iTunes Bug Could be the Cause of those Disappearing Music Libraries, not Apple Music

BY Evan Selleck

Published 12 May 2016

Apple Music Emmys ad

Keeping the things we own, even the digital things, is important, but when software steps in and deletes it, things can get out of hand pretty quickly.

That was the case in early May, when Apple Music –Apple’s new streaming music service that has 13 million subscribers– was at the center of a large controversy regrading owned music libraries suddenly being deleted without the user’s express permission. That initial story from James Pinkstone, where his 122GB library of music was unceremoniously deleted from Apple Music and his own library, ruffled plenty of feathers, as it should.

It was made worse when Pinkstone said that an Apple retail store employee told him, in no uncertain terms, that Apple Music was working as intended, and that the deletion of his owned music was just part of the package. Of course, that didn’t help things at all, and Apple Music was hit with negative comments.

Soon after that, another report came forward and tried to shed some light on why it wasn’t Apple Music’s fault at all that the music library had been deleted. The article did an admirable job of explaining how Apple Music, coupled with the iCloud Music Library and music matching, could cause some issues with music from the streaming service and owned tracks, especially when Apple tries to match those songs from the cloud. But, ultimately, that Apple Music isn’t deleting your owned tracks on its own.

“So, if you buy a One Direction album on CD, then rip it to your Mac, Apple Music will identify those tracks and match them with those in its own library. You will then be able to stream the One Direction album on your iPhone without transferring it to your device.

If you have tracks that can’t be matched in Apple’s library — like personal recordings or albums that aren’t available in iTunes — then those files will be uploaded to iCloud as they are.”

Now, a new discovery could shed even more light on the situation, and it may completely absolve Apple Music from any wrongdoing.

iMore reports that it could be a bug within iTunes, the shell that encapsulates Apple Music, that is causing personally-owned music libraries to disappear unexpectedly. There are Apple Support community threads that have sprouted up ever since Apple released iTunes 12.3.3 back in March of this year, in which many users have complained that their locally-owned tracks have been deleted without their consent. The update has been mentioned for Windows-based computers, too. The bug has apparently only been a minor issue, though, which is one reason why it’s avoided scrutiny up until this point.

What’s more, Apple even has a support document detailing what users should do if they don’t see their own content in their music library, with the first option, perhaps very fittingly, being “Quit iTunes.”

So here is what iMore believes happened to both Pinkstone and designer Robert Etropolsky:

  • They subscribed to Apple Music.
  • At some point after March 21, they updated to iTunes 12.3.3. Etropolsky sent iMore screenshots from his Time Machine backup that show his tracks disappearing between April 7 and 12th.
  • The update appears to have wiped parts their music library due to a database error; however, because Apple Music had already uploaded and matched their collection to iCloud, it still presented to the user as a complete library — one that was now cloud-based, as you would see if you were on a secondary Mac.
  • When the user tried to play a track, the track would present as missing, and prompt to either locate the track, or download a copy from iCloud.
  • Because both Pinkstone and Etropolsky only subscribed to Apple Music, any re-downloaded matched tracks would download from the Apple Music catalog — even if the match was incorrect, and connected to the wrong file.

It’s certainly still an issue, but, admittedly, if this is indeed the case then it appears that Apple Music isn’t necessarily completely to blame, but rather just a victim of collateral damage from iTunes. The bug does appear to be minimal in scope, though, and if you’re library is intact after downloading the update to 12.3.3, your library should be fine.

Still, Apple probably should have mentioned this in a better way than just a support document, considering how many people use iTunes, how many subscribers there are to Apple Music, and how big an issue like this could have been.

Stil, Apple Music is reportedly on track to get plenty of changes with the release of iOS 10, which could include a new design, new features, and more.

Have you noticed any of these issues with Apple Music?

[via iMore]