iOS Music and iTunes Store Apps Stumble over Deleted Tracks

Originally published at: iOS Music and iTunes Store Apps Stumble over Deleted Tracks - TidBITS

With the iOS Music app, it’s easy to accidentally delete a purchased song from your library when you merely intend to remove the downloaded audio. You can’t recover from this mistake within the Music app but must work through the iTunes Store using a Mac.

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An excellent article, and thanks for the good advice.

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Very good troubleshooting, did you fill a bug report to Apple? :grinning:
It would be nice to know if iOS 15.2 fixed the issue.

a number of apple and ex-apple folks of my acquaintance have said that the fruity corpse is no longer interested in those of us with carefully curated downloaded/ripped libraries. if you subscribe to their streaming service, well and good. otherwise …

the latest annoyance, having moved to new osx and ios devices last month, was the support for album art has gotten worse. on the new macbook, i’d carefully gone through my entire collection adding art to each blank album only to find that when i sync my library to the phone, tracks get loaded without the art. how they manage to do that is a mystery. i was under the impression the art was embedded in the individual files. either that assumption is incorrect (however, the art is still showing in the osx library) or the sync process only copies the audio over to the ios device.

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Thank you. This is something I stumbled across when trying to figure out why iTunes moved 165GB of music files to the trash. Even though I have iTunes Match, I can’t upload my tracks to what they call the iCloud Music library. My phone informs me that I can’t use my iCloud music library unless I sign into my Music subscription, which is nonexistent; I don’t want one.

I am ready and qualified for any class action lawsuit that may arise from this shocking act of digital vandalism. I wish it had never happened.

I’ve had lots of ‘fun’ the last few months as I extricated myself from Apple Music. Working out which albums I’d need to reacquire (or re-rip from CD) because I no longer had the original tracks was just the start. After cutting the cord, I subsequently found over 20GB of Apple Music tracks still lurking on my iMac, despite my having told Music to remove all those downloads. Then I started coming across dead tracks in my library, eventually leading me to do a complete reset and re-import — lo and behold, a load of music I thought I’d lost reappeared!

I’m now using Dupin to track down and deal with duplicate songs in my library, a big improvement over the well-hidden and frankly laughable duplicate-finder in the Music app. And Music continues to annoy me by occasionally renaming tracks I’ve imported. I’m seriously considering switching to a different music manager, but I’m wary because so far I’ve yet to find any alternative that will work on Apple Silicon and thus be future-proof.

I sent Apple feedback, linking to my original TidBITS Talk post describing the problem.

It does not seem to be fixed in 15.2, or at least not completely. @ace ran some tests and saw some improvement when trying to unhide the purchase from iOS, but when I tried, there was no change.

I don’t know the actual cause, but I do know that when you delete songs from your Music library, you are asked whether or not you want to move the song file to the Trash. If you don’t, the file remains wherever it was, but it is no longer in your library. The choice to not move the file to the trash is the default.

If you let Music manage your library (where the tracks are stored in the directory tree Music maintains), you probably want to move the file to the Trash, since you probably don’t usually go digging through the Library folders looking for the files. If, on the other hand, you don’t have Music move files to the library, and you leave the files in their original locations, then you probably don’t want to move them to the Trash (since you will probably want to keep accessing them from their location).

Without knowing more details, it would appear that at some point Music removed the tracks from your Library, but didn’t move the files to the Trash. So when you manually re-created the Library from the file store, they were found.

I haven’t been following this thread closely, but when I read the quoted part above I couldn’t help but think of a post I made way back in Nov. 2013 with the subject “Apple’s confusing delete/move app to trash language”. I was referring to apps and not songs, but still seems somewhat related?

Here’s the post from 2013 for anyone interested. I was glad to find out I wasn’t the only one confused by the wording even then (yes, I saved some of the replies too :slight_smile: ).


Just for the fun of it, am I the only one that has always found this language extremely confusing? Every time you want to delete an app in iTunes, you’re presented with this:

Do you want to move the selected app to the Trash, or keep it in the Mobile Applications folder?
Only files in the Mobile Applications folder will be moved to the Trash."

(1) Cancel (2) Delete Files (3) Move to Trash

Well, starting from the assumption that I was trying to DELETE it in the first place, why wouldn’t I want it moved to the trash, isn’t that what DELETE implies? And if I wanted the files kept in the mobile app folder, why would I be trying to DELETE it at all? Is there a missing explanation or clarification that should be there, or that I should otherwise be aware of? Is it so obvious that I’m just not seeing it?

And then if I chose “keep it in the Mobile Applications folder” (yet still DELETE it?), it then says “Only files in the Mobile Applications folder will be moved to the Trash.”. Wait, what?

I have spent so much time re-updating my libraries after moving from iTunes to Music. So many issues with my ~2400 album library, 99% of which is not purchased from Apple. Album art is a constant issue - tracks with art lose the art, copies to my iPhone don’t get the art, etc. And while i guess it’s good that Apple integrated iPhone backups and such into the finder, the Music interface for loading tracks onto your iPhone is amazingly dumb. If you show the tracks on your iPhone in Music you have very few options for sorting them, and it won’t even keep the last sort chosen. It always defaults to sort by track. Even for Apple this is an amazing amount of neglect for something that has to be used by a decent amount of people.

It’s especially bad for me since i’m trying to keep 3 different Macs in sync with the Music library. Music does not like networked libraries so i do a lot of copying and manual syncing.

I’d switch to another player (I have tried and paid for Swinsian) but i really need Music for the AirTunes and iOS Remote App support. I have several AirTunes speakers and nobody else really supports them the same way that I’ve seen.

