iCloud Music Library Automatically Downloading New Music to iOS Devices

If you read this website regularly, you know that I have a real aversion to iCloud Music Library. If you have a carefully curated music library, iCloud Music Library is likely to mess it up. But I write about this stuff for a living, and I do use Apple Music a bit. So instead of using my main music library with iTunes Match, iCloud Music Library, and Apple Music, I have a smaller library on my MacBook dedicated to these services.

That library got irreparably ruined after iCloud Music Library came into the picture, so I recently deleted almost everything that was not on Apple Music, replacing albums with their cloud equivalents. As such, there was hardly any music physically on the MacBook. This library syncs with my iPad and iPod touch, both of which I use to stream Apple Music at home.

This weekend, I wanted to add some music to the cloud, so I grabbed a bunch of files from my main library and added them to the MacBook’s library. I was very surprised to notice later that most of them had automatically downloaded to my iPad. The device had no music on it at all; now it shows 3.9 GB of music.

Ipad downloads

That’s a lot of music. I have a pretty fast internet connection, but downloading nearly 4 GB takes a while. I later noticed that the same music was downloaded to my iPod touch, for a total of about 8 GB. I don’t have a bandwidth cap, but if I did, I’d be mighty unhappy. Also, if I were using an iPhone, and it was set to allow cellular downloads, I’d be irate. You may want to set an iPhone to use cellular downloads, thinking that you’ll only be downloading an album or two occasionally, not using up all your data quickly. And one side effect of this is that your iOS devices will delete their batteries quickly, as they download all this music.

Note that the handful of albums that had been in my MacBook’s iTunes library before I cleaned it up didn’t download to my iOS devices; only those albums I added over the weekend did, and not all of them. I see no reason why some of them downloaded and others didn’t.

This is clearly a bug, and it seems to have started when iOS 9.2 was released. A thread on Apple’s support forum shows that this is affecting a number of users, and I’ve corresponded with others who have seen the same thing. However, these automatic downloads only affect iOS devices; if you use iCloud Music Library with two computers, adding files to one computer does not cause them to be downloaded to another computer.

This morning, as a test, I deleted all the local music on my iPod touch, and deleted some of the albums I added recently. I then re-added some of those albums. A few minutes after I started my test, I saw that music was downloading to both the iPod touch and the iPad.

When I later added two more albums, and checked the iPod touch, they had started downloading already:

Ipod touch downloads

However, none of the older music is re-downloading.

Users on Apple’s support forum say that this doesn’t fix the issue, and that only deleting all music added since the iOS 9.2 upgrade resolves the problem. Of course, this makes iTunes Match and iCloud Music Library somewhat useless, other than for Apple Music tracks.

If you’re seeing the same thing, weigh in in the comments describing your specific problem.

Update: One day later, and I’m not seeing any music re-download to my iOS devices. After it downloads the first time, I delete it in the Settings app, and it doesn’t download again. Others are not seeing this exact behavior; for many people, new music continues to download. So I’m not sure what is different between my situation and that of some other people.

31 thoughts on “iCloud Music Library Automatically Downloading New Music to iOS Devices

    • When I look at ITunes downloads I just noticed that My iPad is trying to automatically download 67,336 songs ( presumably from my desktop iTunes library) can’t seem to stop it.

  1. You said: “This library syncs with my iPad and iPod touch, both of which I use to stream Apple Music at home.” Isn’t this the reason?

    • No, music is not supposed to download automatically, but only when you choose to download it to an iOS device. The point of iTunes Match is that you can have a much larger library accessible on an iOS device, and choose what you want to download or stream on that device.

  2. I’ve noticed this with smart playlists that I’ve set to download. When I add new items that show up in it, they get downloaded. Haven’t noticed it with music that doesn’t fit this case. When I saw it, I was happy because now I don’t have to download all the new additions manually. But if it happens to all music, then that’s not good.

    • That would actually be a great option to add to smart playlists. But to download everything; that’s just wrong.

      • I agree totally. just realized this was happening today. I used to have some fairly complex playlist that now just show up empty in ios for the past couple years. when ever i added new music, would download automatically if that playlist was set for offline. but added new music the other day and my ipad which i never sync music to suddenly shows up with 300 new songs.. Not cool. and downloaded half of it on lte to the tune of 1.5gb. its supposed to be on demand if its not in a synced playlist. This is very dangerous apple. Not right at all.

  3. I had so many problems with music syncing to Apple servers (messed up playlists, splitting of songs across phantom albums) that I finally turned it all off and went to the old method of manually syncing by USB cable with a MacMini I have at home which I use mainly to store media files. Since, I reorganized everything *again* and went “USB cable sync”, things have stayed nicely organized. I wish the Apple Server methods worked but it is not worth the grief for me to try again until I know it perfectly works. Thanks for keeping is up to date Kirk.

