Artist versus Album Artist

I seem to get a lot of hits from searches about the difference between the “Artist” and “Album Artist” tags in the Mp3 ID3 tagging specification that leads people to the second part of my “Building Your Digital Music Library” series. Instead of requiring people to read half of that article to find the answers they need, I figured I would do a whole post on it.

The difference is between the “Artist” tag and the “Album Artist” tag is really quite simple. The “Artist” tag is the artist(s) as they appear on the CD. For example on Ben Harper’s live album “Live From Mars” the album is credited as “Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals” so that is what the “Artist” tag would be. The “Album Artist” tag is where the album would be found in a music store, in the Ben Harper example, this would be “Ben Harper” not “Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals” since if you were shopping for the album you would look under “Ben Harper” to find it.

Another example to demonstrate the difference between the “Artist” and the “Album Artist” tags in ID3 is compilation CDs like movie soundtracks. The “Album Artist” would be tagged with “Various Artists” or “Soundtrack” but something rather generic. On the other hand, the “Artist” tag would get tagged with the name of the artist that actually performed the song. For a specific example, lets look at the Hackers soundtrack. Track number 3 on this sound track is “Voodoo People” by Prodigy. The “Album Artist” tag gets tagged with “Various Artists” while the “Artist” tag gets “Prodigy” in its tag. The purpose for the two different tags is for better organization. You can now search for “Prodigy” to find this song or you can group it as a compilation in iTunes and it will get organized accordingly. Allowing some form of separation.

So, a nice way to look at things is the “Artist” tag is equal to something like a “Track Artist” and the “Album Artist” is the artist for the entire album.

I hope this clears things up a little.

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3 Responses to Artist versus Album Artist

  1. Pingback: Mp3 Tagging Best Practices - Almost, Not Yet by Michael Koby

  2. Ivo says:

    Hi, nice post.How do you tag a song that is performed by more than one artists. Eg. on a “Various Artists”, there may be a song by Michael Jackson & Bono. Or a live concert by Miguel Bosé and Ana Torroja.Cheers!

  3. Ivo says:

    Hi, nice post.How do you tag a song that is performed by more than one artists. Eg. on a “Various Artists”, there may be a song by Michael Jackson & Bono. Or a live concert by Miguel Bosé and Ana Torroja.Cheers!

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