How long before Apple Music deletes your library?

Apple Music is Apple’s music streaming service that gives users access to over 90 million songs. When you sign up for Apple Music, you can add songs, albums and playlists to your personal library. This library is stored in iCloud, allowing you to access it from any device logged into your Apple ID.

In mid-2019, some Apple Music users reported that large portions of their libraries had gone missing. Many users found that playlists and albums they had added over the years were suddenly no longer in their Apple Music library. This controversial library deletion issue sparked discussions over ownership and longevity of streaming libraries.

How Apple Music Stores Your Library

Apple Music utilizes iCloud to store users’ music libraries and playlists in the cloud. When you enable iCloud Music Library, Apple Music will scan the music on your devices and upload any songs not available through Apple’s catalog to iCloud. This allows you to access your personal collection seamlessly across Apple devices logged into the same Apple ID.

Apple Music songs do not count against your iCloud storage limit. However, any music uploaded from your own library that is not available in the Apple Music catalog does count against your limit. iCloud storage plans start at 5GB for free and range up to 2TB for $9.99 per month.

To optimize storage, Apple Music can downgrade the quality of your uploaded songs if needed. According to Apple’s support site, “iCloud Music Library automatically upgrades the quality of your files to 256 kbps DRM-free AAC files. If you’re low on available iCloud storage, iCloud Music Library can downgrade the file quality of your matched songs.” This allows more songs to be stored without exceeding your iCloud limit.

Overall, Apple Music aims to seamlessly integrate both its vast catalog and your personal collection through iCloud Music Library. Optimizations like file downgrades help maximize storage efficiency while still providing access to your full library.

When Apple Music Deletes Songs

There are a few key reasons why Apple Music may end up deleting songs from your library:

Inactive Account – If you cancel your Apple Music subscription or it lapses, Apple Music will delete any songs that you added from the Apple Music catalog. Any music you personally uploaded or purchased will remain.

Licensing Issues – On rare occasions, Apple may lose the licensing rights to a particular song or album. If this happens, the songs will be deleted from your Apple Music library.

Storage Limits – Apple Music libraries are limited to 100,000 songs. If you reach that limit, Apple will start deleting your oldest added songs as you add new ones. You can download songs to prevent them from being deleted.

To avoid losing songs, it’s important to download your favorite Apple Music tracks for offline listening. You may also want to back up your Apple Music library regularly. Overall, Apple Music mainly deletes songs due to account issues or licensing, not arbitrarily removing saved music.

Controversy Over Deleted Libraries

There have been several high profile cases of Apple Music allegedly deleting users’ music libraries. In 2018, a Reddit user named u/apple4ever claimed that after unsubscribing and resubscribing to Apple Music, their library of over 11,000 songs disappeared. According to the Reddit post, “I had Apple Music and then I stopped. And then I subscribed again. It disappeared when I stopped paying but reappeared when I came back.”

Another widely discussed case involved the hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest. In 2016, Q-Tip from the group tweeted that Apple Music deleted the group’s catalog and music files. This included albums, singles, remixes, and other tracks totaling over 25 years of music. Q-Tip stated Apple provided no recourse to recover the deleted files.

In response to the controversies, Apple claimed deleting users’ libraries was an unintended technical glitch. An Apple support page states that with Apple Music your downloaded music is yours to keep, even if you cancel your subscription. However, Apple acknowledges there have been isolated instances of music being accidentally removed.

How to Download Your Apple Music Library

To avoid losing your Apple Music library, it’s important to download your full library onto a device or computer. This will create a backup of your library that you can restore from if it gets deleted from Apple’s servers.

On an iOS device like an iPhone or iPad, open the Apple Music app and go to the Library tab. Tap on any album, playlist or other collection and tap the download icon next to each song to download it. You can also tap the 3 dots beside an album or playlist name and choose “Download All”. Repeat this for your entire library. [1]

To download your full Apple Music library on a Mac, open the Music app then go to the Library section. Right click on any song, album or playlist and choose “Download”. You can also click “File” then “Library” and select “Download Entire Library”. This will download your full Apple Music catalog to your Mac. [2]

Using these steps to download your full Apple Music library will allow you to restore it if anything happens on Apple’s end. Keep the downloads on an external hard drive or other device to have a backup ready.

