Sorting by contributing artist: bug or feature?

Hi everybody. I’m a (yet) happy owner of a 4Gb clip. It’s a really nice device!! So far, I pretty happy with the way I can navigate through my music collection. I used to use the tags in a consistent way, so there was no big deal with the fact that the clip doesn’t respect folder structure. Moreover, I used to be a MSC guy, but I gave the MTP mode a try -mainly because of the database refresh speed after disconnecting the player.

Initially, I was very happy to discover the way Windows Media Player helps to organize and browse my collection (I´m very Artist-Album-oriented), and also to retrieve album information. Of course, previously I did that by arranging things in folders and retrieving tags with mp3tag, but now I tried this new (for me) way… and I liked what I saw!. But then some strange things started to happen. I will use a real example to make myself clear.

As you may know, each song has an Artist (or ‘Album artist’) and a ‘Contributing Artist’. In the The Commitments Songtrack album, the contributing artist as retrieved from internet is different for each song, as vocals are played by different people. But they all are The Commitments. Also, the retrieved Album artist is ‘Soundtrack’ (¿?) but it’s not big deal to change it back to ‘The Commitments’. Then I transfer the song to my Clip and want to listen to the album. As I told before, I’m pretty much Artist-Album oriented, so I go to Music–> Artist–> … and there is no ‘The Commitments’!! There are the individual artists, so by navigating that way I will only get to listen the songs that each of them (1 at a time, so to speak) sing.

* I could easily do it by Music–> Album–> The Commitments. But when I have 30+ albums in my Clip, will not be that easy. Artist is always a good way of narrowing my search. Besides, if I go Music–> Genres–> Songtrack (or ‘Soul’ as I relabeled it)… I find the Artist filter again, listing all the individual contributors.

* With Sting’s Fields of Gold album, the thing was a little bit more annoying. ‘It’s probably me’ is credited both to Eric Clapton and Sting (in that order), but then in the Clip it only appears under ‘Eric Clapton’ (i guess it is because he apperas first). If I go Music–> Artist–> Sting–> Fields of Gold, I will listen to the full album EXCEPT for ‘It’s probably me’. The very same thing happened with a couple of Beatles’s albums.

* Of course, I have manually (in batch, but manually after all) edited the tags so I don’t get a list of a million artists I don’t want to know about. I want the Artist field to be a useful filter when picking an album or a set of albums; not a filter for picking THE song played specifically by (or with) some guy.

* And finally, I could forget about Windows Media Player’s database, and go back to freedb as retrieved by mp3tag. And also go back to MSC.

So my point is this: the Artist filter, as currently being used in the WMP database-WMP-Sansa Clip framework is not a useful filter. It kind of adds noise, because you may end with a 1,000 artist listing with one or two songs each. Is this a bug or a feature? A completely different thing would be if the Clip made use of the ‘Album Artist’ field rather than ‘Contributing Artist’.

I know I’m being a little (or a lot) picky, but does all of this make sense to anybody else?


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This is the problem with id3 (specially v2) tags, and how it evolved into having so many information that really isn’t need with mp3s.

Anyways, I skimmed through your post (sorry its way to long to read). 

In regards to the artist field, it should by default sort by the artist tag.  I think “Album Artist” “Conductor” “Original Artist” “Lyricist” “Original Lyricist” “Composer” are all ignored. As for “contributing artist”, I cannot find this field? Cept these fields are taken from WMP.

Winamp has some differeing fields like “Producer”

As I said, this will probably be a problem with consistancy since almost any info can be made in id3v2.

I believe your problem is with WMP (and a lot of other online music database media players like Rhapsody).   The way they handle organization is by artist, THEN album, but the problem is artist can be anything in one album.

Suppose I had one of Timbaland’s album, and within that album there are tracks with artist fields “Timbaland featuring Nelly” and “Timbaland Featuring Timberlake”.   Well even though they are in the same album, they have different artist fields, and get grouped in their own because of it. Hence the weakness of this method of organization and databasing.

