Keeping music on my iPhone so it doesn't need downloading regularly

I have plenty of extra unused storage on the device. I’m sure it’s not that. I would like to be able to have my music available all the time without using cellular data to download it. But I noticed that many times an album I have downloaded requires downloading again.

Is there a way I can keep the music on my iPhone without it disappearing into the cloud again?
Right now, every time I leave the house, I check to see if the albums I want to listen to are there or need downloading again.

I’m an Apple Music subscriber.


Settings / Music. Do you have Optimize Storage turned on? You would want it off.

Where did the music come from?

If it’s streamed music from an Apple Music subscription, then that’s the nature of how it works. Re-downloading is a fact of life with that.

If it’s your own content synced via Match or an Apple Music subscription, then it is probably going to behave similarly.

If it’s your own music that you directly sync’ed from your Mac, without any iCloud involvement, then that shouldn’t be happening.

If you haven’t already done so, read this Apple support article:

It appears that if you have a Music subscription, then it syncs your music and (I assume) it is using streaming semantics. But the article also says that you can disable Library syncing, which will let you go back to the old mechanism of syncing music via USB or Wi-Fi as a part of syncing everything else on your phone.


It is off.

Most of it is that. But that’s a horrible way to do it. Unless you want to constantly use cell data (and sometimes you can’t, like you’re on a plane) you just lose the music you downloaded onto your iPhone?

It makes no sense.

Is that a Apple Music particular thing, and if I switch to Spotify or another service it would be more reliable?

Strange. Mine stays on my device always. I download only a few particular playlists, but one of them is about 90% of my library. My library is a mix of about 80% ripped CDs, 10% or so purchased iTunes tracks, and the rest is Apple Music downloads. I have a 256 GB iPhone FWIW.

I have a 256 GB iPhone too (iPhone 13 Pro). 97 GB is free. Music is just using 11.66 GB.

If it’s my “Favorites” playlist, which I play most, then the songs are always there.

If it’s some album or playlist I haven’t played in a while then it’s often gone and needs to be downloaded again. But I have cell data turned off for the Music app.

So Music doesn’t support download to device like TV? If I tell to download a movie that movie will stay on my device until I tell it to delete it (or I run out of space). Sure, it will still authenticate that I’m allowed to watch that movie so that would require a teeny bit of network traffic, but it certainly won’t re-download content that was already downloaded to the device just because I want to watch said movie again. That works even for “rented” movies, for which I cannot see a fundamental difference to tracks from Music streamed to

It absolutely supports download to device, and it doesn’t disappear unless you delete from your phone. Or at least that has never happened to me.

I’m not familiar with Apple TV, but with Apple Music there is a download icon. And you can see the progress of the download. And when done, instead of the download icon it shows a checkmark. And next to each downloaded song there is a greyed out “downloaded” icon to indicate it’s there.

Here’s an example of the problem though. This playlist was previously downloaded. But it’s no longer showing the downloaded checkmark. Instead it’s showing a red download arrow to let you download it… again. And next to each song there is no longer a downloaded indicator.

But why? My iPhone has over 90 GB of free space.

This is similar to how files in Files in icloud are there on your phone one day, and then when you are on a plane or whatever they suddenly aren’t, and you can’t and aren’t allowed to control that. Because it just works.

I’ve got my music (not using apple music or itunes or any of that) in the ‘On My Phone’ section of Files and use Offline Music Player to listen to that music. For this reason.

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It seems we have different people with different experiences on this. And Apple Support wasn’t any help at all. They were just “sign out and sign in” and “restart everything” etc.

It seems apparent to me that there are issues with the Apple Music service and iCloud with retaining downloaded media. The fact that different people are having different experiences simply means that we haven’t figured out exactly what’s triggering the problem.

This is one of those cases where Apple Support really could be doing a lot better job. When a mysterious issue turns up that doesn’t respond to the standard fixes, the appropriate response isn’t “oh well”. It’s “let me send a note to engineering so they can look more deeply into this”.

I’ll also mention that this sort of thing is exactly why I don’t trust iCloud to “optimize storage” for any of my media. I want to know that my media is where I put it. If I sync music and movies from my MBP to my iPhone, I know that those items will be there for offline use unless something significant glitches. Cloud storage is good for backup and making files available in multiple places, but it’s absolutely horrible for anything you want to be sure will remain available offline.

I do see why iCloud storage optimization is vital because, for example, I have a 2 TB iCloud subscription (so it can handle everything on my Mac), but my iPhone just has 256 GB storage. So I don’t want everything in iCloud downloaded to my iPhone.

Still, if I actually went ahead and downloaded something - in this case a music album - I don’t see why it needs to disappear if I still have 90 GB free space on the device!

All they need is an option to NOT optimize music storage.

There is such an option. It is in the Music Settings. Settings → Music → Optimize Storage. Are you sure it is off? If it is, consider turning it on, then off again.

FYI: I have over 300GB of music on my iPhone, and it has never disappeared.

I just checked. It is off. I’ll try turning it on and off and see what happens. I see you can set the minimum storage there. I could try a high number since I have over 90 GB of free space, but I’ll toggle it off again and see what happens.

It says my downloaded music was just 12.11 GB.

“I want to know that my media is where I put it. If I sync music and movies from my MBP to my iPhone, I know that those items will be there for offline use unless something significant glitches.”

This can be especially important in areas where long term regional disasters can occur, or in remote areas with ‘smaller’ emergencies. It’s pretty hard to read your first aid manual to review how to field set a broken arm if it’s been evicted from the cloud, or convince FEMA that yes, that really was my house that collapsed in the earthquake/tornado/hurricane if your proof of ownership has been ‘optimized’.

I just say no to sync in general. The only iCloud thing turned on is find my. I keep some files at, but they don’t sync, I handle it manually. Sync in general is fragile, and is kind of the opposite of a backup since when things do go wrong data can be wiped from all devices simultaneously.

[I also keep hardcopy of the most important info in my go bag, and a physically small exFAT flash drive in my pocket with sensitive stuff in encrypted zip files.]

Nice. But I really want the “it just works” simple Apple life if at all possible! :slight_smile:

Right now if I know I’m going to need a document outside I always check Files on my iPhone before leaving the house. I’ve been doing that with Music lately too.

The most recently played playlists always tend to be there. But sometimes I want to listen to something different.

Currently my downloaded music is up to 24 GB since I downloaded some more playlists this morning.