HomePod and the Apple Music Japanese Metadata Mess

Naoko Ken joking aside, Apple Music Japanese sorting is still a hot mess. The root problem is the different ways that iTunes in the Cloud (purchased tracks), iTunes Match (CD tracks stored in iCloud), and Apple Music (streaming) tag Japanese artist names.

iCloud Music Library is supposed to hold everything together as one big intergrated whole but it does not. The different programs that use iCloud Music Library, iTunes, Siri, Apple Music app, each see Japanese artist names differently and treat them differently.

I have a large Yumi Matsutoya (Yuming) music collection. Most of her vast catalog is not on iTunes or Apple Music so I put Yuming in iCloud Music Library via iTunes Match. Countless weekends carefully adding kana in the iTunes name sorting tags so that Yuming sorts correctly in the Apple Music app artist list was in vain. No matter what kana tags are in iTunes, Apple Music app refuses to sort.

Messy Metadata and Siri
Japanese artist, album and song title metadata on purchased iTunes tracks is all over the place. Sometimes the kana sort tags are correct, sometimes they are empty, sometimes they are incorrectly tagged with kanji which is a no-no: kana tags have to have kana otherwise Japanese sorting does not work.

I suspect Apple Music tracks have their own tagging scheme which is why iCloud Music Library ignores iTunes kana tags. Unfortunately Siri depends on accurate metadata to carry out commands.

If I ask Siri in Japanese to “play some Yumi Matsutoya,” Siri complies and starts to play Yuming. But Siri does not play Yuming tunes from my iCloud Music Library. Siri plays post 2011 Apple Music Yumi Matsutoya tracks that I don’t own, or want to hear. Apple Music is the problem so I turn off Apple Music in iOS settings and try Siri again.

But Siri still plays post 2011 Yuming Apple Music, this time from an instantly created station. And so it goes. No matter what, Siri cannot play my Yumi Matsutoya collection. The story is the same for many other Japanese artists in my collection. This is not a good advertisement for selling HomePod in Japan.

Japan is one of most profitable music markets after the US market. If Apple wants to sell HomePod in Japan at some point, they’ll have to get their Apple Music Japanese metadata problem sorted out first.

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