Will Apple Music delete my music library?

Apple Music is a popular music streaming service developed by Apple. It gives users access to over 90 million songs that can be streamed on demand. Apple Music also includes Apple Music Radio featuring live broadcasts from radio stations around the world. When Apple Music launched in 2015, there were concerns from users about whether signing up for the service would cause Apple to delete songs in their local iTunes music library. This article examines that question, looking at how Apple Music works with local music libraries and whether there is any risk of Apple deleting your music if you subscribe to Apple Music.

How Apple Music Works with Your Local Music Library

With Apple Music, you can access a huge catalog of songs available for streaming through iCloud. But Apple Music isn’t designed to replace or alter the music you’ve purchased over the years and stored locally on your devices. Any music you’ve bought, ripped from CDs, or added from other sources remains safely stored in your local music library. Apple Music won’t delete or make changes to any of those songs when you sign up for the service.

When you enable Apple Music on a device, it adds an Apple Music library section that is distinct from your local music library. Any music you add from Apple Music is stored in iCloud separately from your local music. You can download Apple Music songs temporarily for offline listening, but they do not become part of your permanent music collection. So Apple Music does not actually modify your local music library—it simply gives you additional access to stream from a separate Apple Music collection.

How Syncing Works

If you enable iCloud Music Library syncing across your devices, this also will not cause any loss of your personal music files. When first enabled, iCloud Music Library will match any eligible tracks in your local libraries to high-quality versions available on Apple Music. This matching process helps make songs available across devices without needing to upload huge libraries over the internet. Importantly, your original local files are not deleted or replaced with the matched versions.

Any music purchased from iTunes that is no longer available on Apple Music will remain untouched in your local music collection. Unmatched tracks are uploaded to iCloud Music Library for access across your devices. And again, nothing is ever deleted from your permanent local music libraries during this sync process.

Option to Delete Downloads

There is one scenario where Apple Music will ask about deleting your local downloads. If you have enabled offline downloads for Apple Music songs and later disable the Apple Music subscription, a pop-up will ask if you want to keep or remove the downloads. This simply refers to the offline Apple Music content, not your personal music collection. And you have the option to keep them even if your subscription ends.

Is Apple Music Safe for My Music Library?

Based on how Apple Music handles your local music libraries, there is no risk of the service suddenly deleting songs you’ve collected over the years. Any music purchased or ripped locally remains safely stored on your devices and is not impacted by Apple Music. Some key takeaways:

  • Apple Music stores streaming content separately from your local music library
  • Enabling iCloud Music Library sync does not remove any local music files
  • Downloaded Apple Music songs can be kept or deleted after unsubscribing
  • Apple Music will not modify, replace, or delete any non-Apple music files

So you can feel confident subscribing to Apple Music without worrying about impacts to your personal music collection. The Apple Music and local libraries remain independent, giving you access to both your owned music as well as a huge streaming catalog.

What About iTunes Match?

iTunes Match is an older service that also scanned your local music and matched tracks to versions available in the Apple Music catalog. iTunes Match continues to be available for users who have not enabled iCloud Music Library. Much like iCloud Music Library, iTunes Match does not actually modify, replace, or delete any local music files. Any matched tracks are accessible via iCloud, but the original local songs remain untouched.

There were some early concerns about iTunes Match causing music to be deleted when it first launched, especially related to improperly matched tracks. But Apple quickly addressed matching issues and made clear that iTunes Match does not affect your local music libraries. So iTunes Match also poses no risk of deleting your music when enabled.

Can Apple Music Edit My Local Metadata?

Apart from not deleting your local music library, many users also wonder whether Apple Music can modify metadata tags in their music files. This relates to info like song title, artist, album, genre, and other ID3 tag data that describes the music file properties.

Here again, Apple Music does not actually change any metadata stored in your local music files. The matching process only reads your local metadata to identify songs in Apple’s catalog. If there are mismatches or incorrect local tags, Apple Music may display different metadata obtained from the matched Apple Music version. But those streaming metadata values do not get written back to your original music files.

