ArtistInfo helps fill in iTunes' missing pieces

If you're totally into buying your music online, and you're of a certain age (like, ahem, me), you may miss all the great info once found in CD booklets and album covers. If you're too young to know what I'm talking about, take my word: you're missing some good stuff. Enter ArtistInfo by Metason

It's an application for Mac OS X (10.9 and later) that works in conjunction with iTunes and serves up a smorgasbord of info on musicians, music groups, producers and composers. What kind of info? Artist names, instruments playing, band members, biographies, discographies, musicians playing on an album, album comments/liner notes, music genres, and more. 

ArtistInfo "listens" to the music you have playing on iTunes and automatically collects corresponding information in the background. It uses the Semantic Web to collect data from sources such as Wikipedia, MusicBrainz, Discogs, and the iTunes Store. This data allows you to, in addition to the tasks mentioned previously, find video clips and buy music.

For example, when playing Elton John's "The Diving Board" album in iTunes, ArtistInfo served up a summary of the album in liner notes. By clicking various icons in the app's interface, I could see album artwork, the musicians and backup singers on the album's songs, a list of Elton's upcoming concerts (via Songkick), and more. 

You can search for a musician, band, or an album using the search field of ArtistInfo's toolbox by applying the search terms Artist, Artist-Album Title or Album Title. If several items are found, you can choose the corresponding entry you're interested in by using the pull-down menu right from the search field, which is very convenient. Results may include the artist as a person as well as band names containing the artist's name. Artists with similar names are listed, as well.

Choose the artist of interest on the left sidebar, and you'll be presented with info on personal data, biography, discography, and more. ArtistInfo can also recommend new musicians that might interest you via the recommendation panel. 

This panel will open by either clicking the "star" button in the toolbar, by selecting the Window - Recommendations menu, or by pressing the recommendation button on the welcome page.  By selecting a recommendation more details are searched and be presented in the main window. The recommendations can be filtered by musical genre and the albums also by their release year. Within the tables, recommendations can be sorted by artist name, genre, album title, score, and release date by clicking on the corresponding column title.

You can also add an additional Menu to start ArtistInfo from within iTunes directly. This is done by enhancing iTunes via AppleScript. It will start ArtistInfo or brings an already running ArtistInfo application window to the front. You can learn how at the ArtistInfo menu in your iTunes application. 

What's more, the ArtistNet visualization in ArtistInfo provides insight into the network of musicians established by performing together in bands and on albums. The network is presented as connections between artists arranged in a circle or as a more complex graph view. The visualization is interactive. By hovering the mouse over topics in the statistical charts about instruments, genres and countries, you can filter the network. 

ArtistNet let you follow the history of how an artist's network changed and grew over time. By double-clicking elements in the visualization detailed information on albums, musicians, musical instruments, genres and countries are presented in ArtistInfo. 

One feature I'd love to see added to the app in the future is the ability to show and play song lyrics. Another: I'd love for ArtistInfo and iTunes to be integrated in such a way that album artwork displayed in the former could be used to fill in missing artwork on the latter.

Perhaps those will be additions in future versions of ArtistInfo. As it is, it's an invaluable companion to iTunes for anyone who wants more than cursory info on the music in their iTunes library.

ArtistInfo will run on Mac OS X 10.9 and later. It's available for US$5.99 in the Mac App Store under the Music category.