like to know the exact differences between Compilations and Album Artists.

    There aren't "exact differences" because it's kinda like comparing apples & oranges.

    Compilation and Album Artist are not mutually excusive (meaning you can only use on or the other).

    Compilations are usually different artists. A perfect example is the "Now Thats What I Call Music" series.

    However, a Greatst Hits album could be classified as a compilation. The record company pulled a bunch of songs off all their other albums and put them on one album.


    An album with differrent guest artists would generally not be a compilation.

    This I would not mark as s compilation but set Album Artist to Tony Bennettt

    -> Playin With My Friends: Bennett Sings the Blues

  • ffiti Level 3 (690 points)

    Compilations are more for albums like "Now That's What I Call Music!", for example: an assorted collection of music similar in some way, but not by the same artist. It would then make sense to make the album artist "Various Artists".


    Album artists applies more to, say, an album with 9 songs by "Bob" and 1 song by "Bob and Joe". In this case, it is clear that Joe is just a featured artist in one of the tracks, so it would make sense to make the album artist "Bob".



    A curious thing is that in iTunes, if you make an album a compilation and leave the album artist field blank, the album automatically displays "Various Artists" anyways; however, in Music on iOS, the album simply doesn't display under Artists view (i.e. in Artists > Various Artists, the album will not appear); the album displays "Unknown Artist". This discrepancy has never made sense to me. Can anyone explain?

  • Nicolas Online Level 1 (0 points)

    From what I have researched here are some of the differences:


    iOS Music App


    1. Using Compilations

         -All Artists will be shown in the Artist list (you cannot hide the Artists that are part of a compilation). So if you have a soundtrack with multiple Artists that don't have much importance, you will be forced to see them in your list.

         -If you have an Artist that has both their own albums and are part of another album that's a compilation, when you click on the Artist name, their compilation Album doesn't show up under near their own albums.


    2. Using Various Artists

         -There is the option to hide the artists associated to the "Various Artists" of the "Album Artists" by going into the Settings of the Music App "Group by Album Artist"

         -The Albums that are associated to a specific artist that are part of the grouping "Various Artist" still appear under the Artist name if that specific artist has other songs from albums that aren't grouped in various artist


    Can anyone confirm the above?


    And that's the difference I'm trying to figure in terms of the mechanics of how each appears and displays itself differently. What about in iTunes if one were to make a similar list?

  • turingtest2 Level 9 (64,920 points)

    iOS devices don't make use of the Compilations flag. Group by Album Artist is a user switch in Settings > Music which changes which artists are listed, all Artists, or only Album Artists.


    Older iPods don't use Album Artist. Enabling at least one of the Compilations entries in the menus makes the artist menu list all artists that have at least one non-compilation track. Disabling both ensures all distinct artists are listed.


    In iTunes enter the Songs or a list view, enable the Column Browser. You can then use View > Column Browser > Group Compilations and Use Album Artists to effect similar changes in the iTunes Artists listing.


    Take a look at Grouping tracks into albums for gory details.



  • Nicolas Online Level 1 (0 points)

    thank you turingtest2 happy new year everyone!

  • turingtest2 Level 9 (64,920 points)

    You're welcome.


    Still celebrating the new year? Good for you!



  • mainegal Level 1 (0 points)

    Can you help me out as I'm confused.

    I added Barry Manilow The Complete Collection (4CDs) to itunes using Gracenote data.

    The first two CDs now appear under album artist.  But the latter 2, I finally found under compilation.


    Another problem I had was with a Motown 25 cd.  It is robe found under compilations as about 18 albums.


    How can I group all 4 Barry Manilow under Barry Manilow and all Motown 25 under various artists or some other way that allows them to be played as a 25 song CD?

  • Nicolas Online Level 1 (0 points)

    Hi mainegal,


    What I decided to do is to pick whether I want to use "Compilation" or "Album Artist" and to stick to either this or that for my entire iTunes Library just for the sake of simplicity.


    So whichever one you decide to pick this is what you have to do:


    1. Select all the songs you want to have in the same CD (in your case all the songs that are in the Barry Manilow Complete Collection)


    2. After all the songs are selected, press Command + I


    3. Now make sure in the Information box the artist is filled as Barry Manilow and the Album name is "The Complete Collection"    (if either artist or album was initially blank, it means that one or more of the 4 cds were imported with a different artist name and or album name - so by renaming them now you make sure they all have the same name).


    4. Then before pressing OK, go to the Options tab and select Yes for Part of a compilation.


    5. Press OK


    After having done that it should play as if it were one CD, one Artist, one Album and one compilation.

  • turingtest2 Level 9 (64,920 points)

    Generally setting a common Album title and Album Artist will fix things.

    For deeper problems see Grouping tracks into albums.


    For the Barry Manilow collection I would recommend that you ensure that each disc has the correct Disc X of Y (4) values first. If these aren't set and you then set a common album title you may have issues with the track order which are now harder to untangle.


    You can then proceed to correct, if needed, the Album title to The Complete Collection and the Album Artist to Barry Manilow. I would recommend you set Part of a compilation to No.


    N.B. If you have an older iPod and more than one album with the title The Complete Collection then call this one The Complete Collection - Barry Manilow. In general when two or more artists release an album with the same title, e.g. Greatest Hits, then you should give them distinct names by, for example, adding in the artist name to the album title.




    For the 25 track Motown collection I would set the Album Artist to Various Artists and Part of a compilation to Yes.





  • IoannisGR Level 1 (20 points)

    Hi there.

    I'm still confused about how this works.

    In my case I have iTunes 12, iPhone 5s and the latest generation iPod Classic (160GB).


    I have compilations like the following:


    -> (actual) Artist: Bel Canto

    -> Radio Producer that created the compilation: John Smith

    -> Compilation title: Blessed and Cursed.


    What I need is to be able to "search" these songs by (actual) Artist ["Bel Canto" in this case], and by the creator for the Compilation ["John Smith" in this case], and by the title of the compilation ["Blessed and Cursed" in this case].


    So when I want to listen to all the songs of all the compilations that John Smith has created/released, I want to be able to search with the keyword "John Smith", both in iPod and iPhone (and of course in iTunes, too) and get as a result all of his compilations.


    And of course at the same time I want to be able to search and find all the songs of Bel Canto in my library on iTunes, iPod and iPhone.


    Could someone advice me how to use the tags in my case to have the result I need?

    Should I put "John Smith" at the "album artist" field and Bel Canto at the "artist" field ? But iPod classic does not have an "album artist" option at the menu !


    Any ideas ?

    I have read the related guide ( ) but I am not sure how to proceed.

  • turingtest2 Level 9 (64,920 points)

    Ultimately you need to choose a tagging scheme that suits your needs, and only you know what they are. Since you know the iPod classic doesn't register the Album Artist field there is no point using that, or rather setting it to anything other than Various Artists. The possibilities that come to mind are adding the producer into the album title, or treating him as the artist and adding the individual track artist into the track name. The first would be much easer to achieve, and reverse if you decided it is no longer necessary.




    Artist = Bel Canto

    Album Artist = Various Artists

    Album = Blessed and Cursed [Mixed by John Smith]          (Or something like that)

    Compilation = Yes



  • IoannisGR Level 1 (20 points)

    Thank you for the feedback.


    If I choose the first option, as the example you have posted there, how am I going to be able to search / find by "John Smith" on the iPod if I want to ?

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