What happens to your massive music library with the end of iTunes?

Editor’s note: WTOP is bringing back a story published earlier this year after Apple’s latest push to phase out iTunes with a Mac update on Monday.


Q: What’s going to happen to my music library when iTunes is discontinued?

Apple’s recent announcement that they were shutting down iTunes has understandably created anxiety in avid users, especially those who have spent years curating a large music library, with song ratings, genres and playlists.

The good news is that iTunes is not going to suddenly stop working, and every user is in total control over what happens and when it happens or if it happens at all.

The end of an era

When iTunes was first rolled out in 2001, in typical Apple style, it simplified the process of ripping CDs and creating playlists that could be burned to CDs for use in our cars.

Fast-forward to 2019 and iTunes has become a somewhat irrelevant “bloatware” program that’s just trying to do too much. Syncing music to your phone or an iPod just isn’t as common in the age of streaming.

iTunes split apart

Apple is essentially splitting up the primary services that iTunes combines into three separate apps: Music, Podcasts and TV. Anyone with an iPhone already has these apps, so Apple is just going to replicate that setup for MacOS-based computers.

The syncing duties will move from iTunes to being part of the OS, which means you’ll finally be able to use the Finder to interact with your devices.

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How it will happen

This change will occur automatically with the release of the next MacOS (code name Catalina) this fall. Those that choose to install the updated OS will have their music, podcasts and TV shows transferred to each of the associated apps.

Playlists, smart playlists and music that you ripped from your CDs will all show up in the Music app. You’ll still be able to buy music from the iTunes Store, and iTunes gift cards will continue to work as they do today.

The bottom line for MacOS users is that if you don’t upgrade to Catalina, nothing will change.

Windows users

Since this update is MacOS specific, anyone using iTunes on a Windows computer will see no change either. There was no discussion by Apple whether they’ll eventually do the same thing for Windows users, but it seems likely since so many iPhone and iPod users also use Windows.

Converting to streaming services

If you plan on moving to one of the many streaming services other than Apple Music but don’t want to have to recreate all your playlists, there’s an app for that.

Stamp will allow you to move your iTunes playlists to services such as Spotify, Google Play Music and Amazon Music. The basic version is free to try, but very limited. It’ll cost you a one-time fee of $9.99 for unlimited usage of the app on either a desktop computer or your iOS device.

A word of warning

For those that have large curated iTunes libraries, even though Apple is saying nothing will get lost, it’s best to wait to make the change. There may be unforeseen issues that pop up — let a few million others download the update and post their issues as once you make the change, there’s no going back.

Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services. Ask any tech question on Facebook or Twitter.

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