Music app (Catalina) fails to separate multiple CDs in a set of three

I’ve been transferring my CDs, slowly, to my Mac using the new Music app, which is a bit flaky. Today, I added a three-CD set of Schubert songs by Fischer-Dieskau. So, I have Disc 1, Disc 2, and I then copied Disc 3 of the set (same jewel case, etc.). However, there’s no separate album for that third CD in Apple Music. There’s Disc 1, Disc 2 and, within Disc 2, there’s a “Disc 3” but it’s not listed as a separate CD as it should be. Aside from this being a bug, is there a way I can manually create a new album from those songs?

Also, Music almost never grabs the correct album cover. It fails about 50% of the time. Gets it wrong with classic jazz, classical music, international music, etc. It did get my Sade album cover right though.

OK. I’m replying to my own query. It has to be done manually from the Songs listing. Then you click the Album column until it reads “Album by Artist.” Then you’ll see all the songs listed for that album and artist. So, I had to manually select the songs for Disc 3, then open Get Info, then change the album name to read Schubert … [Disc 3]. Now, I have all three CDs listed separately as they should be.

My understanding is that a multi-disc set is supposed to be treated as a single “album”. That’s how iTunes did it since day 1, and that’s how it works if you go to the iTunes Store and buy an album that would be on multiple discs if you bought a physical copy.

In this case, disc 1 may have been in the database with a slightly different name, causing it to import separately from discs 2 and 3.

Dave

In my multi disc compilations, I clean out the [Disk x] and make sure the Info area has the correct Disk x of y in it

This is a perennial problem, also dating back well into iTunes’ history. I think I’ve figured it out, though.

When finding album art, the system relies mostly on metadata. It can’t use audio fingerprinting alone, if it does at all, because that can’t distinguish between different releases of the same recording (for an obvious example, it can’t tell any difference between the Eagles’ “Hotel California” on the Hotel California album and the Greatest Hits Volume 2 album, because they’re the exact same recording).

The problem is that there are no standards for how metadata is formatted in the various catalogs and databases that store this information. It’s not bad with popular music (such as your Sade album), because the artist, track, and album names for those are generally straightforward and clear. But the categories you cited as usually being wrong (classic jazz, classical, and international) are all fraught with metadata complexities and confusions, especially with album titles. How many different compilations do you think exist called Best of the Big Bands, for example, many of which contain some of the same tracks?

Classical is especially tough because not only is there no standard for how album titles are formatted, but it’s often virtually impossible to tell what a classical album’s official catalog title actually is from the cover. The artwork may look like the album title should be something like “Aristotle Hoosegow Conducts Bruno Jehosephat Symphonies” while the actual catalog title could be “Jehosephat: Symphonies 1–3, Latveria National Orchestra”. There’s no standard and there’s no consistency.

It’s easy for us to look at the art the computer selected and say, “That’s not the right image,” when we’re sitting there with the album cover right in front of us. But the system is making its best guess among a raft of bad information.

I’ve had to replace most of the album art in my (very large) collection. I usually start at allmusic.com, because they have a good index of classical recordings by composer and work, not just by recording. I also use discogs.org, which is quite comprehensive but sometimes hard to navigate.

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But what happens when I want to play only Disc 2 (Winterreise in this case) and not discs 1 or 3? When they are listed separately, it’s quite easy.

Yes, I’ve used both allmusic.com and discos.com for album covers. Worse yet for a few international titles that aren’t listed on either of those sites. And I can see how classical recordings can be a minefield of confusion given the ways they’ve been mixed and matched, plus recordings of the same pieces by different orchestras or musicians.

I think in this case, it was the third disc that didn’t have the [disc 3] in the album title box.

Related:. This is a great resource to look up album artwork of all kinds

https://bendodson.com/projects/itunes-artwork-finder/

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This is a helpful tool for getting the album art and other metadata in the shape you want: Meta – Music Tag Editor for Mac

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As you figured out, Music determines album membership by the metadata. More specifically, two tracks will be considered in the same album if:

  • The Artist matches (or if both have the “member of a compilation” box checked
  • The album titles match

In your case, discs 2 and 3 had the same album title. When you renamed disc 3, it became a separate album.