  4. I had this issue, it went away after repeated “stopping downloads” on my ios. To me the biggest drag is that I had to upgrade my data plan with ATT and that cost me $40, which I am sure I can get back from Apple, but it certainly seemed out of my control

  5. Have you tried checking the “iTunes & App Store” section of the Settings app and ensuring that “Music” is turned off under Automatic Downloads? Having this option turned off may stop this behavior.

    • Yes, everyone who has this problem has confirm that that is turned off. That only applies to purchase the content anyway.

    • Settings>Music> Use Cellular data turned off. you need to do this too. But problem is when you get back to wifi its going to download the songs you added anyway whether you have them in a synced playlist or now. imagine if you had a 16gb iphone and just added a ton of music.

  6. “A thread on Apple’s support forum shows that this is affecting a number of users”

    I’m curious if we *really* know if this is only happening to a subset of users, or if it’s a universal issue that some folks either haven’t noticed, or don’t mind.

    If it’s *not* universal, they forget my comment. It’s a bug, and they’ll probably fix it relatively soon. But if it actually is universal, I wouldn’t eliminate the possibility that this is by design. It fits in comfortably with Cupertino’s profitability POV on two different levels. But I don’t really know anything about this; just speculating on motive.

    • Cupertino’s profitability POV? What… the city has a for-profit municipal cell service or something?

      I think it’s safe to eliminate theories born from conspiracy.

  7. I signed up for iTunes Match for the first time yesterday since I noticed they recently increased the song limit to 100,000. Once I enabled it on my iPhone I noticed it was automatically downloaded all my songs, which I was instantly confused about seeing as I know iTunes Match should be streaming my songs. In the hunt for finding a solution I came across some support forums about this issue and then stumbled upon your blog post. I think I got it fixed and wanted to share incase this helps others.

    What didn’t work:
    – Disabled “iCloud Music Library” via Settings > Music

    Temporary Solution:
    – Disabled “Use Cellular Data to Streaming & Downloads” via Settings > Music
    – Turn off Wifi

    Permanent Solution (so far at least but not sure which step below actually did it):
    – Opened iTunes and Clicked on Store > View Account
    – Under “iTunes in the Cloud” I clicked “Manage Devices”
    – Found my iPhone and clicked “Remove iPhone”
    – Returned to Music App on my iPhone
    – It prompted me to sign back into iTunes and I declined (for now)
    – It still said “Downloading 626 songs” and I tapped on that message
    – I saw a list of songs trying to download but they seemed paused (probably since I wasn’t logged in)
    – I scrolled to the bottom of the list and saw a link to “Cancel all downloads” (or something like that)
    – I tapped the link and everything stopped.

    Things I tested to make sure it was fixed:
    – I waited awhile to see if it started back up but no more downloading was occurring.
    – So I enabled “iCloud Music Library” again and still nothing was downloading
    – So then opened up Music app again and I signed back into my iTunes Account and still nothing was downloading
    – It reconnected my iTunes Match Library and everything was there and nothing started downloading
    – I added a new album to my iTunes Library on my computer and it added to iTunes Match on my phone (able to stream it) without downloading anything.

    So (knock-on wood) I think it’s fixed!

    Hope this helps others!

    • Uh, okay. That’s a lot of work to turn off these downloads, but I guess if you do it when you first sign up for iTunes Match, it might be worth the hassle. You’ll probably find that new albums you add to your library later download automatically. My guess is the ones you added immediately after doing all your manipulations were ignored just by chance. Not every album I added got downloaded to my device, and it didn’t always happen immediately. So do post again in a day or so after you’ve added more albums.

      • So far only one song downloaded and it was a song from an album I was streaming on play but otherwise nothing else has downloaded yet…

        It could have been the removing my device from iTunes Account and reactivating it or it could have honestly just been tapping the “Download x songs’ but and scrolling to the bottom and hitting “Cancel all Downloads” that did it. Maybe just the combo of the two.

    • David Harthcock – You absolute legend! Your solution worked for me.

      I’ve had a nightmare with this issue – 14k tracks trying to download to my iPhone, eating up my battery life and data 24/7, and no obvious way to stop it. I’ve been liaising with Apple Support for (literally) hours over the past few days, most recently having been put in touch with a Senior Advisor. The Apple guys have been superb from a customer service perspective, even though this has, to date, had them completely stumped. I’ll pass on your solution to my Senior Adviser, in the hope that it will help the Apple engineers to fix the bug.

  8. In my experience the songs that have “Uploaded” as the iCloud status are the only ones being automatically downloaded to my iPhone/iPad. Many songs are in Apple’s catalogue but my copies have been uploaded rather than matched to Apple Music. I’m guessing that my way of labeling/tagging rather than Apple’s way may be responsible for this behavior?

