Entertainment iPhone and iPad Mac

Apple Music Deleted Your Library? Tips for When Music Disappears

Tim Brookes 27-06-2016

iCloud is sketchy, and it has been from the get-go iCloud Drive Not Syncing? How to Solve iCloud Sync Issues If you have issues with iCloud Drive, don't despair. Here's how to resolve iCloud syncing issues and get it working again. Read More . Despite there being a healthy library of music available on Apple’s streaming service, it too is far from perfect 9 Tips for a Better Apple Music Experience on iOS & OS X There's a lot Apple doesn't tell you about Apple Music. Here are some of the best tricks for making the most of your tunes. Read More .


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).

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, How to Partition Your External Time Machine Hard Drive Here's how to partition an external hard drive for Time Machine on your Mac so you can store other files too. Read More  and restoring data is just as easy 3 Ways to Restore Data From Time Machine Backups Here are several methods for how to restore your Mac using Time Machine, including what to do about "searching for time machine backups." Read More . You can even use a networked Windows computer or NAS drive Turn Your NAS Or Windows Share Into A Time Machine Backup Use your NAS, or any network share, for backing up your Mac with Time Machine. Read More for this task if you really want. iTunes users on Windows really aren’t short on backup solutions either The Ultimate Windows 10 Data Backup Guide We've summarized every backup, restore, recovery, and repair option we could find on Windows 10. Use our simple tips and never despair over lost data again! Read More — 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 The Best iPhone Music Apps and Alternative Music Managers for iOS What's the best music app for iPhone? Here are the best paid and free options for listening to music on iOS. Read More .

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.


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.

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 How to Import Spotify, Rdio and More to Your Apple Music Collection What if you already have playlists on other services like Spotify and want to replicate those on Apple Music? Read More .

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.

And if your library is all set now and you’re ready for more tips, take a look at these great Apple Music features to use on your iPhone. And if you’re using Apple Music on your Mac 7 Mac Apps for a Better Spotify and Apple Music Experience If you listen to Spotify or Apple Music on your Mac, you need to check out these apps that make music streaming even better. Read More , try one of these apps:

Image Credit: shouting on smartphone by Dean Drobot via Shutterstock

Related topics: Apple Music, iCloud, iTunes, Time Machine.

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  1. David
    December 13, 2018 at 1:16 am

    It's pretty simple. Don't trust Apple with your money. They won't get another dime of mine.

  2. manuel
    November 28, 2018 at 10:11 pm

    Hi, I believe the moral of the story for Apple deleting the music library files of users is not "backup more" it's actually don't trust companies with your stuff. Certainly not Apple. And if you do, wear a condom.

  3. Michele
    January 13, 2018 at 7:16 am

    Yep, typically I am one of the few, even my old iTunes music purchases are gone- I can not remember them all but don't show up as purchases! And some that I remember purchasing are prompting me to pay again! WTF!

  4. Ayotomiwa
    December 26, 2017 at 11:16 am

    This really helped. Thanks

  5. Brian a confused itunes listener
    November 17, 2017 at 8:55 pm

    I have been looking though my Itunes library and a number of Songs/Albums and Videos have disappeared . I have just received an email from Itunes. Their reply is as follows:-
    "After further review I have confirmed the content you are no longer seeing in your library has been removed or modified in the iTunes Store by the content provider. Hence, you will no longer be able to download the items from your past purchases. If you would like to have this content back in your library you will need to purchase it again." Something to do with their terms and conditions
    Could any one explain why?

    • Michele
      January 13, 2018 at 7:17 am

      Yep happened to me too! Bastards- punished for loyalty

  6. mike
    September 11, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    Apple destroyed all my music that I had loaded manually - next phone switching to android

  7. Ansh Shah
    August 20, 2017 at 1:29 am

    I just recently changed my country from India to the USA. While in India, I had subscribed to Apple Music and my iTunes iCloud Music Library was turned on then. Now, when I changed the country to USA and resubscribed to Apple Music all my songs are removed. I have not back up and no alternative to retrieve my old songs. Besides, I have been using Apple Music for a year. So a considerable chunk of music was never available in offline format. Any help how I can retrieve my Apple Music back?

