Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Apple Music’s Album View

Dave Mark:

Over the weekend, someone started a thread asking why an artist’s album view in Apple Music has gotten so cluttered.

To see this for yourself, pick a relatively modern artist and check out their list of albums in the Music app. For example, fire up Siri and say:

Show me all the Bruno Mars albums

When the Bruno Mars page appears, scroll down to the Albums section and tap See All. Amongst the actual Bruno Mars albums, you’ll find a lot of singles and EPs. Way more singles and EPs than actual albums, in fact.

It gets worse than that — many artists list both clean and explicit versions of each release, which means that the Album view in Apple Music is often twice the apparent size.

Mark and Kirk McElhearn put the blame on the ID3 audio metadata standard, and that’s fair: ID3 doesn’t have a field to distinguish between LPs, EPs, singles, and other release types.

The iTunes Store worked around the ID3’s limitations by sorting releases by popularity — I presume — instead of reverse chronologically. Compare, for example, Kanye West’s albums on the iTunes Store and Apple Music. The iTunes Store fits one more release onscreen than Apple Music but, more importantly, everything shown on the iTunes Store is a full-length album; on Apple Music, all six releases shown at the top of the Albums screen are singles.1 I don’t know if sorting by popularity is translatable to Apple Music and its users’ listening patterns, but it is perhaps worth investigating.2

Of note, Spotify does not have this problem; it correctly separates albums and singles. I don’t know how they do this — manually, perhaps? — but it makes Apple Music look sloppy by comparison.

  1. And five of them are collaborations where West is only a featured artist on the track. ↩︎

  2. I’d also like to see separate clean and explicit releases consolidated in Apple Music, with a toggle at the bottom of the album page to show one or the other. Showing both and effectively treating them as separate releases just creates clutter. ↩︎