Music database errors

purchased a really messy year-end compilation. whilst trying to edit it down to size, discovered one artist in my library is there twice, once with an image, indicating apple recognises them, the other without. one version has two albums (one of which is a various artists compilation), the other has three albums (one of which is another various artists compilation). poking around in the metadata, so far can’t see what caused music to deem this two different artists.

has anyone else encountered similar. if so, were you able to resolve it?

I actually see this quite a lot. I think it’s a case of characters in a field that look the same to us but have different codes (such as Latin and Cyrillic A), or even a space at the end of the field. I’ve most often seen it in a mismatch between Artist and Album Artist on only certain tracks of an album.

The easiest way I’ve found to fix it is to select all the tracks that are supposed to have the same metadata in the affected field, Get Info, delete the contents of the affected field, click OK, Get Info again (while the same tracks are still selected), and re-enter the data into the affected field. That almost always fixes the problem.


Also double-check capitalization. For the purpose of grouping, Apple treats fields as case sensitive. For example, my album Renaissance: Live at Carnegie Hall appeared in my library with the “at” capitalized for disc 1, and lower-case for disc 2. Until I corrected it, the Music app treated the two discs as separate albums.


I have the same situation. Songs from 4 Steely Dan albums are placed in two separate Steely Dan artist sections, two albums in each. I have copied and pasted the “album” and “album artist” names from one Get Info box to the other with no success in merging the two artists into one. This is a multiple-years-old problem that has never resolved.

I haven’t had to deal with the incorrect splitting for awhile but one factor that can trigger it, if I’m remembering correctly, is the “Compliation” checkbox in the Get Info screen for each track.

i solved my latest by adding then removing “album artist” but your data mayn’t respond well to that.

another trick, which @Halfsmoke hints at, and worked for me in other situations, is to toggle the compilation tickbox, save, then untoggle it. couldn’t use that this time cuz one album each for the divided artist was a track in a compilation.

databases are tricky but apple’s inept design is particularly egregious. plus they don’t care about anyone who doesn’t stream from their servers. (they don’t actually care about the streamers, either, but it’s less of a problem for them.)

btw: after i fixed my “dual” artist, the one with the image is no more. more weirdness with apple data.

I’ve had to turn off the automatic adding of images in Music. It keeps replacing correct album covers with very incorrect ones. Sometimes I can figure out how they’re connected, but most of the time it’s just baffling. So I grab all my covers from AllMusic and Discogs, and manually update them.

i’d that issue a while back. don’t recall: may have ranted about it in these pages.

all my album art is manually added or comes embedded in the downloads, none of which are sourced at apple. stopped buying music from apple years ago because of their weirdness of automatically downloading stuff onto my phone. that interferes with my playlist strategy.

yes, i’ll admit to being very retentive about my data.

suspect but can’t confirm that this strategy is one of the causes of the reported but still unfixed bug wherein ios fails to display album art for a random selection of tracks. this bug is now at least five years old (five or six major releases of ios).

enshittification of apple is a long-standing trend. but wallstreet still loves them. as does the feature creep.

Just noticed that on my iPhone all 4 Steely Dan albums are grouped into a single Steely Dan artist. On my Mac, I have two Steely Dan artists with two albums each.

My three Steely Dan albums are all nicely together without intervention from me. These were from CD. One of the problems that Apple and everyone else has is that they use the GraceNote database and it is far from perfect. It was originally used information submitted by users, and some people seem to have got very obsessed and added anyone who appeared on a track to the artists list.

That box should only be used for albums containing tracks from multiple artists. When checked, the system will ignore the Artist field when grouping the album’s tracks and when sorting the album within your library. It will cause the album to be sorted with “compilations” (or at the end of the library when in Songs view).

If you have a “compilation” of tracks from a single artist (e.g. a “greatest hits” album), you should not check this box. This will let the album be sorted/grouped with the rest of the artist’s albums.

If you have a “compilation” of tracks from different artists, and you want the album to sort in a specific position (e.g. sorting a “tribute” album with the artist the tracks are a tribute to), then you should fill in the Album Artist field and do not check the “compilation” box. This will cause the tracks to be sorted and grouped (for album view) as if the Artist field is the Album Artist. So your tribute album’s tracks will all have the correct artists, but they’ll group together as a single album and it will sort with the specified Album Artist.

I strongly recommend that you do not use Album Artist and the compilation checkbox at the same time. I’m not certain what Music will do with such tracks, but it is pointless - use one or the other, depending on where you want the album sorted in your library.

I also strongly recommend that you do not use the Album Artist field if all the tracks on the album come from one artist. Even if they match, I’m not sure if Music will do the right thing. And if only some tracks use Album Artist, you may find Music grouping the tracks as if they were two separate albums.

This last recommendation can be an issue when ripping CDs or when purchasing albums from different music stores (including iTunes). I’ve found that metadata sources (including the iTunes Store, Amazon and the Gracenote CDDB) often do set Album Artist when all the tracks have the same Artist fields, sometimes leading to unexpected sorting/grouping.

I never use this feature. I may manually download artwork for a single album (right-click on the artwork in Album view and select “Get Album Artwork”), but I would never have it do this automatically.

