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iTunes Is Dead. Here's What Happened to Your Music Library

Your iTunes Library isn't gone, but it does live in a different place now.

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When Apple released macOS Catalina in the fall of 2019, it also quietly closed the book on iTunes. If your Mac runs Catalina or any later version of macOS (like Big Sur or Monterey), the iconic but now-ancient music management software is no more. The good news is that does not mean your library is gone. You'll just need to go to another app to get it.

With the demise of iTunes, the Music app has inherited some of the older apps features. Accordingly, your iTunes library as you knew it, with all your purchased music, should be available inside the Music app, which you can find with a quick Spotlight Search if you hit Command + Space Bar and then type in "Music."

While Apple Music is a subscription service that costs $10 a month much like Spotify, the Music app on iOS doesn't require a subscription and now performs the duties that iTunes had before it, including syncing. The iTunes Music Store also lives on inside the Music app, giving you the option to purchase your music instead of subscribing to a streaming service.

While iTunes may be dead in the newest versions of macOS, it still lives on elsewhere. iTunes continues to work on older versions of macOS and Apple has so far left the Windows version functional and intact. Still, it’s the end of an era (and maybe a welcome one), and if you want to be absolutely sure your library survives, take action while you still can.

How to get your iTunes Library on iPhone

If your aim is to access your old iTunes Library on your iPhone, the good news is that it's possible, the bad news is that it's not quite as simple or free as you might hope. Apple has several options available, each with benefits and drawbacks.

The free option: Sync Manually

If you want your iTunes Library on your iPhone for free, the only real option is to sync it manually. In Catalina and more recent operating systems, you can sync using Finder. Here are Apple's full instructions, but the process goes like this:

  • Attach your iPhone to your Mac with a Lightning cable.
  • Click on your device when it appears in the left sidebar of your Finder window
  • Choose the type of content you want to sync and check the items to transfer in the menu that appears.

    You can also sync over Wi-Fi by enabling the setting to show your device on Wi-Fi after you've plugged it in by cable for the first time.

    The easy option: Subscribe to Apple Music

    The most seamless way is to subscribe to Apple Music and turn on "Library Sync." You can do this by:

    • Open the Music App on your Mac
    • Go to Music, then Preferences
    • Go to the tab General and select "Sync Library"
    • Go to Settings, then Music on your iPhone
    • Turn on "Sync Library"

      This is the easiest method, but it does require an Apple Music subscription which will run you $10 a month, but which offers streaming and can replace a service like Spotify.

      The other option: Use iTunes Match

      If you don't want to subscribe to Apple Music but also don't want to sync manually, you can subscribe to iTunes Match, which exists for this purpose. It's cheaper than Apple Music, at $25 a year, but also hard to find. Here's where it is hiding.

      • Open the Music app on your Mac
      • Select "iTunes Store" from the sidebar
      • Scroll alllll the way to the bottom of the page
      • Find "iTunes Match" in small print under "Features" in the footer

        Once you subscribe to iTunes Match, you can sync your library with the same set of instructions as for syncing with Apple Music, listed above.

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