Is there a comprehensive (or even just a basic) list of differences between iTunes and Music apps?
(obviously just talking about music functions; not video, audiobooks, etc.)

I use a 2018 Mac Mini as a server holding all media and docs I have. This I have kept at the last version of Mojave (10.14.6), with the last version of iTunes ( I’m an iTunes Match user too.

Basically, it’s decision time in the near future, on whether it’s worth moving up to a higher macOS (thus doing so would move me to “Music” app at the same time), and what functions I lose vs. gain between iTunes and Music apps?

I do know that I had to drag all tracks in the folder COMPILATIONS to Apple Music as if I was importing tracks I ripped.

This is because Apple Music does not recognize such a collection of tracks exist in iTunes Music library and therefore doesn’t bring them over in the conversion.

I don’t know of someone who has prepared a list, but from what I can remember, most of the differences involve the UI, not real functionality:

  • Sync services have moved to the Finder. You can still view the Music contents of an iPod/iPhone and (I think) you can drag/drop songs to it when manually managing music, but the screens used to backup, restore and sync content is now in the Finder.
  • Music really likes to present album art all over the UI. And in some cases (e.g. when displaying a playlist), you can’t hide it. Which I consider a waste of screen real estate.
  • Certain automatically maintained playlists no longer exist and get deleted as a part of the migration. Most notably (to me) was the “Purchased” playlist, where iTunes Store purchases would automatically go. It’s gone now. I replaced it by creating a smart playlist that selects all protected and purchased songs:
  • The default sorting for compilations (tracks where the “Album is a compilation of songs by various artists” box has been checked) has changed. For example, in Song view, when sorting by album-by-artist, it used to sort them all as if the artist was “Various”. Now it puts them at the end of the list (grouped by album, but the albums don’t appear to be in any particular order).
  • The procedure for burning CDs has changed. The “burn disc” button no longer exists. Instead, when you’re showing a playlist, its context menu (the “…” button on the upper-right corner of the screen) has a “Burn Playlist To Disc…” item.

You’ve mentioned this before. I’m not sure exactly what you’re seeing, because I have not experienced this. Maybe there was a system glitch when your library was migrated. My compilations arrived perfectly intact, but they are not presented in the same way they were before.

The Artists view of the library has a virtual-artist named “Compilations” at the top of the list, where they all appear:

When viewing the Songs view by album, the compilation albums sort at the bottom of the list (they used to sort as if the artist was “Various”).

One critical thing is to make sure your compilation albums have the correct metadata. Often, they do not. In particular, it works like this:

  • If a song does not have the “Album is a compilation of songs…” box checked and the “Album Artist” field has no value, the song will be grouped with other songs that share the same Album and Artist fields. If the album is a compilation of songs from different artists, this will cause them to be scattered throughout the UI
  • If the song has the “Album is a compilation of songs…” box checked, then the Artist field will be ignored. It will be grouped with other songs that share the same Album and where the “Album is a compilation…” box is also checked. If some songs don’t have that box checked, they will sort elsewhere. In Artists view, these songs will go into the “Compilations” group. In Songs view (by album/artist), they will sort at the end of the list.
  • If the song has a value in the Album Artist field and the “Album is a compilation” box is not checked, it will be grouped with other songs that share the same Album and Album Artist fields. If some songs don’t have a value in Album Artist (maybe because the Artist field matches), it will be grouped separately. They will sort/group as if the Artist field was the Album Artist value, and will not appear in the compilations group.
  • I don’t recommend both setting an Album Artist and the “Album is a compilation” checkbox. Things seem to go into strange places when this happens. Use one or the other, depending on how you want the album sorted/grouped.

So for a compilation that is a true assortment of different artists (e.g. “Billboard Top Hits 1980”), I recommend making sure “Album Arist” is blank, and check the “Album is a compilation” box for every song in the album.

But for a compilation that is a collection of related artists (e.g. a Genesis tribute album, where various artists are covering Genesis songs), then I recommend you do not check the Compilation box, but instead put something in the Album Artist field (in this example, “Genesis”), so the album will sort it into that position.


A recent article states that the Music app is being completely rebuilt from a different framework so many of these issues will be mute in a short period of time.

I see what you did there!

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That would be great, and long overdue, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

This neglect of basic consumer needs is classic monopoly behavior. Note that the functions of music are all basic database functions. The mere fact that we are all complaining about simple things no database developer would allow in a decent program shows that Apple has completely lost sight of the core strengths of its computer vision and surrendered to meaningless graphic glitz instead.

The absence of a robust music app is due to the control over IOS that they maintain. I dearly wish a developer could see the opportunity that has opened here, but I’m also sympathetic to the fear of failure.

I have not seen the article and since you didn’t provide a link, I can’t comment on that. But if it only works with the current OS, many users will be left out anyway. So, for those who are still having issues with the Music app and would rather use older iTunes versions, I would use the Retroactive app to install the one of your choice that you like best.

Also, those who are having issues with album art, I explained in a different thread how to use iTunes to see the embedded art on a track by track basis You can also use the Finder in Mojave or older OS versions but in Catalina, the preview only displayed a generic icon. To my surprise yesterday when checking some tracks in an album folder, the preview function is back in Catalina. How that happened, I don’t know but there were enough reports I found on other forums previously to indicate that the generic icons were an issue and frustrating. But previously, the preview worked for all of my audio files that had art: mp3, aiff, and m4a (Apple Lossless). AIFF files still do not show the preview art in Catalina but mp3 and m4a do so all in all, a welcome improvement.

Here is a link to an article about rebuild:



Thanks for posting the link.

Does “full native app” mean it will still run on Intel machines?