Confusing iOS Music behavior

I ran across a weird issue this past weekend, regarding the UI in the iOS Music app, which I want to share, in case others have seen the same thing.

I don’t sync any music to my iPhone - I have an iPod Touch for that. In the not-too-distant past, the Music app on my phone would simply show no music - exactly what I want.

But with my current phone (running the latest iOS 15), it’s not that straightforward. When I launch it, it shows me all of the tracks that I’ve purchased from the iTunes Store over the years. If I play one, it streams the music (presumably from an Apple server) over the Internet.

I would like the app to not show these tracks, but that’s another topic.

If I show one of these songs and click the “…” button next to the track, there is a “Download” button, which downloads a copy to my device. There’s also a down-arrow button on the top-right song-list screens (e.g. playlists and albums) which will download everything on the list.

So far, still no problem. After downloading a track, the root-level of the Music app now shows a “Downloaded” category, which contains the downloaded track(s) on my device.

Now here’s the issue. There are two different ways to delete a downloaded song.

  • I can click the “…” button and choose “Remove…”. I am then presented with two buttons: “Remove Download” and “Delete from Library”.

    • “Remove Download” does what I want. It removes the downloaded file, leaving the song behind on the main library list. This is the state I was seeing before downloading the track - I can re-download it or play it via streaming.

    • “Delete from Library” removes the download and deletes the entry from the library. It is no longer available anywhere.

  • I can also swipe-left on the track and click the trash-can icon. This performs a “Delete from Library” operation, but doesn’t give you any warning or confirmation request.

    This is nuts. If I swipe to delete a track from the “Downloads” section, I expect it to just remove the download. It shouldn’t be the same as if I would swipe to delete from the library itself.

But now, what if I want to put the song back in my library? There doesn’t seem to be any mechanism in the Music app to show me these deleted tracks so I can put them back in my library.

If I use the mobile iTunes app to look for purchases, the song isn’t there. If I search for the track, I find it with a “Purchased” tag (where the price would have been), but tapping that tag does nothing.

The tracks are still on my Mac, so nothing was deleted from my real library (although who knows what would happen if I had iTunes Match running).

I eventually figured out the problem. When iOS does a “Remove From Library”, it hides the purchase in the iTunes store. You need to connect to the Store, go to your account settings, locate the list of hidden purchases and un-hide it, and then it will re-appear in your iOS music library.

But the broken behavior doesn’t stop there.

If you use the iOS iTunes Store app to view hidden purchases, there is no “unhide” button, only a “download” button. If you click “Unhide All” it downloads all the tracks but (as I later found out), it remains a hidden purchase. And there doesn’t seem to be any way to remove this download from the Music app without re-removing the track from your Library! (If you try to delete it, the operation silently fails - no errors but the track doesn’t go away either.)

If, however, you use iTunes (Windows or older macOS) or Music on macOS, view your account and its hidden purchase, over there, there is an “unhide” button on each item. If you click it (to unhide the purchase), then the track will re-appear in the iOS library and you will now be able to use iOS Music to remove the download (this time with the “…” button so I don’t re-hide the track).

I’m sure I’m not the only person who has been confused by this behavior. Hopefully it will help you too.

I will be sending a link to this message to Apple Feedback (since the text is too long for their form). Hopefully somebody will read it and fix this really confusing mess.


That’s a fascinating quirk discovery. Want to turn it into a short TidBITS article? :slight_smile:

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