As an Apple Music subscriber, one of the key questions you may have is how long Apple will store your music library if you decide to unsubscribe or cancel your membership. Understanding Apple’s policies around maintaining your personal music collections can help you make informed decisions about your subscription.
Does Apple Music delete your library when you unsubscribe?
The short answer is: No, Apple Music does not immediately delete your library when you end your subscription. However, your ability to access your full music collection without a paid membership is limited.
When you cancel Apple Music, you will no longer be able to stream songs on-demand from Apple’s catalog of over 90 million songs. However, any music you purchased through the iTunes Store is still accessible if you downloaded it to your device’s storage. This includes individual song and album purchases.
In addition, any music you imported into your library, such as ripped CDs, iTunes purchases not downloaded, or tracks uploaded through iTunes Match, will still be visible in your library. However, you will not be able to play or download this music while unsubscribed. It essentially becomes inaccessible until you reactivate your membership.
Will Apple Music eventually delete your music if you stay unsubscribed?
Apple Music will not immediately or automatically delete your music library if you unsubscribe. However, there is a time limit on how long your imported songs and playlists will be stored in the cloud if your membership ends.
According to Apple, your personal music collection will be preserved for a minimum grace period of 90 days after canceling your subscription. This gives you three months to reactivate your membership without losing access to your full library.
After those 90 days, Apple reserves the right to delete any imported or matched songs that are not purchased directly through the iTunes Store from your iCloud Music Library. This includes music you ripped from CDs or acquired from other sources.
Exceptions for iTunes Match songs
One exception is music that was uploaded through the iTunes Match service, which matches the tracks in your personal library with songs in the Apple Music catalog. These songs will be retained and available to download and play if you resubscribe to Apple Music after the 90-day grace period.
So in summary, purchased iTunes music is retained indefinitely, while imported and matched music has a 90-day grace period before possible deletion from your library.
How long do playlists remain if you unsubscribe?
Your Apple Music playlists also have a separate retention policy. According to Apple, your personal playlists (created by you) will remain intact and retrievable if you resubscribe within three years of canceling your membership.
Playlists curated by Apple Music, on the other hand, cannot be recovered or downloaded once you end your subscription. However, you can export the songs in any Apple playlists to a new playlist under your account before canceling to retain access.
- Purchased iTunes music remains in your library permanently, even when unsubscribed.
- Imported and matched songs have a 90-day grace period before possible deletion.
- Your personal playlists remain retrievable for 3 years after canceling.
- Curated Apple playlists are not retrievable once you unsubscribe.
Will deleted music be restored if you resubscribe?
If you resubscribe to Apple Music after having your imported or matched music deleted following the 90-day retention period, in most cases it will not be possible to recover or restore that deleted music.
According to Apple, music that has been removed from your iCloud Music Library after unsubscribing is not stored by Apple. Therefore, those tracks would need to be re-uploaded or re-matched from your personal music libraries upon resubscribing if you still have access to the original files.
- Music deleted after the 90-day period cannot be recovered upon resubscribing.
- Deleted music would need to be re-uploaded or re-matched from your files.
How to preserve your full library if you unsubscribe
If you want to make sure your full Apple Music library is preserved should you unsubscribe, here are some tips:
For Purchased iTunes Content
- Download any purchased music, albums, or tracks to the device storage to access offline.
For Imported and Matched Music
- Back up your full library locally via external hard drive or Mac/PC.
- Burn imported CDs to digital files stored locally or on an external drive.
- Export any Apple-curated playlists to new user playlists before unsubscribing.
- Make sure to listen and save any preferred songs from curated playlists.
What happens to Apple Music downloads if you switch devices?
If you downloaded music for offline playback from Apple Music and then decide to switch devices, there are limitations on transferring those downloads solely through your Apple ID.
According to Apple, you can only transfer Apple Music downloads to new devices a maximum of two times per purchased song. Downloaded songs cannot be transferred again once they have reached that limit.
This restriction is designed to prevent users from downloading purchased songs once and then distributing them widely. However, it does pose issues if you regularly change between devices and want to maintain offline access.
- Downloaded Apple Music songs can only be transferred twice to new devices.
- After two transfers, downloads can’t be moved again and must be deleted.
Strategies to preserve downloads when switching devices
To ensure you don’t lose downloads when migrating Apple Music to a new device, try these strategies:
- Before switching devices, use SongShift or a similar app to transfer downloads back to a computer.
- Store downloads on an external drive that can connect across devices.
- After first transfer, avoid additional device transfers until absolutely necessary.
- Re-download any lost songs once limit is reached, but avoid additional transfers.
How does Apple Music’s library retention compare to competitors?
|Service||Purchased Music Access||Uploaded Music Retention||Playlist Retention|
|Apple Music||Kept indefinitely||90 days||3 years|
|Spotify||Kept indefinitely||As long as you re-sync music at least once a year||Kept indefinitely|
|YouTube Music||Kept indefinitely||Kept indefinitely||Kept indefinitely|
|Amazon Music||Kept indefinitely||90 days||90 days|
As shown in the table, Apple Music’s main competitors have similar policies around purchased content, allowing indefinite access after unsubscribing. However, retention for uploaded and matched music libraries varies.
Spotify requires users to sync or access personal music at least once a year to retain it. Amazon Music matches Apple Music with 90-day retention. YouTube Music provides indefinite storage like iTunes purchases.
Should you download your Apple Music library for offline access?
Given the limitations around retaining your full Apple Music library if you unsubscribe, is it worth downloading your entire collection for offline access? Here are some pros and cons:
- You’ll have permanent offline access to your library even if you cancel your subscription.
- Downloads allow playback and transfers without using streaming data.
- Downloads remain if Apple deletes imported/matched songs after the 90-day period.
- Downloading an entire library takes significant time, data, and device storage space.
- You still only get two transfers before permanent download limits.
- You won’t retain access to the full Apple catalog or personalized playlists.
Should you subscribe long-term to retain full access?
The easiest way to retain indefinite access to your full Apple Music library, including imported and matched songs, curated playlists, and the Apple catalog, is to simply remain subscribed. Some benefits of long-term subscriptions include:
- No risk of losing your library due to the 90-day deletion policy.
- Full access to Apple Music’s catalog of over 90 million songs.
- Ongoing updates to personalized playlists and music recommendations.
- Convenience of streaming music across devices without downloads.
The main downside is the ongoing subscription cost. But for many users, permanent access to their full library plus Apple’s extensive catalog is worth the monthly or annual fee.
- Apple Music will not immediately delete your library when unsubscribing.
- Imported/matched music has a 90-day grace period before possible deletion.
- Playlists are retained for 3 years after canceling.
- Deleted music cannot be restored upon resubscribing.
- Downloaded content has a two-transfer limit across devices.
- A long-term subscription ensures full permanent access.
While Apple Music won’t instantly erase your music library if you unsubscribe, there are retention limits on imported, matched, and downloaded content. To retain permanent access to your full library, either continue an active subscription or download and locally store files. Carefully consider Apple Music’s deletion policies, your personal listening habits, and costs before canceling your membership.