‘Contributing Artist’ is a WMP feature (or bug :wink: ). That’s how it calls the widely used ‘Artist’ field. Therefore it makes sense that the clip uses it as the sorting criterion. ‘Album artist’ is really not widely used.

Yes, you are right, it all arises from the lack of consistence in tagging. I guess I’ll have to stick to the method that makes more sense to me (freedb-mp3tag-MSC mode) or manually review the tags every time I get the info from internet, but it’s a shame to make those decisions based on bugs.

Hmm I didn’t see contributing artist in my WMP11, its just “Artist”. 


as for this issue of discrepency, they aren’t bugs, its just how the music DB works for internet and how DAPs now follow it. As soon as the artist fields differs, it creates its own category, no matter how small the difference is. This is true for ALL fields, not just artist.

“Britney Spear” and “Britney Spears” would be two seperate nodes displayed in the artist field. Or in Genre, “Hip Hop” and “Hip-Hop” would be treated differently.

Message Edited by thoma on 06-20-2008 10:12 AM

Go to the Media Library and clic on ‘Songs’ in the Navigation Pane (on the left). One of the columns will be ‘Contributing artist’. But this is just the same as the ‘Artist’ that appears in the tag-edit window.

The weird thing is that when WMP sorts by Artist (clicking ‘Artist’ in the Nav Pane), it does by Album Artist!!. So I guess my confusion started when I brought WMP into my life, as it’s not consistent with the Sansa Clip.


I just add the name of the featuring artist to the track title e.g. song name (feat whatever), I think that’s the way most people do it (or at least the people I know)

Hey porio, just replying to let you know you’re not alone in finding the lack of an “Album Artist” tag classification in the Sansa (View, in my case) annoying.

To be clear, what Windows Media lists in the “Contributing Artists” field is what most tag systems list in the “Artist” field. So in your Sansa, when you browse your library by Artist, you’re doing so by what WMP lists as “Contributing Artists”. The problem arises when an album has multiple artists (rap, for example)- WMP lists all the artists of each song in the Contributing Artist field, which Sansa then uses to disintegrate the album by all the different artists. In the Sansa, you may navigate to a rap album to find 6 tracks missing because they featured additional artists, and now each belong to a new artist category. 

It’s true that the problem can be solved by simply deleting all the added “Contributing Artists” so that the one and only artist that remains is the one you’d expect the album to be listed under. But this isn’t a real solution as much as it is a compromise because you’re inevitably losing information as to who else is on the track. Maybe you hear a song and wonder who the second rapper was, for example. And as the above poster said, the majority of us have been solving the problem (before id3 tags even got popular) by just adding the featured artists to the track name- in a sense, hardwiring. I don’t find this particularly elegant, but it works. 

WMP has a good solution to this by just adding another tag category- the “Album Artist”, or as WMP calls it, “Artist”. The addition of this tag category allows you to accurately list all the Artists, while gluing together the album for sorting purposes with an “Album Artist.” Indeed, if you use WMP to retrieve all the tag information and covers for your albums (which is a handy feature in my opinion), they use the Artist+Album Artist structuring system. Of course, as mentioned, the ordering does not translate well into the Sansa, and the clever sorting system becomes in vain.

So Sansa, there is a big demand for the relatively simple addition (firmware upgrade, maybe?) of the “Album Artist” tag. Not only is the solution logical and seemingly simple, it also saves your customers from having to tediously rename all their files for some bootleg semblance of order. It occurs to me that the Sansa promotes Windows Media Player as a syncing service, and yet there is still a discrepancy between how each organizes the music library. WMP makes it easy for me to retrieve all the album information I need in a few clicks, but Sansa does not recognize the information correctly. That is to say, I cannot concurrently use WMP as intended with my Sansa as intended. Please fix this inefficiency.