When Apple Music Matches Its Own Music Incorrectly

Since the early days of iTunes Match, and then later with Apple Music and iCloud Music Library – now called simply Cloud Music Library – there have been issues with tracks added to your library not matching correctly. Here is one example from 2015, when I added a big collection of music by Frank Sinatra to find that it matched as eight different albums.

I recently added a new collection of music by Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark called Souvenir. Looking in the Recently Added section of the Music app, I see this:

Omd souvenir

Night Café contains one track, The Punishment of Luxury contains 13 tracks (including the first track twice), and the other edition of the same album contains two tracks.

What apparently happens when you add music from Apple Music to your library is that it then gets matched; in other words, it gets added from the cloud, then the Music app tries to match it. Even though the metadata on the original album is correct, the matching process, which uses acoustic fingerprinting, re-matches tracks with different albums. In some cases, these are the original albums, in others, different collections.

But this doesn’t make sense. Since I haven’t downloaded those tracks yet, why are they being matched again? And why incorrectly? As Apple Music tracks – this information is in the files – why would anything change which albums they come from?

This is one of the more frustrating issues with Apple’s music could, because you simply cannot trust it to match your music correctly. The fact that it happens to Apple Music tracks is really quite odd, because those tracks should never change. This is one of the reasons why I still refuse to put my personal music library, which is carefully and precisely tagged, in the cloud. I use my second Mac to store my cloud library, and add some music from the main library on my iMac. The fact that Apple consistently makes this kind of mistake befuddles me.

9 thoughts on “When Apple Music Matches Its Own Music Incorrectly

  1. It’s a problem not solely confined to Apple. Bozo developers think they’re being oh so clever with fancy algorithms to match media (which can NEVER be 100% successful) and completely ignore the fact that the user has already got everything 100% correct with compete and accurate metadata.

    Although used in regard to a different development problem, in their User Interface Guidelines of so many years ago, Apple coined the phrase and urged developers to avoid ‘idiosyncratic cleverness’. I have subsequently (getting worse all the time) seen many examples of what I call ‘idiosyncratic stupidity’. This music matching idiocy is an example of exactly that.

  2. The fact that you will lose your metadata with iCloud Music Library is a big deal. A fundamental aspect of the human condition is curation (deciding what is in our library and how it is tagged and organized). Humans curate, always have. The most powerful thing about iTunes was how it turbo-charged our ability to curate digital music — literally changed the world.

    What bothers me most about these changes to iTunes over the years is how Apple is purposefully taking away our individual ability to curate our own music libraries and imposing their own centralized curation. Very much opposite to the spirit that Steve Jobs instilled.

  3. “This is one of the more frustrating issues with Apple’s music could, because you simply cannot trust it to match your music correctly.”

    The IOS 13 mess proves that if they even manage to screw up their iPhone profit center with frequent, buggy updates, they really can’t be depended on to do anything correctly. It almost seems like trial and error, or on the job training, very frustrating for us long time Apple customers.

    • Exactly. I used to look forward to new OS-X releases, but now I hesitate to even try them. As Kirk just said, it all results in too much time spent just trying to keep stuff going, i.e. doing what it is supposed to.

  4. From ITunes to Apple, the metadata is very basic and more for the masses. Those fans who care about labels, producers and vocalists are not catered for. I built my own music player with my own content management system, that validates artists names so when searching for “Nas” you don’t get results with Nas in it (e.g Minas, Nasty G, etc)

    • I don’t entirely agree that iTunes metadata is very basic. Yes there could be more, but for many, there’s already too much.

      However, I don’t think that’s Kirk’s point which is that the music matching is not even working with the simplest and most basic of metadata, like Artist and Album.

      I’m all for systems augmenting what iTunes offers, but any matching service has to get the basics right.

      • The problem is that it doesn’t match using metadata, but uses acoustic fingerprinting. Which means that it will match a version of a given track, but it may not be the correct one. It could be a version on a best of or completion album.

        This said, what I don’t understand is that it is matching tracks that are from Apple Music, and that I haven’t even downloaded. I would expect that Apple Music tracks don’t get re-matched, but as in my 2015 article, this is still happening.

  5. Apple Music scrambled my music library in the early Match days and I haven’t been near it since. When listening to music on my iPhone I am careful to tap on ‘Downloaded Music’ before choosing what to listen to. There is no differentiation in the way this option and the ‘Albums’ and ‘Playlists’ etc are displayed in the top menu, so it’s very easy to stumble into the streaming zone, whereupon they gotcha. Very clever Apple! But I may be going a little off topic here. Maybe Catalina will improve the situation. I haven’t tried it yet, and can’t see me doing so any time soon due to compatibility issues.

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