Here’s How Messed Up Apple Music Metadata Is

If you follow my writings, you know that I don’t use Apple Music for my main music library, but do use it on a test library on my MacBook, as well as on an iPod touch. I recently added it to my iPad as well, to be able to use it more around the house.

I don’t trust my main library to Apple Music because of the many problems that iCloud Music Library causes.

As I’ve been adding music to my library, I’m realizing just how bad Apple Music’s metadata is. Here’s an example.

I wanted to listen to some Frank Sinatra. There’s a big set called Ultimate Sinatra, with more than 6 hours of his music. So I added it to my library.

When I started listening to it, I noticed that I wasn’t hearing all the songs that I knew. I looked at this album in iTunes, and I was surprised to see how it displays.

Sinatra new

This is a single album, yet iTunes shows it as a number of different albums with different titles. I’ve sorted by album so each title should be grouped, but you can see there are four different titles for tracks in the first grouping. And that first group of tracks, which is hanging together as an album, has track numbers in a seemingly random order.

Frank Sinatra is listed as the artist for all these tracks, sometimes with others. But if I view this album in a playlist by Artist, the only artist listed is Cole Porter.


And if I view the music by album? I see this:


An Hour with Harry James is the title of two “albums,” and one – whose tracks show as being in the cloud, but which are unavailable (see the first screenshot above), is called Ultimate Sinatra.

And if I view Frank Sinatra in the column browser? There seem to be a lot of albums, many of which don’t display in other views.


And the way the album is listed by genre is interesting. There is no reason why certain songs are in any of these genres. If you navigate your iTunes library by genre, you’ll have a lot of trouble. These are the genres for the various songs in this album:


Here’s what I think is happening. I’ve seen that iCloud Music Library changes tags and artwork. Rather than assuming that your tags, the ones you may have manually changed, are canonical, it just decides what the tags should be on your music. For example, yesterday, I deleted composer names in all the music in the Rock genre in my library. I don’t care about composers for that kind of music; those tags just get in the way when I browse using the column browser. But, today, all the composers are back for those songs.

So as iTunes updates your library, comparing it to music in the cloud, it re-matches files and changes tags. When I first added the Ultimate Sinatra album to my library, it was a single album, but it changed after a while. I surmise that iTunes matched the tracks and found that many of them were on different albums. Just as iTunes often matches tracks from studio albums to “best of” albums, here, it’s matched some tracks to the album I downloaded, and other tracks to whatever iTunes found first. But, of course, iTunes shouldn’t match Apple Music tracks; it only matches your music, that you’ve ripped or downloaded, and added to your iTunes library.

This is terribly wrong, of course. Not only should iTunes not change metadata that I’ve edited, but tracks added from Apple Music, or downloaded from the iTunes Store, should have a unique track ID that can be used to prevent this.

It’s very possible that deleting this album and re-adding it to my iTunes library will resolve these issues. I’m going to wait a few days and see if anything changes, then try that. But I shouldn’t have to. This is music from Apple Music, not music that I’ve ripped and matched.

This is yet another example of how messed up Apple Music is. It’s fine if you want to stream Taylor Swift, or listen to Beats 1 Radio, but once you start building a library, it’s simply a mess.

The only thing I can conclude is that Apple is not using the same database for Apple Music as they are for matching songs with iCloud Music Library. After adding this album to my library, which used Apple Music metadata, iTunes check with iCloud Music Library to match the tracks, and changed metadata.

Feel free to post your examples of messed-up metadata in the comments.

Update: Three days after I posted this article, I looked at the music in this Frank Sinatra album again. iTunes has changed some of the tags and album artwork again. Here’s a new screenshot of the three albums I showed earlier in the article:

Sinatra new

Update 2: A few days after the first update, I deleted the album, and then re-added it from Apple Music. I wanted to see if the tracks would remain as they displayed in Apple Music, if, perhaps, my initial experience was a fluke.

The day after I re-added the album, I went to look at it. Here’s what I see:

Sinatre redux

It’s interesting that the entire album now matches to a different album, but one that showed up earlier, with different artwork. The only artist listed this time, when I view it in Artists view, is Frank Sinatra, however, and all the tracks are grouped within this single album.

When I view in in Songs view, with the column browser visible, it shows 1 different albums, whereas previously it showed eight. Four artists are listed, plus an entry for Compilations, which contains just one song by Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra, and the music spans eight genres.

Sinatra column browser