iTunes 12 Bug or Feature? Set Blank Genres for Media Files

A reader wrote in with an interesting question. He liked to set the genres of much of his music to blank, to not have a genre, and he used other tags to create smart playlists. He pointed out that, in iTunes 12, this no longer works, and when he deletes genres from files, iTunes adds them to a blank genre. It took me a while to wrap my head around this, so let me show what’s going on.

Let’s start with a playlist that contains two albums, from two different genres. The Column Browser is visible, showing those genres.

Screen Shot 2014 12 30 at 2 58 40 PM

Now, if I select all the tracks on the second album and press Command-I, I bring up the Info window. I delete the genre and click OK.

Screen Shot 2014 12 30 at 3 00 49 PM

The playlist now shows that there are two genres: Jazz and [blank]; you can see that I’ve selected the line for the blank genre, and the album that I’ve just changed is selected.

Screen Shot 2014 12 30 at 3 01 47 PM

If I sort the playlist by Genres, I see this:

Screen Shot 2014 12 30 at 3 05 13 PM

If I remove the tracks with the other genre, then the playlist shows 0 Genres.

Interestingly, if I look in the iTunes Library.xml file, at the entry for the first track of the album, I see this:

Screen Shot 2014 12 30 at 3 34 30 PM

Note the spaces in the Genre key; there are eight spaces, which is a bit surprising. (I’d expect it to be blank.)

It seems that, when you delete a genre, iTunes replaces the Genre field with eight spaces. Why? Is this a bug or a feature? It’s hard to know. I find it logical that music without a genre doesn’t appear in the Genres list. But having a blank genre that exists is strange. I’m betting this is a bug.

So, if you want to blank genres of your files, Doug Adams has created an AppleScript that does so without introducing this bug.