    • Misha
      October 2, 2017 at 3:10 am

      Ansh, I had the same problem (with changing country) and I already cursed Apple. But then I found this. Don't forget to turn off iCloud.

  8. Ansh Shah
    August 20, 2017 at 1:26 am

    I have just changed my country from India to the USA. While at India, I had subscribed to Apple Music and my iCloud Music Library feature was turned on then. Now, I am in the States and upon changing the country and re-subscribing to Apple Music all my songs are removed now. Almost 3000 songs. Is there a way to get them back?

  9. Frank
    April 24, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    I am incredibly disappointed - I have a huge collection in the US of 45s, old cassettes, and vinyl which I have been slowly adding (editing the files, etc.) to iTunes. I live overseas. Tonight everything just crashed - from something like a few HUNDRED Beatles songs from various CDs and even a few LPs, I am down to TEN... Can anyone help? I am beyond disappointed with iTunes and if I can get out of this will migrate to something much more reliable...

    • Tim Brookes
      May 5, 2017 at 4:24 am

      Do you have a Time Machine backup, Frank?

  10. Bruno
    April 4, 2017 at 7:27 am

    Some useful advice here, but I have still not resolved my issue (even after having spoken to Apple Support!).

    This is my situation:

    - I have recently moved to Singapore. I found I could not install certain local apps because my iTunes account was located in the UK. In order to change the location I had to delete iTunes Match. As I was half way through an annual subscription I had to do this by contacting Apple Support which I did on Sunday morning. Apple Support assured me it would not affect my music library.

    - A few hours after having deleted iTunes Match I tried to play music from the library on my Apple TV - I could see my old library but none of the songs or playlists would play.

    - In order to try and resolve this I signed up to Apple Music as I thought it was worth a try. Next thing I know the library was completely gone. With some toggling I managed to get a very small part of it back (mostly just recent downloads - 13 albums from what must have been several hundred or even thousand)

    - I have since spent more than an hour on the phone to Apple Support without resolution. The agent suggested I repurchase iTunes Match which I have done but I still only see a small portion of my library and no playlists. Weirdly when I turn off the iCloud Music Library on my devices I can see more music than when I turn it on.

    It is driving me mad! Surely the whole point of the cloud (and why I pay a subscription fee for it) is to keep my music and data safe and backed up.

    It should be in my favour that this has all happened very recently (I was using my library quite happily until 3 days ago)

    Do you have any advice?!

  11. Charles Pippins
    February 17, 2017 at 5:27 am

    Help. Nothing has worked at all. All my music is gone!!!!! Don't know what to do!!!! I tunes sucks!!!!

    • Tim Brookes
      February 21, 2017 at 1:16 am

      Hi Charles,

      What exactly happened in your case? We can try our best to help you out :)


  12. Charles Pippins
    February 17, 2017 at 5:25 am

    Nothing has worked at all. iTunes sucks!!!!!!! Lost all my music!!!!!

  13. Charles Pippins
    February 17, 2017 at 5:24 am

    None of these have worked!!!!! I don't know what to do. Apple Dupport sucks!!!!!

  14. Don Solo
    January 26, 2017 at 8:31 am

    Apple - YOU CAN GO FU## YOURSELVES!!! I have never been a fan & resisted Apple due to it's propriety non-mp3 format until this past year, when my brother gave me his old iPhone 5 as a gift to give Apple a shot without any monetary risk. I just use it for the camera & music-player over wi-fi, and of course what happens when i go for a jog at the gym? The wi-fi is spotty, and I can't even stream Apple Music. So I try to play my owned mp3's uploaded from the absolute disaster of a music UI called iTunes - can't do that anymore either! Workout ruined. Why in the hell do ppl trust Apple with their music is beyond me. Lala was the perfect music service - no wonder Apple had to buy & bury them. I hope Amazon Music Unlimited, where one can then purchase & own the mp3 on Amazon, puts both AM & Spotify out of business.

  15. Tim
    December 25, 2016 at 10:38 pm

    Well this has scared me off of getting Apple Music. This isn't the only place i have read about this. It should never be this complicated. I think most of what you can get on Apple Music is also on Napster or Spotify without having to worry about stuff disappearing .

