I’d been thinking for a while that I should move away from iTunes: Apple’s music focus is now on streaming from a library that Apple controls, not on maintaining a library that you control. And, while they sort of support syncing your music with their cloud technology, they explicitly say that they feel free to serve up different files when syncing, they provide you no way to control metadata if Apple Music is turned on (and they get that metadata wrong, completely losing the integrity of albums), and they even rewrite the original files you have on disc. So the team is clearly no longer trying to solve the archival use case; iTunes is still usable for that as long as you’re not signed up for Apple Music, but the writing is on the wall, it’s time to look for another solution, from a team that is focused on that use case.

That’s what I’d been thinking for a while, but then this afternoon, on my train ride home, I noticed that my phone hadn’t downloaded some of my music. The albums that I was looking at were ones that I’d purchased through the iTunes store, so at first I assumed that they’d added some option to offload music for you, the same way that iOS has an option to offload unused apps. Seemed weird, I didn’t remember turning that on and I had a bunch of space available on my phone, but whatever.


When I got home, I checked my computer; songs were missing there as well. Had they added an option like that in the upgrade to Catalina (along with the change from iTunes to the Music app)? Fortunately, on the Mac, at least there’s an option to see all the music you’ve purchased from the iTunes music store that’s not on the computer, so I started re-downloading stuff.

Then I looked for the option in the settings to make sure it didn’t delete music; and I couldn’t find an option like that. Which raised a much more worrying possibility: had I hit a bug where the Music app was just deleting music? And, if there was such a bug, was it affecting music that I’d ripped from CDs? One search for Trilectic later (well, two, one on my phone and one on my Mac) and I had my answer: a good-sized chunk of my music library had disappeared, presumably during the Catalina upgrade.

At which point I started freaking out a bit, and wondering whether I still had a pre-Catalina backup around. I think the answer is “yes” – I’d actually just done a disk clone yesterday, so that one would have the problem, but I use alternating drives for my clones, and I think that the backup from the previous month was pre-Catalina? (I could also look in Backblaze, but I think they only keep stuff around for a month, so that wouldn’t be better than my older clone disk.) And, actually, one good side effect of the previous problems I had was that I’d made a copy of my full iTunes library while investigating that, which I think I still have around; it’s two and a half years old by now, but pretty much all of my purchases since then have been through iTunes, so it should contain all of my physical CDs and probably all of the stuff I’ve purchased from non-iTunes online sources.

Fortunately, before worrying too much, I looked on disk, and the old mp3/m4a files are still there. So it should just be the metadata that’s gotten messed up, the important data hasn’t been lost. (Though the stuff that I’ve re-downloaded from the iTunes store has now created duplicate copies of those songs, so I’ll have a bunch of stuff to de-duplicate when I resurrect the music from the disk! Sigh…)


The upshot of all of this is: I’m now actively looking for a different solution to store my music. Any recommendations? My requirements are pretty simple: 1) It should have a master library of music on my Mac, managed in a straightforward way in a separate location from iTunes. 2) I should be able to sync all of that music to some place on my iPhone. (I don’t want a solution that requires streaming from my Mac to my phone.)

And add yet another item to the list of serious Apple quality problems.

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