iTunes 12 Bug or Feature? Set Blank Genres for Media Files

A reader wrote in with an interesting question. He liked to set the genres of much of his music to blank, to not have a genre, and he used other tags to create smart playlists. He pointed out that, in iTunes 12, this no longer works, and when he deletes genres from files, iTunes adds them to a blank genre. It took me a while to wrap my head around this, so let me show what’s going on.

Let’s start with a playlist that contains two albums, from two different genres. The Column Browser is visible, showing those genres.

Screen Shot 2014 12 30 at 2 58 40 PM

Now, if I select all the tracks on the second album and press Command-I, I bring up the Info window. I delete the genre and click OK.

Screen Shot 2014 12 30 at 3 00 49 PM

The playlist now shows that there are two genres: Jazz and [blank]; you can see that I’ve selected the line for the blank genre, and the album that I’ve just changed is selected.

Screen Shot 2014 12 30 at 3 01 47 PM

If I sort the playlist by Genres, I see this:

Screen Shot 2014 12 30 at 3 05 13 PM

If I remove the tracks with the other genre, then the playlist shows 0 Genres.

Interestingly, if I look in the iTunes Library.xml file, at the entry for the first track of the album, I see this:

Screen Shot 2014 12 30 at 3 34 30 PM

Note the spaces in the Genre key; there are eight spaces, which is a bit surprising. (I’d expect it to be blank.)

It seems that, when you delete a genre, iTunes replaces the Genre field with eight spaces. Why? Is this a bug or a feature? It’s hard to know. I find it logical that music without a genre doesn’t appear in the Genres list. But having a blank genre that exists is strange. I’m betting this is a bug.

So, if you want to blank genres of your files, Doug Adams has created an AppleScript that does so without introducing this bug.

3 thoughts on “iTunes 12 Bug or Feature? Set Blank Genres for Media Files

  1. If you couple this with your other tip for opening the old-style Get Info, you can delete the Genre altogether (remove the 8 spaces) and it removes the song from the Genre list.

    • I’ve also noticed that if you do clear the 8 spaces and then open the new-style Get Info, it’s not possible to select the text field for Genre; you can only use the dropdown to select something else. I expect that an internal bug report was filed, saying that the user couldn’t select the text if the field was empty, and that the programmer decided that by creating a “blank” genre with 8 spaces fixed that issue. They probably didn’t realise people used the absence of a genre as metadata in of itself.

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