What's the deal with classical music selection of artists?

It seems to me that the majority of classical music that you try to find online (by title or composer) lists the composer as the “artist”. Or they list a compilation album without attributing the tracks to the performing artists, which are almost always orchestras. About 3/4 of my 500+ classical tracks have no performer information to be found. The only way AFAICT to get the info is to re-purchase the same music from orchestras I can identify, or to listen and compare mine track by track to identifiable songs, which would take more than my lifetime.

My first thought was that it had something to do with expired copyright, but that makes no sense, as it’s the old composers who have expired or non-existent ones. Yet, their names are almost always attached to the music – it’s the performers, who (in most cases, I would think) would have active copyrights and would be properly credited.

So… what’s the deal?

I don’t have as many classical tracks, but except for one album, in itunes usually the album title starts with the composer, the ‘Artist’ is usually conductor, then orchestra.

I am not finding that to be the case. Perhaps the conductor/orchestra shows up in your iTunes library once you buy it. But if you select an album, particularly if you are searching by the composer’s name, you’ll see that in the “preview” window that opens so you can sample clips from all the tracks, there is no column for composer or artist, and no way to add one. Maybe you can get this metadata after downloading into iTunes, but I want to know it before I buy. Rhapsody is worse, because its search function is awful.

This is especially true for albums like “20 Greatest Symphonies” and the like. I collected a lot of my tracks like this when I first started getting into classical, but now I’m getting pickier.

iTunes gets its metadata from CDDB. The information there, like on IMDB, is in large part user-provided. As a result it is often (in my experience) inconsistent.

From the onset, it’s clear that the people who thought up CDDB, weren’t big classical fans. As you’ve noticed, there’s no performer field, so you’re forced to decide whether there performer or the composer counts as the “artist”. There’s only one date field. Does this mean the year composed, the year recorded or the year released?

To sort of address the issues related to classical music, a standard was proposed in 2007 that crams all necessary information in the artist, title and composer fields. The name of the composer is at the front of the title, and the artist is the performer.

That scheme is crap.

I wrote an Applescript that translates from this format to one of my own where I use the “composer” field for the performer. It makes me feel icky, for sure, but it works.

Maybe I am odd, but for classical I prefer the conductor instead of trying to glomp together a ton of people. In general [sorry guys] the players are not as important as the conductor in identifying the version of something.

So, just randomly checking I have
Name: Night on Bald Mountain
Artist: Radio Luxembourg Symphony Year: 1988
Album Artist: Louis de Froment, conductor Track number: 2
Album: Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition Disc number: 1 of 1
grouping: blank as there was nothing special about this version
Composer; Modest Mussorgsky
Comments: blank as there were no special soloists
Genre: classical
So right there is the generic Itunes info basics, I can get pretty much everything I need to differentiate it from some other conductor, or a different orchestra, and if there were something special about this version the comments would be under notes.

What does any of this mean? Could you see all of this information before you decided which album or track to buy? If so, where and how? Most of my earlier classical choices were sets of CDs that didn’t have that info, and even if iTunes does, can you tell me how to look at it all before buying it?

On Amazon.com, it’s typically the opposite problem: the artists (performers, conductors, orchestras) are listed, but you don’t always know who the composers are for the pieces that make up a compilation album—unless one of the reviewers has been thoughtful enough to provide this information. Here’s one example of what I mean.

The composer info doesn’t show up in Amazon’s Cloud Player either, though I think it is part of the files’ metadata if you download them.

This is a perfect example of the kind of idiocy I’ve been complaining about for decades. They seem to have an infinite number of monkeys typing away, with no knowledge of what we need to know. Composer, what’s that? And it’s not unusual to have multiple disks in which each disk uses different formats. I don’t see any end to this confusion any time soon.

Flip open the store, into the search engine put Hall of the Mountain King then hit the eyeglass. It pops up a heck of a list of versions.

Scroll down, and you see all of the versions they offer. Under artist they tend to show the orchestra and conductor. Put that name and orchestra and conductor into a new tab google, hit enter and you can find out everything you tend to want to know. Obviously you need an actual computer and not a smart phone to do this. Sorry my version of Mountain King doesn’t pop, but I ripped it from vinyl I got from my parents when they tossed their old stereo. I can recommend the apocalypto version. Bunch of cellos and a drummer. Kicks ass.