Thanks for the comment, “Me.”
There’s one simple answer to your question: If you want to listen to The Who, you put your mouse in that little search box in the corner and type “The Who.” If you’re using an alphabetical list to find artists and albums also, then that’s two tools redundantly serving the same purpose.
I’m not talking about making mixes, although that’s valuable to some people too. I, like you, am “tied to that archaic creation” as well — almost all of my listening is by full album. In fact I even mention in the article that one of the shortcomings of the most popular media players is that they don’t “think” in terms of albums.
What I’m trying to address is the problem of having too much music, and too diverse taste. I have 1,664 albums in my library, and I’m sure there are other people with thousands, if not tens of thousands, more. I don’t always know what I want to listen to; in fact, I’d wager that most of the time, I don’t know what I want to listen to. I know I want to listen to something, and that that something is in there somewhere, but I don’t know what it is.
If you asked me to list, from memory, all 1,664 albums in my library, I’d probably never make it past a couple hundred, and that would take days. If I’m in a situation where I have to figure out what to listen to, only the artists who are most familiar to me will spring to mind first, but that leaves me trapped listening to the same things over and over. What I’m after is a system that will know better than me what I want to listen to, based on my listening habits, artist similarity, etc., and which can help me to explore the things I have that won’t spring to mind.
A short story: yesterday I was perusing my physical CD collection (gasp!) to find a specific album I wanted to listen to while I walked to work. While looking for that one album, I found another album that I realized was more appropriate for my mood, for the weather, for the time of day, for how long it had been since I last listened to it…etc. Now, why didn’t I know that’s what I wanted to hear when I first approached my CD collection? It’s because my mind is very flawed and very finite, and can only know so much about what my library looks like.
The Who is a very well-known band, and one that I’m sure you’ve listened to a lot, so it’s easy for you to know that you want to listen to them. But wouldn’t it be a better system if, when you’re browsing (not searching) your library for The Who, you’d find them adjacent to The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, and Cream, rather than Wilson Phillips, Wilderness, and Wesley Willis?
It’s like I said in the article: If you know what you’re looking for, you search. If you don’t, then an alphabetized list is not the way to find it.
And I think your laundry analogy actually works in my favor. Shirts go together because they are of the same type of clothing, just as The Who and The Rolling Stones are the same type of music. I would never sort my clothes by their brand, for instance, yet this is analogous to sorting a music library by artist. I don’t care who made the clothes, I care that they are appropriate for the weather, that they match, that I haven’t worn them recently, etc.