It would be nice to be able to set the sorting of artist names to ignore articles (the, la, etc.).
You mean something like this?
Exactly, but it would be better if it were easier to do so.
You click on the artist you want to change the sort, you open the metadata editor, you change the sort as field and save your change.
By easier you probably mean that you had liked to know how to do it before asking, am I right?