(FWIW, I prefer the opposite. For a multi-disc set, I prefer them to be treated as one album. I use the “Disc x of y” field to distinguish them.)

“Supposed to be” doesn’t really exist. The app groups tracks as you configure them. While content from the iTunes Store may have one organization, the Gracenote database (used when fetching metadata for CDs) is all over the map and has no consistency.

When ripping a CD, always review the CD info and per-track info before you rip. This way it will be what you want/expect it to be. (You can make the changes after you rip it, but that won’t save the data in your CD database, for when you insert the CD in the future.)

I think it’s entirely based on metadata. And I never use that service, because cover art changes all the time and I want the art from the CDs I own. So I make my own scans of the covers and use those images.

I only use Apple’s artwork for tracks I purchase from the iTunes Store, which is the most-correct option, because I don’t have a disc cover to scan.

Not only is there no standard for album titles, but I’ve seen the same album re-issued with different titles and artwork. There have been several occasions where a classical album (typically an el-cheapo compilation disc) will match multiple albums in the Gracenote database. Each containing the same tracks, but with a different album name and different variations on the track names. After looking up the variants on Discogs or other similar databases, it becomes painfully obvious that these are re-issues of the same CD.

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Hmm. I overlooked that. I’ll try to follow that approach in the future. For now, I can at least play whichever disc of the Schubert set I want individually.

You didn’t mention what type of file you’re using for rips, but if you’re concerned about bit accuracy, another source/app is XLD. It uses two different databases FreeDB and MusicBrainz for metadata and can also find album art. However, I only use iTunes initially for the Gracenote metadata, rip the CD in mp3 for an old device and then rip the CD in XLD using the AIFF option for the highest quality as the program checks against the AccurateRip database so you can see if your rip may have issues. It is an extra step as I have to import the AIFF rip into iTunes but since I have experienced some rips that had some defects like skips, I trust XLD to let me know if the rip should be accurate as it gives you a report at the end.

I tend to look for my own art and the sources mentioned like Discogs and Allmusic are fine sites but just using Google Search images, you can find many. Spotify comes up for many albums as well as Apple Music as those two are usually decent quality.

I have found that attempting to adjust metadata for Music can be a very challenging experience as there seems to be a lot of inconsistencies or complexities in the way that Music organizes its tracks and little to no information as to how Music makes the choices it makes. This seems particularly true with Compilations. That said I find the free App (supported by donation) MusicBrainz Picard to be an extremely useful tool for managing/editing both track and album metadata and album art.

I have, through trial and error, figured out that a lot of the apparent inconsistencies come from the Album Artist field. If the contents of that field differ between tracks on a single album, Music will mis-sort them in any of a variety of odd ways.

That’s probably why you find Compilations more frequently affected—it’s sometimes tough to decide what the best Album Artist for a particular Compilation is, and many people overlook this field when ripping their own tracks.

The Album Artist field, by the way, allows you to have variant Artist names on a single album without labeling it a Compilation. I only mark an album as a Compilation now if the most appropriate Album Artist is “Various Artists”. Otherwise, having all tracks on an album use the same Album Artist (and Album title, of course) will make Music group them together as one album.

Another source of sorting inconsistencies is the Track X of Y fields. If some tracks have the “Y” filled but others don’t, Music may mis-sort those tracks. If tracks on a single disc of an album have differing “Y”, Music may mis-sort them.

Last year, I made the mistake of allowing beaTunes to automatically fill in Album Artist, Track Number, and Disc Number metadata. Do not do this! The databases it sources from not only contain myriad inconsistencies in Album Artists, but it also loves to match up tracks with bizarrely incorrect albums for Track and Disc numbers. I think it was picking a lot of info from box sets, because I found some tracks renumbered as things like “Track 4 of 100, Disc 3 of 10”. beaTunes is a great tool for standardizing your metadata, but you have to manually review every change if you have it draw information from online sources.

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I totally agree based on my experiences that the field, Album Artist is a key field that Music uses in its organization. What I use Compilations for is to group different tracks from different sources into a single groups such as tracks I have downloaded from various sources into a group called Celtic Music. It is often challenging to group these together due to the mysterious ways that Music organizes it tracks, even if Album Artist reflects a commonality.