Is Apple Music library the same as iTunes?

Brief History of iTunes

iTunes was launched by Apple in 2001 as a media player and library for managing music and podcasts History of iTunes. It allowed users to import CDs, organize their music library, and sync it with early iPod devices. Over the next several years, iTunes expanded to include additional media types like movies, TV shows, iOS apps, ringtones, and books iTunes. iTunes became the world’s largest music retailer and a ubiquitous platform across Apple devices.

Launch of Apple Music

Apple Music launched in June 2015 as a new subscription streaming service that gave users access to millions of songs for a monthly fee. The service was announced at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference on June 8, 2015, with a launch date set for June 30, 2015 (Engadget, 2015). Apple positioned it as an alternative to other streaming platforms like Spotify, offering iOS integration, expert music curation, and a live global radio station called Beats 1.

Apple Music launched alongside the iOS 8.4 update which added the new Apple Music app. The service rolled out in over 100 countries simultaneously, which was an unprecedented global launch for an Apple service at the time. Apple offered a 3 month free trial period to encourage sign ups. The iOS app integrated with existing iTunes libraries, allowing users to stream both their owned music and the Apple Music catalog (Telegraph, 2015).

iTunes Library vs Apple Music Library

The iTunes library contained all media that users had purchased and downloaded from the iTunes Store over the years. This included songs, albums, movies, TV shows, audiobooks, and more. The iTunes library was organized by the user and existed locally on their devices once synced (Source).

In contrast, the Apple Music library contains the streaming catalog available to subscribers. This catalog encompasses over 90 million songs that can be streamed on-demand, as well as curated playlists, radio stations, and other media. The Apple Music library exists in the cloud and is not organized by the user but by Apple. Users can download songs temporarily for offline listening but do not own the media. Overall, the Apple Music library contains a much larger catalog than an individual’s purchased iTunes library (Source).

Music Availability

One key difference between iTunes and Apple Music libraries is the size of the available music catalog. With iTunes, users purchase and download individual songs and albums to own. Whatever music is purchased through iTunes remains available to play through the Apple Music app.

However, the Apple Music subscription service offers access to a much larger music library. According to Apple Music statistics from, Apple Music has a catalog of over 100 million songs. This is far greater than what any individual user could purchase through iTunes. Apple Music’s vast catalog gives subscribers streaming access to a diverse range of music genres and artists.

So while iTunes purchases stay in a user’s permanent music collection, an Apple Music subscription provides the ability to stream from a much bigger pool of songs on-demand. The Apple Music library is continuously updated with new releases, so subscribers can access the latest music.

Ownership vs Streaming

One key difference between iTunes and Apple Music libraries is ownership versus streaming. When you purchase music on iTunes, you own that music. The files can be downloaded to your device and accessed even if you cancel your Apple ID. With Apple Music, you do not technically own any of the songs. Apple Music is a subscription streaming service, so you only have access to the songs while your subscription is active. If you cancel Apple Music, you lose access to the library of over 75 million songs.

This ownership model applies to both music and video content bought on iTunes. Everything you purchase can be downloaded and will remain accessible even if you unsubscribe from iTunes. With Apple Music, the streaming service does not allow users to download songs for offline listening. The files remain hosted by Apple and require an internet connection to stream.

So in summary, purchasing iTunes music means you own it, while Apple Music provides access to stream as part of a subscription. According to this Reddit discussion, ownership is important to many music fans who still like buying and collecting albums. But the convenience and breadth of a streaming service appeals to many users too.

Using the Apple Music App

With the launch of Apple Music in 2015, Apple began replacing the iTunes music app with the Apple Music app on many devices including iPhones, iPads and Macs. This transition was completed in 2019 when iTunes on Mac was replaced by Apple Music, Apple TV and Apple Podcasts apps 1. As a result, the Apple Music app has subsumed the iTunes music app on these devices.

The Apple Music app provides access to both purchased music from the iTunes Store as well as the Apple Music streaming catalog. Users can seamlessly access their owned music library alongside Apple Music recommendations and playlists all within the same app interface. So while iTunes and Apple Music have separate music libraries, users now access both through the unified Apple Music app.

Syncing with iTunes

Purchased iTunes music can still be synced to Apple devices like the iPhone, even if you subscribe to Apple Music. The iTunes media library contains all purchased songs, albums, movies, TV shows, audiobooks, and more. To sync this content from your iTunes library to an iPhone or iPad, you connect the device to your computer and use the iTunes app. In the app, go to the device’s page and under “Music” select “Sync Music” and check “Selected playlists, artists, albums and genres.” This will allow you to choose exactly which purchased iTunes media to transfer over.

However, the songs available through an Apple Music subscription cannot be synced to a device from iTunes. While you can stream the Apple Music catalog on your devices, downloading for offline playback is only possible through the Apple Music app, not iTunes. This is an important distinction, as it means purchased iTunes content can exist on your devices independently, but Apple Music content requires an active subscription and internet connection (Source).

Audio and Video Content

Both iTunes and Apple Music include access to an extensive music library with millions of songs. However, there are some differences in the additional media content available.

While Apple Music focuses solely on music, iTunes also included other types of media like movies, TV shows, and music videos. At its peak, the iTunes Store offered over 43 million songs, 2.2 million iOS apps, 1 million TV episodes and over 75,000 movies according to one report.

In contrast, Apple Music sticks to music and music-related content. Although Apple Music’s library still includes over 75 million songs, it does not have movies, TV shows, or other video content that was available for purchase or rental on iTunes.

Listening Offline

One key difference between iTunes purchases and Apple Music is the ability to listen offline. Music purchased through the iTunes store can always be listened to offline, as you own the files and they are saved on your device. With an Apple Music subscription, you must actively download songs, albums or playlists to your device to listen offline. According to, there are a couple ways to download Apple Music for offline listening:

  • On iPhone or iPad, tap the “Download” icon next to any song, album or playlist to save it for offline listening.
  • On Mac, click the “Make Available Offline” option.

So while iTunes purchases work offline automatically, Apple Music requires users to manually download content they want available offline. This gives you more control over managing storage on your device.

Cost Difference

One of the main differences between iTunes and Apple Music is how users pay for access. With iTunes, users purchase individual songs or full albums to download and own permanently. According to this Reddit discussion, many iTunes users prefer buying and owning their music library rather than subscribing to a streaming service.

Apple Music, on the other hand, operates on a subscription model. Users pay a monthly fee of $9.99 for individual plans or $14.99 for a family plan to stream Apple’s catalog of over 90 million songs. There is also a free trial period available. As noted in this article, if users cancel their Apple Music subscription, they lose access to the streaming catalog. So Apple Music does not provide music ownership like iTunes purchases.

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