  9. Same here. thousands of tracks all downloaded on my iPad till it was completely filled up. Only option was to deactivate iCloud Music on that device.

  10. I just subscribed to Apple Music, and lone and behold, I too experienced self downloading songs. I recently switched Macs and added most of my music library back into itunes, creating a “recently added” playlist of about 18,000 songs.

    I was travelling for work and my phone was on LTE, so 4 GBs of download later I realized what had happened.

    I followed what David H. did above and it seemed to rectify the issue. Apple really needs to fix this bug, and they should split out the toggle switch for streaming vs. downloading, and default the downloading to off!

    Thanks for the post David, things seem to be working properly.

  11. I’m having major issues too with Apple Music. Every time there’s an iPhone update all my songs are removed from my device, and when I’m driving in noticing there all greyed out, so I get home to download them all again off the cloud (Apple Music songs) there’s over a thousand songs downloading at once. And my phone just goes ham with sending me alerts that a song could not be downloaded at this time. But I know for 100% it’s not my internet connection at home. Then I reset my phone due to the downloads stay dead and the symbol freezes and doesn’t move (the circle with the square in the middle of it). Very annoying. Thinking of buying match, but I’m not even slightly convinced it’s going to help me.

  12. This just started to be a problem for me after IOS 9.3 earlier this week. 9.3.1 hasn’t helped. Burned through 8GB of bandwidth on my data plan in one day ($130 overage) before figuring out that it was 5,000 songs trying to download was causing my phone to be so hot and killing battery life. Still trying to download songs after turning off iCloud Music Library on the phone. Sometimes 40 at a time, sometimes in the thousands. Woke up to a full 128GB iPhone this morning.

    After disabling cellular access to iCloud, App Store, Music, airplane mode seems to be my only recourse to ensure the phone isn’t secretly hammering my cellular coverage even when wifi is on.

  13. David Harthcock’s solution works, but I thought I would explain why. The difference is between iTunes Match and iTunes in the Cloud. iTunes in the Cloud was/is a way for your device to sync with your computer without plugging in manually. iTunes Match somewhat supersedes that by allowing you to choose when to sync, but also to stream tracks, etc.

    When you first enable iTunes Match, it asks you if you would like to sync this phone with your current iTunes Library in the Cloud. When you say yes, it authorizes your phone for iTunes in the Cloud. So now you’re running both iTunes Match and iTunes in the Cloud. iTunes in the Cloud is trying to sync your computer with your iPhone, when in reality you want to use iTunes Match to choose what and when to sync. As a result, you can simply disable iTunes in the Cloud for your iPhone without disabling or affecting iTunes Match.

    – Opened iTunes and Clicked on Store > Account
    – Under “iTunes in the Cloud” I clicked “Manage Devices”
    – Found my iPhone and clicked “Remove iPhone”

    You shouldn’t need to do anything else. Obviously if tracks are in the process of downloading, cancel them, and follow other’s instructions for pruning the leftover tracks on your iPhone.

  14. Same issue. Disaster.
    Updated to iOS 10, no fix.
    Disabled automatic downloads – also not a fix.
    Finally disabled iCloud Music Library… STILL not a fix.
    Had to disable Wifi for christ’s sake… W T F?

  15. Well at least I’m not alone. I had figured a lot of these issues out. It still
    New ones appeared. What I found was
    IOS10.1 on the iPhone would store a temporary copy of the song in a cache once it was played from the cloud. If you played a lot that would take up space. I would look to see if there were any downloaded music in settings and I saw there were none. However that cache was really full. If I turned off “use cell data” for streaming and wifi, then connected my USB cord in my car stereo, all songs that I had previously listened to would play. To clear out that cache I had to turn off iTunes cloud on my phone and then turn it back on. This oils clear it out and nothing would play.
    Okay, one problem solved another is that if you have a huge iCloud library there is a lot of artwork associated with those songs. Every time you scroll thru your songs the artwork is stored in the cache. Sometimes I had homemade artwork that was not shrunk down in size thereby increasing the size of the file. So once again I would turn on and off iTunes Cloud on my phone to clear the cache.
    So what’s my new problem..IOS10.2. It doesn’t behave the same. It is either downloading all the artwork without viewing it first or it is downloading songs in the cache. Either way my iPhone’s storage filled up fast and when I able my fix it starts to do the process again. The only thing that I have done to solve this was to turn off and keep off iTunes Cloud. Now I can not listen to any music except, ad here is the kicker, the last 3 songs I purchased from iTunes. Again these songs are not shown as downloaded but they are hidden somewhere in a temporary folder.
    If I find a fix, I’ll let you know.

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