With the LTE Apple Watch and Apple HomePod, Apple keeps giving you more reasons to start using Apple Music. Apple’s music streaming service costs $9.99/month and has more than 40 million songs. The service has intelligent song recommendations along with editorially curated playlists.
For mixtapes, bootlegs and live recordings that won’t be available on Apple Music, you can use iCloud Music Library to upload them to your personal cloud account (up to 100,000 songs). Or you can use a local third-party iOS app for your holdout music collection.
There are multiple ways to handle this transition to Apple Music without leaving behind your own music collection. Let me walk you through it.
What Is iCloud Music Library?
iCloud Music Library is the glue that will hold your personal music collection together with Apple Music. This is not iTunes Match (which was the old way of doing the same thing).
True to Apple’s iCloud services fashion, this process is a bit weird and not at all transparent. Some early users ended up losing their music collection so before you turn this feature on, I would suggest you make a full backup of your music collection — Time Machine is fine.
When you flip the switch, here’s what happens:
- If a song from your personal collection is available in the Apple Music catalog, it’s instantly matched and added to your library. No upload necessary.
- It’s the same case for anything you bought from iTunes Store. It’s instantly available in Apple Music.
- If a song isn’t available on Apple Music catalog, Apple will upload it to your own iCloud Music Library and convert it to 256Kbps AAC version. It’s now available on all your devices.
Adding and Organizing Your Music in iTunes
If you’re already using iTunes for managing your music library, you’re all set for uploading it to iCloud. If you don’t use iTunes (a totally justified choice), you’ll first need to add your music collection to iTunes on your PC or Mac.
And that’s quite easy to do. Just go to the folder where you keep your downloaded music, select all songs, drag and drop them on iTunes in the Music tab. All the music will be copied over to iTunes’s directory. If you want to change metadata for any song, right click on it and select Song Info.
Turning On iCloud Music Library on Mac or PC
In iTunes, go to Preferences > General and turn on iCloud Music Library. Now, at the right edge of the toolbar, you’ll see a new progress circle. This is where you’ll be able to keep track the upload process of your personal music collection.
Turning On iCloud Music Library on iPhone or iPad
Once your music collection has been uploaded, you’ll want to access it on your iPhone, iPad or iPad Touch. Here again, you’ll need to turn on iCloud Music Library on your iOS device. After you’ve logged in to your account, go to your device’s Settings app and select Music and turn on iCloud Music Library.
Now go to your Music app and wait for it to refresh with new data. Search for your something from your personal collection (switch to Your Library in search tab) and you’ll find it there. As this is Apple Music, you’ll be “streaming” your uploaded music from Apple’s cloud servers.
Downloading Your Music Collection to iOS
To download a song to your local device, tap on the Download button next to the song or album.
If you don’t want to do this tedious process, you can use Automatic Download option in Settings > Music to automatically download all the songs in your Apple Music library (both the Apple Music songs or the ones you’ve added on your own).
Or Keep Apple Music and Your Collection Separate
iCloud Music Library is a viable solution for this problem but it might not be for you. The unreliability might turn you off. You could always try separating your Apple Music and your personal collection into different apps.
iOS 10 made this really easy. Now, third-party apps can basically act as a front end for music synced via iTunes and the music you’ve bought from iTunes Store. This way, you don’t need to change anything about how you transfer music to your iPhone or iPad, but you can leave the Music app behind.
Download a third-party music player: Cesium gives you pre-iOS 10 Music app UI for $1.99, Ecoute takes the minimal route for $0.99, and with the free Listen app, it’s all about the gestures. When you launch any of these apps, they’ll throw you an alert asking for access to your music library. And instantly you’ll find all your synced songs, albums and playlists right there.
Now, if you want to play anything from your own (synced and offline) music collection, just open the third party app.
If you don’t want to involve iTunes in this process (again, we don’t blame you), try using a media player like VLC, which lets you wirelessly transfer audio and video files quite easily. You can even organize them by folder, however you see fit.
Troubleshooting iCloud Music Library
Because the service depends on iCloud sync, you might run into problems when syncing your music collection (especially if it’s rather large). If the sync is stuck, try doing the following.
A classic: Try turning it off and on again. To do this in iTunes, go to Preferences > General. On iOS, go to Settings > Music.
Manual refresh: Try manually updating iCloud Music Library in iTunes by going to File > Library > Update iCloud Music Library.
One on one: If an individual song refuses to sync, click on the menu button and select Add to iCloud Music Library to restart the sync process.
Last resort: Sign out of iTunes from all your devices and sign in again.
And Now for Something Completely Different
Getting your personal music collection to work with Apple Music is not going to be a seamless experience. If your music collection is mostly made up of mainstream, commercially available albums, consider a new Apple Music First strategy where you start over with Apple Music.
Here are the tenants of this strategy. First, try searching for a song on Apple Music. Then on iTunes Store. iCloud Music Library or a third party app is the last resort.
Try doing this on a sleepy Saturday afternoon. Back up your collection, then go into Apple Music, search for the music you keep listening to over and over again. Tap on the + button next to an album to add it to your library. Tap on the three dotted menu button and select Add to a Playlist to create a new playlist or to add a new song to an existing playlist.
That’s what I ended up doing back when Apple Music first launched. Yes, it will take some time searching for albums, adding them and restoring your playlists. But once that’s done, you now have a solid, reliable collection of music that works across all your devices. From your Apple Watch to the new HomePod.
Curious what else Apple Music has to offer? Take a look at these Apple Music features to use on your iPhone.