    • Tim Brookes
      January 5, 2017 at 3:01 am

      Yeah the Spotify catalogue is bigger I think, but exclusivity means that things disappear/reappear on competing platforms from time to time. It's definitely a concern that my iCloud library isn't going to be backed up (unless Apple has changed something) if I don't use it for a few months.

      But as you'll see in the article, you can use STAMP to create a backup which you can re-import. So as long as you do that, you shouldn't have too much to worry about if you're thinking of cancelling for a short while.

      If it's local music you're worried about, make local backups on hard drives before you do anything. I think Apple has gotten much better at preventing that sort of problem now.


  16. Ash
    September 27, 2016 at 11:53 pm

    This was extremely helpful I opened Music today and all my playlists were empty bar the songs I had actually purchased on the I Phone itself. I went to settings > Music and toggled iCloud Music Library to 'on'. It gave me the option to re-synch my iCloud playlists to my local songs and now my playlists are back :D

  17. Dean
    September 8, 2016 at 5:11 am

    Look at the most recent media on these problems. All of us at some time came to apple and migrated because of our satisfaction with the iPod. We added our own content and purchased just the music we really liked to build our perfect music building experience. Fast forward and now so many of us now have the iPhone for music and communication that Apple figures it can force us all to subscribe to it's music subscription by incapacitating our devices and forcing our compromise to be able to listed to some of our music if we have hours to filter through tons of Apple's mistakes within the app. This, people, is the problem with capitalism when, you, the people become pons in their social experiment to increase profit at our expense. Well, enough said, I only use half my iPhone now and have been extremely pleased with Amazon music, have stopped purchasing anything from Apple am now looking forward to the switch to android. I thank Apple for opening my eyes on this since I had fooled myself for years that Apple was about the experience. But this is soooooo easy now that I can see Apple being caught in their scam on their users

    • zanta
      October 31, 2016 at 5:35 am

      used apple devices since they came out - will do the switch to android. enough is enough

  18. Sam Acker
    August 20, 2016 at 1:09 am

    The music that i added from appel music got deleted and i want those back. Therer was like over a hundred songs that first i dont remeber all of them and would be a pain to go sarch and add them all over agin.

    • Tim Brookes
      August 23, 2016 at 3:03 am

      Hey Sam — was this music you had added to your device before using Apple Music? Or was it music you had added to your iCloud Music Library after you signed up for the service?

      Basically, is it music you own? If so you can probably just connect your device to iTunes and re-sync it (maybe even automatically).

      Otherwise you may be in the same boat as I was when Apple Music reset my library (read the "What if Your iCloud Library Disappears?" section in the article above). There's not a lot you can do, but your followed artists should point you in roughly the right direction.


  19. Bill Bradley
    June 28, 2016 at 7:10 am

    Question on this, back in January, 2016, I ordered some albums from HDTracks, HD music, NOT low-fi like iTunes is, downloaded them on my iMac, and imported them (in HD) to iTunes. I could then play them on my iMac, but, kept getting errors when it tried to sync my iPhone 6s+ or iPad Pro. I know I Googled...something...and changed a setting on both the iPhone and iPad, and...they started synching, and I did NOT check ANYTHING on either end to down-convert to iTunes low-fi...during this period, I was also doing the free trial of Apple Music. I didn't care for it, so, I removed it, and changed the setting on my iMac and iPhone and iPad Pro to not show it. After this, my downloaded HDTracks music was STILL playing on my iPhone and iPad (I listened to one of the albums, Rolling Stones greatest hits, on my iPhone, while exercising, many times, and had no other Rolling Stones music from iTunes or elsewhere.

    Fast forward to April...Apple released updates to iOS and OS X, and I upgraded everything...boom, my iPhone and iPad Pro suddenly stopped synching the HDTracks albums, I get an error for both devices every time it tries to synch. I have gone all over the settings on the iMac, iPhone, and iPad Pro, and while I do not remember what it was that I changed on the two mobile devices to make it work back in January, I didn't see ANYTHING to change to make it sync.

    I have raised this issue several times, and would like to get my music to sync, but, at the HD, not low-fi level. Any idea of how to fix this? Was it something to do with trialing Apple Music, or the iOS and OS X updates?