The only caveat is if you specifically use the “Update iTunes Match” option to refresh your local metadata. This will intentionally rewrite your local metadata to match the Apple Music values, which may be desirable for fixing incorrectly tagged music. However, this is an optional choice and needs to be manually enabled to allow metadata editing.

Can I Delete My Uploaded Apple Music Songs?

If you’ve enabled iCloud Music Library or iTunes Match, any tracks that couldn’t be matched are uploaded to Apple’s servers for access across devices. These uploaded songs count against your iCloud storage limit.

Users sometimes want to remove songs they’ve uploaded to reclaim iCloud storage space. Luckily, Apple provides the option to delete any user-uploaded music from iCloud Music Library. On your iOS device go to Settings > Music > View Account > iCloud Music Library. Tap the “Edit” button to manage your uploaded songs and delete any you don’t want retained in iCloud.

Deleting the uploaded copy will remove it from iCloud but will not touch your original local music file. So this is a safe way to clear up unwanted tracks using your iCloud storage allowance.

Could Apple Music Ever Delete My Collection?

Based on all evidence so far, there are no real risks of Apple Music deleting your local music library. Apple understands people have spent years collecting music and has designed Apple Music complement rather than replace your owned music.

However, there are hypothetical scenarios where Apple could make changes that impact local music access. While highly unlikely, Apple theoretically could shut down iTunes Match and iCloud Music Library servers. This would break access to any matched or uploaded content. While equally unlikely, Apple could also introduce more aggressive music management that touches local files.

If you want guaranteed long-term access to your music, the safest option is to back up your local music library to an external hard drive not reliant on any proprietary technology. This preserves your music collection independently of any service operators. While inconvenient compared to cloud access, it gives you full control as a hard backup.

Key Points on Apple Music and Local Music Libraries

  • Subscribing to Apple Music does not delete, replace, or alter tracks in your local music library
  • iCloud Music Library sync and iTunes Match also do not modify local music files
  • Apple Music stores streaming and local libraries independently
  • You retain full control over deleting any music files in your local library
  • Hard drive backups provide an extra layer of protection against hypothetical loss of access

The Bottom Line

Based on all evidence, Apple Music is safe to use without any risk of music being deleted from your local music library. Apple treats streaming content and owned music files as completely separate entities. There are strong incentives for Apple to continue supporting local music access indefinitely. But occasional backups provide an extra safeguard as general best practice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does enabling Apple Music delete your music?

No, Apple Music does not delete or alter any songs stored in your local music library. The service only provides access to stream additional music from Apple’s catalog via iCloud.

Will my music be deleted if I cancel Apple Music?

Canceling Apple Music only cuts off access to streaming content stored in your iCloud Music Library. Any music physically stored in your local library will remain intact after unsubscribing.

Can Apple Music change my existing playlists?

Apple Music will not modify or reorder songs within your local playlists in any way. Your personal playlists remain separate from any you create within Apple Music.

What happens if I delete an Apple Music download?

Deleting downloads for Apple Music streaming tracks removes them from your device storage but does not impact your personal local music collection.

Does Apple Music upload my local music?

Enabling iCloud Music Library can upload any local tracks that can’t be matched to Apple’s catalog. This uploaded copy does not replace your original local file.

Action Impact on Local Music
Subscribe to Apple Music None, streaming library remains separate
Enable iCloud Music Library None, local files untouched by sync process
Use iTunes Match None, matching does not modify local metadata or files
Unsubscribe from Apple Music None, only lose access to streaming content
Delete Uploaded Songs None, only removes copy stored in iCloud

What are the best practices for protecting my music library?

To provide redundancy, periodically back up your local music library to an external hard drive that isn’t reliant on proprietary software or file formats. This safeguards your collection in case of unlikely access loss.