How to Back Up Your Apple Music Library

One of the best ways to ensure you don’t lose your Apple Music library is to regularly back it up. This allows you to restore your library if anything happens or if songs get deleted. There are a few options for backing up your Apple Music library:

External hard drive: You can back up your entire Apple Music library to an external hard drive. This creates a full copy you can restore from. Make sure the external drive has enough storage space for your full library. Connect the drive, then in iTunes go to File > Library > Back Up to Disk and select the external drive. This will copy your full library to the drive.[1]

Cloud storage: Services like iCloud and Google Drive let you back up your library online. With iCloud Music Library enabled, any new Apple Music content you add gets copied to iCloud. You can also use iTunes to manually back up your library to iCloud. Cloud services provide offsite backup storage if something happens to your local files.[2]

The best approach is to use both local and cloud backup. Back up to an external drive regularly, like once a month. Also enable iCloud Music Library so your library gets continuously backed up there. This provides redundant protection to guard against data loss.

Recovering a Deleted Apple Music Library

It is possible to recover a deleted Apple Music library, but the process depends on the situation. If you accidentally deleted songs that were downloaded from Apple Music, you may be able to get them back by going to the iTunes store and re-downloading them. However, if your entire Apple Music library was deleted because your subscription ended, recovering the full library is more difficult.

According to Apple support discussions, one method is to restore your ~/Music/iTunes folder from a backup made before the library deletion [1]. This can work if you have an old backup, but isn’t feasible if you don’t. Third party software like CleanMyMac also claims the ability to restore deleted Apple Music libraries [2], but success likely depends on your specific situation.

If you contact Apple support about a deleted library, they may be able to assist in re-downloading purchased iTunes content, but not content exclusively streamed through the Apple Music subscription. Ultimately, regularly backing up your Apple Music library is the best way to protect against permanent data loss.

Avoiding Losing Your Apple Music Library

There are a few key things you can do to prevent your Apple Music library from being deleted without your consent:

Monitor your iCloud and device storage usage regularly. Apple Music will delete songs automatically if your storage is full, so keep an eye on how much space you have available. You can check your storage under Settings > General > iPhone Storage.

Download your favorite Apple Music songs for offline listening. Downloaded songs are less likely to be removed from your library. To download a song, tap the cloud icon next to the track.

Consider upgrading your iCloud storage if you find your account is frequently full. Apple provides options to upgrade your available iCloud space for a monthly fee, which can help avoid storage limits.

Back up your Apple Music library regularly. You can download your Apple Music collection through the app’s settings. Saving backups gives you a copy if songs are removed.

Turn off Automatic Downloads in your Apple Music settings. This prevents Apple Music from automatically removing older songs it thinks you don’t listen to as often.

Check in on your Library tab every so often. If you notice missing songs, you may be able to download them again before they are fully removed from your account.

Consider downloading third party apps to monitor your Apple Music library. Some apps can check for changes and alert you when songs are removed.

Apple Music Library Controversy Impact

The controversy over Apple Music deleting users’ libraries has had a negative impact on adoption of the service. Many users have expressed outrage and frustration after losing their personally uploaded music libraries when unsubscribing from Apple Music, even temporarily.

This issue arose because when you enable Apple Music on a device, it replaces your local music library with Apple’s streaming library in the cloud. If you later unsubscribe, Apple deletes the cloud library, leaving you with nothing. There is no automatic backup or download option for your original library.

While Apple has disputed claims that it permanently deletes users’ libraries, the lack of transparency and control has damaged trust and prevented some users from subscribing. A thread on Apple’s forums complaining about deleted libraries has over 300 replies.

This controversy has driven some users to rivals like Spotify and Google Play Music. Those services allow uploading personal libraries separately from their streaming catalogs. Users maintain full access to download or backup their personal collections at any time, even if they unsubscribe.

To rebuild goodwill, Apple needs more flexibility and transparency around personal library management. Automatic backups before enabling Apple Music and a restore option after unsubscribing would give users confidence their collections are safe.


In summary, Apple Music has faced controversy over deleting users’ personal libraries in certain scenarios like canceled subscriptions. While Apple claims this is designed to prevent piracy, many users have lost years of collected music unexpectedly.

Users should be cautious about relying solely on Apple Music for their music collection, since songs can be removed at any time by the service. Always maintain backups of your owned music libraries offline separately from Apple Music.

To avoid losing your Apple Music library, download DRM-free copies of songs when possible, back up your library regularly, and monitor your library after canceling subscriptions. With proper preventative measures, you can enjoy Apple Music’s streaming catalog without risking losing your personal music library.