I much prefer scanning the artwork from my CDs and add those images to my tracks. The artwork isn’t always the same, usually because the artwork tends to change over time as albums are re-released, and I want the artwork from my discs.

I’ve noticed that as well. iOS is definitely using a different database format.

Double-check these albums to make sure the Artist and Album Artists fields are correct (Artist=“Steely Dan”, Album Artist is blank). Make sure capitalization and whitespace is identical. Copy/paste is your friend here.

And make sure they all have the same “Sort Artist” and “Sort Album Artist” fields. For Steely Dan, they should be blank (which will be displayed as gray text). But if someone somewhere made a mistake and set the Sort Artist to “Dan, Steely” (incorrect, because “Steely Dan” is not the artist’s name), that would cause it to sort/group separately.

All this having been said, I have similar issues on my Mac with certain bands and I haven’t been able to figure out why. I’ve generally ignored it, because I usually display everything using the Songs view (sorting by album-by-artist-by-year), where this problem doesn’t seem to occur. But I definitely see it in Artists view.

Yes, yes, absolutely yes.

A common feature, when guest performers appear, is that they put the guest in the Artist field. For example:

  • “Track 1” by “Artist 1”
  • “Track 2” by “Artist 1”
  • “Track 3” by “Artist 1”
  • “Track 4” by “Artist 1, feat. Artist 2”
  • “Track 5” by “Artist 1”

Left by itself, this will put track 4 in a separate album, since it has a different artist field. Sometimes they will “fix” this by checking the “compilation album” box. This will keep all the tracks together, but it will now appear in the compilations section of your library. Better, some will set the Album Artist to “Artist 1”, which should work.

But I much prefer to not abuse the Artist field, putting additional information in the Title field:

  • “Track 1” by “Artist 1”
  • “Track 2” by “Artist 1”
  • “Track 3” by “Artist 1”
  • “Track 4 (w/ Artist 2)” by “Artist 1”
  • “Track 5” by “Artist 1”

Which solves the problem the easy way, because all the tracks now have the same artist.

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I prefer this format, because it’s more accurate. Also, I have several smart playlists based on Artist, and when the guest artist’s name isn’t in the Artist field, those tracks will not appear in those playlists unless I also have the playlist check for “feat. ” or “f/ ” in the Track Name field, which unnecessarily complicates the playlists. (The fact that there is no consistent standard for “feat.” vs. “f/” also annoys me—most seem to use “feat.” now, but there are still many that use “f/”—but that’s a different issue. I prefer “f/” over “feat.” because it’s shorter and cannot be confused with the word “feat”, such as in the case of band Little Feat.)

I want Artist to accurately reflect the actual performers on the track, and Track Name to accurately reflect the name of the song. I use Album Artist to ensure that the tracks are sorted together correctly.

(For example, Holly Cole provides guest vocals on one track on Jesse Cook’s album Vertigo. The Artist field for that track, in my Music database, contains “Jesse Cook f/ Holly Cole”, and the Album Artist field contains “Jesse Cook”. The Compilation box is not checked. This is, in my view, what the Album Artist field was intended for.)

I also dislike having Album Artist remain empty, simply from an aesthetic perspective. So for compilations, I usually put “[various artists]” in the Album Artist field (the square brackets distinguish it from the potential of a band calling themselves “Various Artists”). If it’s a cast Recording of a musical (stage or screen), I use some form of “Original Broadway Cast”/“Original Motion Picture Cast”/etc. If it’s a movie score combined with songs (either as a musical or compiled tracks), I set Album Artist to the score’s composer, as I do for albums containing only a movie score. In all of these cases, I don’t check the Compilation box; to me it’s a kludge for getting around using Album Artist correctly.

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Ha! I deleted the Album Artist field and they all sorted together. Don’t understand it, but thanx for the suggestion!


I do something similar, but put the featured/guest artist in the Comments field (where it’s still searchable) rather than any of the primary fields. However, if some tracks are by a completely different artist, or an artist sometimes with and sometimes without a band, I do put different entries in the Artist field and use the Album Artist field to group all songs into one album. For example, in the new release of Grateful Dead’s “Wake of the Flood”, there are two bonus demo tracks the booklet says were recorded solely by Jerry Garcia in his home studio. For those tracks, I have Jerry Garcia as the Artist, and have Grateful Dead for all songs on the album in the Album Artist field. Similarly, for Neil Young’s “Chrome Dreams”, some songs are just Neil, and some are with Crazy Horse. Again, I put the specific artist in the Artist field and just Neil Young in the Album Artist field (for all songs).

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Another annoying thing when downloading from some non-Apple download sites (eg. Juno Download, Beatport, Traxsource, et al.). Say the track is Artist1 (ft. Artist2) - Trackname, they don’t clarify the ‘featuring’ role at all, instead doing these fields:

Artist: “Artist1, Artist2” / Track: “Trackname”

I’m not a DJ software user, but wondered if this is something to do with some DJ software (or similar) using the comma (,) between artists as separate artists terms for their search?

The reason I don’t like this method is because the second artist role is completely deleted, so if Artist2 was actually a Trumpet credit (eg. “Artist 1 (trumpet Artist2)”) just having “Artist1, Artist2” omits the role info.

The more common form is “ft.” (instead of “feat.” or “f/”). I set that for all my featuring credits.