Understanding the Apple Music Style Guide
Titles, Music Metadata, and Artwork Requirements
Apple Music has emerged as one of a few pivotal music libraries for artists, offering unparalleled access to a global audience and a host of tools designed to showcase their music effectively. For artists and labels, understanding and complying with Apple Music's Style Guide is not just a matter of maintaining consistency; it's a crucial step towards ensuring successful music delivery on the platform, as Apple Music is very specific about their music metadata. This guide will give you the major reasons for delivery rejection to Apple Music, and why your release may not be present.
Apple Music's Style Guide's guidelines are sometimes a bit hard to read because of how relatively technical it is. We'll break down the common reasons for rejections and give you examples for each below.
Common Issues with Titles and Digital Music Metadata
Titles and metadata hold paramount importance in the context of music distribution, especially on streaming platforms, like Apple Music. In this digital age, a title is much more than just the name of a track, album, or artist name; it acts as a key identifier that listeners use to discover and interact with music files across the internet. It serves as the backbone of digital music organization, enabling platforms to effectively categorize and recommend tracks to the right audience so you and your featured artists can effectively be discovered. Precise titles and metadata not only facilitate smoother music discovery and cataloging on digital service providers but also ensure that artists' works are presented correctly and reach their intended audience. For artists aiming to make a mark, adhering to the guidelines for titles and publishing metadata accurately is not optional, but a necessity.
Now, lets dig into how a record label or primary artist should deliver the correct metadata to Apple.
Non-standard Capitalization Isn't Allowed
Titles should not be in all capitals, all lowercase, or random casing, and the first and last word of each title should always be capitalized For example, the following song titles wouldn't be allowed:
—the california almond
—HeLlO HoW ArE yOu
The correct versions of these titles would be as follows:
—The California Almond
—Hello How Are You
Additionally, Apple requires that title music metadata must include the following words always in lowercase, with a few exceptions: a, an, and, as, but, for, from, nor, of, or, so, the, to, and yet.
"The following words must be in lowercase, with a few exceptions:
a, an, and, as, but, for, from, nor, of, or, so, the, to, and yet.
Prepositions of four letters or fewer (at, by, for, from, in, into, of, off, on, onto, out, over, to, up, and with), except when the word is part of a verb phrase or is used as another part of speech (such as an adverb, adjective, noun, or verb)."
Apple goes on to give examples of properly formatted titles:
"In the Still of the Night
(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman
To Be, or Not to Be
The One and Only
God Willing & the Creek Don't Rise
Some Kind of Trouble
Love: And a Million Other Things
Journey: Greatest Hits
I Need a Doctor
Just the Way You Are
Waiting for the End
The Ballad of Mona Lisa
Lost in a Pair of Eyes
I Got The - Single
The Love I’m Searching For
Exceptions For Lowercase Words"
Apple Music Does Not Allow Advertising In Song Titles
Metadata, audio, and cover art must not contain any type of advertising. For example, the following are prohibited in songs and titles:
—References to other platforms such as Spotify, or other streaming services
—URLs and Website Links
—Dates for future releases
—Search terms and keywords
Language of the Descriptive Metadata Needs to be Correct
Any languages that you choose need to reflect the language of the data associated with the release.
For example, if the title of a songwriters a release is in English, but the language of the lyrics is in Spanish, you would need to set English as the release language at the release level. Language codes must match the language of the metadata, not the audio.
Generic Titles are Disallowed
Generally, Unchained Music prohibits generic content and naming, however there are a few guidelines that Apple Music explicitly lays out.
When titling tracks, you may not:
—Use numbered titles, such as Track 1, Track 2, etc. Titles need to be distinct.
—Use generic descriptors, such as a genre or format. For example, Trap, Phonk, Electronic, and Instrumental would all be disallowed
—Use generic feelings such as Happy, Sad, Angry, Vibe, etc
Unnecessary Additional Information for Versions
In this case, the style guide put this best, so we'll quote it:
"The standard, original version of an album, track, or music video must not include any additional information in the title unless it is needed to identify the content.
For example, titles must not include Exclusive, Limited Edition, Album Version, Original Mix, Tone, Alert Tone, Text Tone, Ringtone, Ringtone Version, E-Release, Digital Only, Digital Download, Digital Single, E-Album, 2 CD Set, With Lyrics, Clips from, Official Music Video, Full Song Video, Full Version, Atmos, Dolby Atmos, lossless, high-resolution audio, high resolution, spatial audio, 24-bit, 192 kHz, 128 kHz, or 96 kHz.
Do not submit any title version information that is already addressed with Apple Music or iTunes badges. Apple Music or iTunes display a badge or blurb for the following, so titles must not include:
—Apple Digital Masters
You May Not Censor Your Song Title
Album and song titles may not be censored. For example, the following would be incorect:
Apple Music and iTunes automatically censors these titles when submitted in their original spelling.
Cover Artwork Requirements
Artwork plays a crucial role in defining an artist's visual identity and enhancing the appeal of their music. Where physical interaction with music is absent, artwork serves as the first point of visual contact between the artist and the listener. It influences perceptions and can significantly impact a listener's decision to explore an album or track further. Moreover, artwork aids in distinguishing an artist’s work in a crowded digital space, where visual cues are key to standing out. Properly executed, it can enhance discoverability, convey professionalism, and contribute to building a cohesive brand image. Therefore, the importance of high-quality, compelling, and platform-compliant artwork cannot be overstated in the context of digital music distribution. It's not just about the sound; the visual representation of music plays a pivotal role in an artist’s success in the digital and music industry marketplace.
Common Cover Artwork Issues
Deliver Accurate Cover Art and Avoid Generic Templates
Any content that doesn't match the release name and content is at risk of not being accepted to Apple Music and iTunes. This includes generic art templates from places like Canva. To ensure that your cover art is accepted, make sure that you create original visual content that reflects your artistic vision for your release.
Avoid Low-Quality and Pixelated Artwork
Apple doesn't like it when artists submit low quality, blurred, misaligned, or pixelated artwork. If it's low quality, they may not accept it or hide it.
No URLs, Logos, QR codes, Barcodes, or Other Streaming Services
Make sure that your cover artwork is simply that- artwork. It shouldn't be used for a promotional purpose beyond describing the release, artist, and title. You cannot link to your website or social media, use QR codes to a Linktree or LinkinBio, or display logos of other streaming services.
In addition to this, Apple specifically disallows references to the file format, such as "high quality", "Atmos", "24-bit", Vinyl, Single, CD, or any other description. This includes pricing. "Reduced Price", "Promo Use", "Low Price" and specific amounts such as $9.99 are disallowed.
Pornography and Cultural Sensitivities
Artwork may not be pornographic in nature, or promote any discrimination by race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national/ethnic origin, or other identities.
Troubleshooting and Resolving Issues With Non-Delivery
Unchained Music does not provide feedback on whether or not your release was accepted to Apple Music. If you believe that your release was hidden or not delivered based on these guidelines, please contact Support so we can help you.