iCloud is sketchy, and it has been from the get-go. Despite there being a healthy library of music available on Apple’s streaming service, it too is far from perfect.
Together these two things can result in a perfect storm of issues, ranging from Apple deleting all your music to empty playlists and duplicate songs.
Resist the urge to panic and check out our troubleshooting tips instead.
Apple Music Deleted My Library, Help!
Depending on how prepared you are and the affected device, there’s usually a way to get your music it back. This issue is most common when first signing up for Apple Music, particularly when enabling iCloud Music Library which allows you to build a library of streaming music that remains in-sync between devices. By its very nature, Apple scans your music library and replaces so-called “known” songs with links to its own versions, and uploads anything it doesn’t know to its servers (then serves a 256 kbps AAC file to your mobile devices instead).
Apple Music deleted my physical songs. It happened to me. I knew it was a possibility. Shame on me and my ignorance.
— genji (@CapriSunGod) June 6, 2016
If you’ve enabled iCloud Music Library and suddenly files have disappeared from your iOS device like an iPhone or iPad, assuming you can’t just re-add them from Apple’s Music Library (or you live for 320 kbps MP3s or lossless files) then you can simply re-sync with iTunes on a Mac or Windows computer. If you bought the songs from iTunes, you don’t even need to do that — just launch the iTunes Store app on your device, head to the More tab and hit Purchased to re-download music you already own.
There have been some nasty reports about Mac users encountering an issue where Apple Music has been deleting files from their main library without permission. According to Apple, original files shouldn’t be affected by their scan, compress, and replace policy — and iMore has broken down what they believe to be the bug that’s been causing all the problems. iTunes has since been updated, and it seems to have done the trick.
The moral of the story? Back up your Mac regularly. The only way to get back your precious lossless files, years’ worth of metadata, rare recordings, music you have worked on yourself, and even voice memos is by restoring a backup. Apple includes its own Time Machine backup feature that makes it easy to back up your computer to external drives, and restoring data is just as easy. You can even use a networked Windows computer or NAS drive for this task if you really want. iTunes users on Windows really aren’t short on backup solutions either — use them!
Can I Ditch iCloud Music Library?
Of course. There’s no requirement to use iCloud Music Library, and you can even still use Apple Music at the same time. On an iOS device you can disable it under Settings > Music > iCloud Music Library or in iTunes head to Preferences > General > iCloud Music Library. You can even disable iCloud Music Library on certain devices (like your home Mac) while using it on others (like an iPhone or iPad).
Just keep in mind a few restrictions that apply to Apple Music when you disable iCloud Music Library:
- You will no longer be able to save offline music to the device.
- Music and playlists you add to your iCloud Music Library elsewhere won’t be automatically synced between devices that have the feature disabled.
- You’ll either have to add music manually to the device by syncing or importing, or access the Apple Music catalogue by streaming music over the Internet instead.
Of course, if you want to ditch Apple Music and iTunes’s preferred method of managing media entirely, you’ve got options there too.
What if Your iCloud Library Disappears?
This is a far less documented problem, and one I know exists because I encountered it myself. A few months ago I needed to switch App Store regions, but as I was an Apple Music member I had to let my subscription to expire in order to switch stores. Once I was no longer subscribed, I hopped App Store to grab a few UK-specific apps, before going back to the Australian store.
Apple Music deleted my entire library and I've never been more upset about something in my life.
— Chelsea Dawson ? (@chelsrenee4) June 17, 2016
At the time I wasn’t streaming a lot of music, so I didn’t renew my subscription for a little while — which probably proved to be my big mistake. Though I couldn’t play tracks in my iCloud Music Library, I could see everything was still there so I thought all was well. It must have been about two months before I re-subscribed, except when I launched the iOS 9 Music app shortly afterwards, my iCloud Music Library had completely disappeared. It’s worth pointing out I had built my entire iCloud Music Library out of Apple’s own catalog, having added and “matched” nothing of my own. I thought my library would be safe, because it was essentially a bunch of links to Apple’s own content. Wrong.
