Whenever I want to listen to songs from a particular band in iTunes, I'll just type the name in the search box, select shuffle, and start playing. For most bands this works very well, but I've run into a few situations where I'm unable to narrow it down to a single band due to the fact that the name of the band I'm looking for is a subset of the name of a different band. A classic example is "The Who" - every time I type "the who" in my search bar I get "The Guess Who" as well.

I've tried some of the basic tricks like using quotes or minus symbols but nothing seems to work. Is there a way to do this, or do I have to create special playlists for these problem bands?

  • o_O iTunes is version TEN and still doesn't contain a NOT operator?! Staggering. Dec 2, 2010 at 7:41
  • @torbengb Surprisingly iTunes doesn’t use Spotlight we all know, at least directly. You can disable finding music in Spotlight and iTunes will still find your music; the reason behind this is probably because Windows doesn’t have Spotlight. But they could have added some syntax… Dec 2, 2010 at 9:26

2 Answers 2


iTunes doesn’t seem to exhibit any sort of smart searching built into the search box. Possibly, the best way to deal with these things is to use an external tool.

In my case, I have Coversutra (not free), that allows you to press “tab” (can be changed) to select different things:

alt text

I know there are free alternatives that can possibly do the same thing.

An additional alternative could be using an AppleScript and Automator to “ask” for the values… but that might be too much.

tell application "iTunes"
  set results to (every file track of playlist "Library" whose name contains “some track" and artist contains “some artist")
  repeat with t in results
    play t
  end repeat
end tell

Something like that, if you can make automator (or the script) to ask you for the two “some” values, you’re set.

My opinion: iTunes should support spotlight like search strings!

UPDATE Ok, you’re right about that one, Coversutra (and others) all use iTunes “syntax” which is… no syntax.

Spotlight, however, is a different beast.

In trying to replicate your scenario, I’ve found that I have two “artists” that are similar in name: Metallica and Metalium. They both contain “Meta” in their names.

So when I search for artist “meta” I get both, which is annoying, because I really don’t like Metalium that much…

So I have two solutions for you:

a. Use Launchbar (or quicksilver), to quickly find the artist (this is a nice way to do it and what I really use most of the time when I want to find a song or an artist, it works faster than anything else). I use Launchbar. Pressing enter there creates a temporary playlist (called Launchbar) that contains all the tracks in question, but you could have dig a little bit more if you wanted an album or song. Very easy.

alt text

b. Use Spotlight:

This brings both bands:

kind:mp3 author:meta

alt text

but this excludes the unwanted one:

kind:mp3 author:meta NOT author:metalium

alt text

Not the best but… what can we do :)

  • I tried CoverSutra but it suffers from the same search problem iTunes does. Dec 2, 2010 at 3:37
  • @Kyle if you can get used to LaunchBar, your way of launching apps, and working with your computer are going to change; for better :) I haven’t tried Alfred (alfredapp.com) yet, but it looks promising (and it has a free version with less features). QuickSilver I dropped a couple of years ago when its original author said: “I’m not developing this anymore” (later someone else did …) Dec 2, 2010 at 9:28

I'm not aware of any way to do that type of boolean searching in iTunes (and neither is this poster), I use smart playlists to do this (sorry if you're already aware of these, just fyi).

alt text

  • given the problematic on this issue, that's a very elegant solution!
    – cregox
    Dec 25, 2010 at 11:52

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