Q: I have tried to import Tony Bennett’s Duet II from CD to iTunes to sync to my iPod touch. When I do this, however, it breaks the album into several individual albums with one track on each and they’re not listed together. I tried importing the CD directly into iTunes as well as importing the CD to a folder on my computer and then importing into iTunes from there and it makes no difference. As the tracks are Duets it does put the other artist first so they are listed that way alphabetically, but the album itself will not stay together.
A: In the absence of any other information, iTunes will normally assume that tracks with different artist names do not belong to the same album. This is pretty much a necessity for handling things like “Greatest Hits” albums where you could easily have a couple of dozen completely different albums with only the artist name to distinguish them; unfortunately, it also gets in the way when dealing with albums that have various or featured artists, such as in this case.
Fortunately, iTunes provides a couple of solutions for dealing with this. For albums with featured artists, such as this duets album, your best option is to fill in the Album Artist field with the actual primary artist name (e.g. “Tony Bennett”). This information will override the individual artist names on each track for the purposes of organizing your album. The easiest way to do this is to simply select all of the tracks that are supposed to be on the same album and choose File, Get Info from the iTunes menu to edit the Album Artist for all tracks at the same time.
An alternative that may be more applicable to “mix” albums that contain several completely different artists is to mark the albums as Part of a Compilation. This option appears in the Info section when editing an individual track, or on the Options section when editing a group of tracks.
This feature can be particularly useful for one-hit wonders, since artists that do not have any other albums in your library will be excluded from the “Artists” listing in the column browser, effectively removing them from view; the albums are instead displayed under a separate “Compilations” section in the Artists column.
It’s important to note that these settings are handled a bit differently on iPods and other iOS devices. To organize your albums by album artist on the iPhone and iPod touch you will need to enable the Group by Album Artist setting found under the Music section in the iOS Settings app.
Note that the Album Artist grouping option is not available on traditional Click Wheel iPod devices, or even on iOS devices prior to iOS 5 released last fall. Similarly, compilation groupings are handled automatically with iOS 5 or later, but behaved a bit differently in older iOS versions; traditional Click Wheel iPod models only grouped by compilations if the appropriate “Compilations” menu option or setting was enabled on the device.