All my playlists were there by name, but there were no songs in them and they had been converted to local playlists. As I’d built up quite a collection, I wasn’t best pleased. Fortunately, I have an old iPad I keep around the house on which I was still running iOS 8 through sheer laziness, and I’d not touched the Music app on there since before my subscription expired. Somehow my iCloud Music Library had been split in two — I could play music on the old iPad, but the libraries wouldn’t sync.
hmm…was listening to music via iCloud Music Library on the way into work, and now on the way home it's completely empty ??
— Dan Bruno (@danbruno) June 20, 2016
iTunes on my Mac also reported there was no music to be found, and it seemed to be syncing with my iPhone. To fix it, I had to manually copy my music back into my collection which took way longer than I’d have liked. I shared my own playlists, with myself, and despite having my name next to them I can’t actually edit the originals in my “new” library. I had to duplicate them (a quick task in iTunes) and re-share them with friends and family.
So What Did I Learn?
- Be careful if you’re going to let your Apple Music collection expire — one Redditor reckons Apple keeps a backup for 30-days after membership ends but I can’t confirm it myself.
- Spotify this is not. I still have an old Spotify account that I created when the service was first launched, and my library is still in-tact despite me not logging in for years.
- iCloud is still sketchy. Make a backup of your iCloud Music Library, just in case (more on this below).
- Not updating your old iPad is sometimes a good thing?
Restoring Your Apple Music Library
If you too have let your Apple Music subscription slide and would like to get everything back, you might not have access to an old device running outdated software to make the process smoother. Here’s a few things I came up with in a panic:
- Check any and all other devices, like a Mac or Windows computer running iTunes for a copy of your “old” library. You’ll probably have to copy it manually, and you might want to consider disabling that device’s Internet connection to stop any unwanted updates.
- Try toggling iCloud Music Library under Settings > Music > iCloud Music Library to force a refresh on affected devices.
- If you have shared any playlists with friends, ask them for a link to that playlist (found under the share button on iOS devices, or by right-clicking on a computer). This worked a treat for me, as I was able to select all songs with a quick command+a and drag them into new playlists. Don’t forget to provide new links to your replacement playlists too!
- If everything has disappeared, check your followed artists under your Account settings. By default Apple Music follows all artists that you add to your collection, and any songs you add to playlists are added to your collection too. If you haven’t messed with these settings, you may have a list of every artist you ever added to your library or a playlist (I did, even on my completely empty “new” library) which could help you track down albums and songs again.
- Consider contacting Apple! This was my next port of call, but I managed to restore everything myself. Head to Apple Support and arrange for them to call you to see if they can help you out.
Back Up Your iCloud Music Library
Never assume that your data is stored safely in the cloud, and don’t assume that the content will always be there either. Services like Spotify, Netflix, and Apple Music can remove content at any point without notice, and in the case of iCloud Music Library, destroy years’ worth of songs you’ve collected and assumed safe. Fortunately, there’s one way you can back up your library using a third party tool.
STAMP is a cross-platform app for migrating music between services, Apple Music included. One of its best features is the ability to export your library to a .CSV (comma-separated value) file. Naturally, it’s possible to also restore a library using such a file, something you might need to do if everything goes wrong. You’ll want to grab the Mac or Windows version (€8.99) for this task, rather than the mobile version.
The more regularly you back up your library, the better. As these .CSV files are just text (no actual music is backed up, just instructions for STAMP to be able to find the songs in future) they barely take up any room at all. You only need to pay for STAMP once, and if you ever decide to jump ship to Google Music or Spotify, you can use it to do that too.
Problems with Apple Music?
Have these tips helped you? Will you be backing up your Apple Music library in future? Have you encountered any issues with Apple Music you’d like some help solving? While we can only do so much, we’re happy to try and answer your questions. Leave a comment below!
Image Credit: shouting on smartphone by Dean Drobot via Shutterstock