What Happens When You Quit iTunes Match for Apple Music

iTunes Matched Out

I signed on with iTunes Match the day it became available in Japan on May 2, 2014 then signed on with Apple Music when it went live in 2015. With all the startup bugs and teething pains of iCloud Music Library I kept both services running, but over time it settled down enough that I considered dropping iTunes Match. Serenity Caldwell’s iMore piece Do I still need iTunes Match if I have Apple Music? sez Apple Music does it all so I let my iTunes Match subscription expire. It did not go well.

Problems

  • No Longer Available: tracks in iTunes that were previously iTunes Matched showed on iOS but could not be played. iCloud Music Library Status in iTunes incorrectly listed them as No Longer Available without an iCloud icon
  • No iCloud Status: tracks in iTunes that were previously iTunes Matched showed on iOS and could be played but not downloaded. iCloud Music Library Status in iTunes incorrectly lists them blank when they should be listed as Matched
  • Incorrect iCloud Status: the vast majority of tracks (more than 1,000) in iTunes that were previously iTunes Matched showed on iOS and could be played. iCloud Music Library Status in iTunes incorrectly lists them as Apple Music when they should be listed as Matched

Workarounds

  • No Longer Available: I deleted the 121 tracks in iTunes, dragged the files out of the Trash, and added them back to iTunes. Warning: do not delete using “Remove Download” which instantly vaporizes local music files into oblivion instead of Trash, use the delete key instead.
  • No iCloud Status: They play on my iPhone but don’t download, left as is
  • Incorrect iCloud Status: They play on my iPhone, left as is

Conclusion
iCloud Music Library is supposed to be seamless but 3 years after the Apple Music launch the seams still show between the iTunes Store and Apple Music catalogs. They don’t always match up. The transition to Apple Music match should not be a problem if you do not have a large library of iTunes Match curated music. If you have a large iTunes Match library of carefully curated content however, prepare yourself for some iCloud Music Library downtime and cleanup as you transition to Apple Music match.

If you have a cataloging fetish, keep your iTunes Match subscription and your sanity.

UPDATE
The “No Longer Available” problem is more insidious than I first thought, “No iCloud Status” tracks suddenly stop playing and become “No Longer Available” tracks for no apparent reason. This is not fun.

The Amazon Prime Japan Market Sweet Spot

Apple TVIt’s astounding that Apple has sold AppleTV in Japan longer than iPhone without offering a single minute of Japanese TV content. AppleTV was initially offered as a device for playing iTunes movie content on a big screen. 10 years later on that still is AppleTV’s Japanese marketing pitch. If you want TV content on AppleTV in Japan use the NetflixHulu, Bandai Channel or AbemaTV apps.

Hulu (2014) and Netflix (2015) were the first companies from outside of Japan to offer licensed Japanese TV on-demand content, far behind the home competition. Netflix dipped its toe into the original content pool by picking up part of the third season production tab for the popular Shinya Shokudō (Midnight Diner) series (great show BTW). Hulu offers original Japanese content too.

And then there is Amazon Prime. A quick comparison.

Cloud Service JPY Monthly Cost
iCloud 2TB 1,300
Apple Music 817
iTunes Match 332
Netflix 1,050
Rounded Total ¥3,500

Amazon Prime costs about ¥400 a month. Customers get access to a lot of content on Prime Video and 1 millions songs on Prime Music. Not the whole thing of course but enough content for most of the people most of the time. Japanese friends who never cared about online content but occasionally buy things on Amazon are suddenly watching and listening to Amazon Prime.

What’s interesting about Prime Video however is that despite Amazon’s heavy content pitch to the hip young online generation, the popular movie title ranking is defintely not hip and young. More like the 60~70 retiree bracket.

The unequal comparison is simply meant to show the power of Amazon bundling which Apple does not do. Khoi Vihn made a very good point that Apple could encourage purchases by offering a discount window with video rentals.

That’s a start, but if Apple is getting into video streaming and content creation, they will have to intelligently streamline and bundle cloud services while being everything that all the other content providers are not. Japanese content included, preferrably geared for retirees.

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.

Apple Music Japanese Radio Stations

Dear Naoko,

Congratulations on the new gig on Apple Music radio! Just love you on the Kayokyoku station. Honestly I was so tired of that Avex crap on J-Pop I had given up.

And what was that Korean TV Dramas channel coming first thing all about? I thought Japan was the second most profitable music market after the USA. It was Dentsu marketing bucks, wasn’t it? Well, I guess Jimmy and Dre changed their tune after Dentsu dumped them for Spotify Japan. Serves ’em right.

Hey I’m really really sorry about the iCloud Music Library kanji sorting not working. I told Jimmy and Dre about it like a thousand times but they never listen. Maybe they don’t have any Japanese working in Apple Music engineering, either that or the Japanese there are not really…well you know what I mean.

Don’t feel bad though, a lot of your fellow Japanese artists are in the “#” section too, Seiko-chan, Rumiko, Saori Yuki to name a few. I don’t think Jimmy and Dre are jilting you, so don’t take it personally. I guess that means Japan won’t get that Siri DJ thing. If Apple Music can’t sort your name how will DJ Siri ever find you?

Tell you what, next rainy day let’s go to the cinema. Just you and me, we can have a good cry. It won’t change anything but we’ll feel better. Until then!

Love and Kisses,
Your Biggest Fan