Apple Music and Album Release Dates

Slow news day, so here’s a minor rant. When I look at albums on Apple Music, I want to see their original release dates. (This applies to all streaming services, but not to music retailers; if I’m buying an album, I want to know when the specific version was released.) Here’s an example: in For You today, Jethro Tull’s Stand Up stood up. I hadn’t listened to that record in ages, so I put it on. When I started listening, at the very beginning, during A New Day Yesterday, hearing the way the music was split across channels – a very early/mid 60s technique – I wondered what year the original album was released. Because this is what Apple Music tells me:

Stand up

I know the original was not released in 2001; I went to Wikipedia to check, and it was 1969, which is what I had thought. But I consider this part of the essential metadata of an album, especially because there are “Editors’ Notes” here mentioning that it was the band’s second album.

I’d love to see a lot more metadata on Apple Music. While most people don’t care about this, there are times when I want to know more, such as the date of an album, the musicians on it, the producer, etc.

10 thoughts on “Apple Music and Album Release Dates

  1. Agreed. The Year field deserves far more consideration than it’s been given. The most common question I ask when listening to music is “When did this come out?” It’s rarely at hand – not in the car, not on my phone. I do not wonder what album it was a part of. Granted, that bit of data is almost always right at hand, but the artwork is good enough for me.

    Ideally the Artist, Title, Year, and Album Art would be available with every interface.

    (Tangent: When playing from an iPhone my auto manufacturer’s head unit inexplicably lists the Album Name first followed by Title and then Artist. Who thought that would be smart?!)

  2. I want to know what remaster is it, but yes the original release date is just as important, but which remaster is crucial to me

  3. I’ve always longed for release date, original release date, and recording date. With considerable effort, I’ve embedded these items with other tags, and it sucks when I’m on a mobile device, because it’s not only difficult to access those tags, it’s impossible to search for, let alone make playlists based on those criteria.

  4. Agreed, all fundamental data should be accurately stored and available. It’s actually quite a complex data structure. There’s dates associated with the writing of the original work, then there’s when it is actually recorded (possibly multiple times by different artists) which may not be the same as when the album was released. Then there’s re-masters, actual re-recordings and simple re-releases of the same album (maybe on a different label).

    It has always frustrated me that music metadata has only ever really handled ‘Year’ which completely ignores the problem of artists releasing more than one album within the same year. Not so common nowadays perhaps, but it has often occurred during the history of recorded music. Just storing the year is simply not enough. When were the Beatles albums Help! and Rubber Soul released? The basic tags (if correct) would say both in 1965 and no indication of which was released first. Not an isolated problem as the Beatles (and other artists of the time) frequently released more than one album per year. What’s the point of data design that completely fails to differentiate between exactly what it was designed to do.

    There is also the problem that each track has a ‘Year’ but none of which may have anything to do with the release date of the album. This is just like the Album Artist problem. It was realised that just one Artist tag was insufficient and the Album Artist tag was introduced. Album Release Date needs to be a separate tag and distinct from any data applicable to just the track.

    As with contributors (artists and other personnel) involved, there needs to be a better, more flexible way to store this data. It needs to be an extensible structure so any piece of music can have an unlimited number of contributors and dates associated, each with their own label (i.e. name/description).

    This is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s as if the powers that be gave the problem to a couple of kids to sort out and with no actual analysis of what data is really required, they devised a simplistic scheme that covered their very limited view of what they thought was ok and totally missed or ignored the bigger picture. What we have is fundamentally childish design.

    In the past I dealt extensively with music metadata and only came across one organisation that actually understood what was required and had implemented it. The rest of the music industry didn’t have a clue and now with digital music, everyone’s floundering because music metadata was never fully thought through and the longer the problem is ignored, the harder it becomes to fix it. May be already too late.

  5. In my area, there are a few small record shops, all the big stores have closed down. Hence, I am using qobuz, and a few others, to download digital files. Generally, I listen to more rock-oriented music. Hence, the metadata in the files I download don’t seem to contain much metadata – if any at all – besides artist, title and year. That leaves me to wonder if it is more the fault of the record companies?

  6. I totally agree. I don’t use any streaming services and things like this are a big reason why. I often create smart playlists by decade and don’t want a remaster or reissue to be excluded because the release date is incorrect. I recently went through my library and ensured the date for all tracks was correct, with the help of Wikipedia.

  7. See the iTunes Store guidelines below (are they the same as for the streaming Apple Music, one wonders?). They state the ORIGINAL release date should be used, so clearly labels are not correctly applying it properly.

    12. Original Release Dates
    The original release date can differ from the sales start date. The sales start date is the date an album will be available for purchase in a given territory on Apple Music or the iTunes Store.

    12.1. Accuracy. Album and track release dates must be the original date when the album or track was first released, regardless of country/region, or whether it was released digitally versus physically. This includes Deluxe Editions, Anniversary Editions, Expanded Editions, Bonus Track Editions, Remastered Editions, etc.

  8. Apple Music Style Guide 2.1.6 – Aug 2020 update.
    (Renamed from “iTunes Music Style Guide”; which tells us a lot about Apple’s focus here!)

    This page has since changed, and now states relatively less, AFAICS…

    ‘[Content Definitions]
    Original Release Date:
    Date when the album, track, or music video was first released.

    [Style Standards and Guidelines]
    5. Original Release Dates:
    5.1. Accuracy:
    Album, track, and music video release dates must be the original date when the album, track, and music video was first released, regardless of country or region, or whether it was released digitally versus physically. This includes Deluxe Editions, Anniversary Editions, Expanded Editions, Bonus Track Editions, Remastered Editions, and so on.’

    (section 3.12 also mentions dates with regards to Remastered/Rerecorded versions: apparently added to Titles.)

    Some other guides I located, that link from that one (there are several others, but these are just a few that stood out as being interesting for serious Apple users)…

    iTunes Package Music Specification 5.3.11 – November 30, 2020.

    ‘This document specifies the iTunes Package format for delivering music album content to Apple Music and the iTunes Store.’

    iTunes Video and Audio Asset Guide 5.3.4 – August 31, 2020.

    ‘This document provides detailed delivery information for all accepted media and files for the iTunes Store, including music, music video, television, and movies. If further details are required, contact your iTunes Technical Representative.’

    Apple Digital Masters (replaces Mastered for iTunes) – July 2019.

    pp.3 was interesting, re. Apple collecting PCM-original masters rather than down-converted AAC’s…

    ‘Provide High-Resolution Masters:

    Some mastering engineers prefer to control the SRC process by sending already
    converted files, however we ask that you deliver the highest native sample rate available.
    As technology advances and bandwidth, storage, battery life, and processor power
    increase, keeping the highest-resolution masters available in our systems allows for full
    advantage of future improvements to your or your client’s music.

    Also, though it may not be apparent because there may not always be a physical,
    tangible master created in LP or CD format, the Apple Music and iTunes catalog forms
    an important part of the world’s historical and cultural record. These masters matter.’

    From the above, one might surmise Apple’s intent here is on AAC and successor (likely lossy) compression formats, rather than ever delivering lossless/PCM to end customers.

    Anyway, hope this is useful for someone. 😉

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