There is a new way to manage your music collection on your Mac. When Apple released macOS Catalina iTunes was replaced by a new Music app. In this article we walk thought the various features of the Music app and how to use them on your Mac. Read on to find out how to use the Music app on the Mac including some useful tips and troubleshooting advice.
What will happen to iTunes?
You might be wondering what will happen to iTunes if you install Catalina on your Mac. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that your iTunes music will disappear, once Catalina is installed you will find your entire music collection inside the new Music app. You won’t need to reimport anything, but you may want to spend some time getting familiar with the new-look app.
If you have an iPhone or iPad, or even an iPod, you will be familiar with the Music app, because it’s been on iOS for years. In macOS Catalina, Apple has finally brought iOS and macOS into sync when it comes to music management.
Speaking of syncing, the way you sync your iPhone with your Mac, and your music with your iPhone, has also changed in macOS Catalina, but we will address that in a separate article. How to sync your iPhone and Mac.
What about Windows users? If you are a Windows user wondering what will happen to iTunes, and how you will back up and sync your iPhone, fear not! Nothing will change for you. The same for anyone who has a Mac that won't be able to run Catalina, you will still be able to continue to use iTunes.
It's also worth mentioning here that the iTunes Store will remain on Macs that are upgraded to Catalina, although Apple appears to have hidden it... We will discuss how to use the iTunes Store in more detail below.
Moving from iTunes to Music on a Mac
Chances are you’ve been using iTunes for a while, in which case you will be familiar with logging in to iTunes using your Apple ID and password, you’ll also know that you can only authorise iTunes (and now the Music app) on five computers. (That’s why we always advise that you deauthorise iTunes before moving to a new Mac.)
When you open the Music app for the first time you will need to log in using your Apple ID and password (it’s very likely you have one even if you think you don’t, but here’s how to create an Apple ID).
Then all your music that you have purchased previously in Apple’s iTunes Store, any music you store in iCloud if you have signed up for iTunes Match or Apple Music, and, if you are a subscriber, the entire Apple Music library, will become available to you. (We’ll discuss the iTunes Store and Apple Music later on).
If that doesn’t happen immediately, it probably means the Mac isn’t authorised yet. If this is a new Mac, or even your first Mac, you will need to authorise it. In the Music menu click on Account > Authorisations > Authorise this computer.
Now that you are signed into the Music app you should be able to see any music you had previously imported from CDs, downloaded, bought from the iTunes Music Store, or downloaded from Apple Music (if you are a subscriber). All your playlists, ratings and other information should be retained.
Now you are in the new Music app you should find that it’s all pretty familiar, either because you use the Music app on the iPhone, or because it’s not a whole lot different to iTunes. The change is more about what’s no longer there, as opposed to what is there.
- All your music you have imported or downloaded will be available
- If you have tracks stored in the cloud (which is an option if you subscribe to iTunes Match or Apple Music) they will have a cloud symbol beside them, you can stream them, or download them
- Your playlists will be there and any ratings you have attributed to tracks will be maintained
- The Music app will also know the play counts of any tracks you have previously played in iTunes
- You can access Apple Music if you are a subscriber
Can I still buy music from the iTunes Store?
You might be wondering where the iTunes Store is…
You can still buy music from the iTunes Store - but you now need to go to Music > Preferences > General and select Show: iTunes Store before that option will appear.
You may also be wondering if iTunes Vouchers will still work once the Music app replaces iTunes - they will. The iTunes Store isn’t going anywhere, yet.
How to add music to the Music app on Mac
Want to add some music to the Music app? There are a few ways you can do so:
- Buy a track from iTunes Store (can't see it? Check the step above)
- Download a track from Apple Music (if you are a subscriber)
- Import tracks from a CD
- Download tracks from another service
- Import tracks from a memory stick
You don’t need to subscribe to Apple Music in order to use the Music app. In fact, you could entirely populate your Music library with tracks you have imported from your collection of CDs. Of course we don’t advocate stealing music, so we don’t recommend any methods that involve ripping friend’s CDs, or downloading music from sharing sites, for example.
There are a variety of ways to add music to the Music app and we will run through each below.
How to buy music from the iTunes Store
As we said above, you first need to change your settings to reveal the iTunes Store as this doesn’t see to be visible by default.
As we said above, you need to reveal the iTunes Store, which Apple now hides by default (a strange move). Go to Music > Preferences > General and select Show: iTunes Store.
Once in the iTunes Store you can search for music, listen to a preview, and buy tracks, albums, or even music videos. Tracks cost between 59p and 99p.
How to download a track from Apple Music
If you have subscribed to Apple Music (there’s a three month free trial, and it’s £9.99/$9.99 a month, or £14.99/$14.99 a month if you sign up as a family - up to six people) you will be able to listen to anything that’s available via the service, that’s any of the 45 million songs (compared to 35 million in Spotify’s library).
You can sign up for a free trial here.
To listen to music in Apple Music, you could just search for an album or artist, or you can see what Apple thinks you might like based on your preferences. Just go to the For You section in the Music app. This will deliver your own personalised recommendations of music.
Apple provides playlists based on music you listen too and like, and music recommendations by its team of experts. It’s a great way of discovering new music you might not hear otherwise. You can also find out what your friends are listening too, if they are sharing that information via the service.
When you are playing tracks in Apple Music they are usually streamed from the cloud, however, you can download them into your library so that you can listen offline, add them to playlists and more.
To start you need to find the track you want. If you know what you are looking for you can search for it. Here’s how:
- Click on the Search field (you don't have to type anything yet)
- You'll see three options appear on the left: Apple Music, Your Library and iTunes Store. Select Apple Music.
- Now type in the track details or artist name.
- Click once on the name of the track you want to download and you’ll see a + sign
- Click on that + to add the track to your library.
- To check that the track is downloaded click on Recently Added.
How to import tracks from a CD
If your Mac has a CD/DVD drive it probably is too old to run Catalina, and therefore you won’t be concerned with importing music into the Music app, however, that doesn’t mean you can’t import tracks from a CD. You just need to have access to a CD drive, either one that you plug into your Mac, or on a nearby Mac. We discuss how to use Remote Drive here.
- Slot your CD into the DVD drive.
- In the Music app you should see a CD button, click on it.
- Choose from Import all songs, or if you do’t want to import all songs just tick the ones you want.
- If you are connected to the internet you will see track information.
- Click on Import CD.
- Once the songs are imported, click on Eject.
By default your tracks will import as AAC files, but you can change the setting, or convert them to MP3.
Download tracks from another service
You don’t have to get your music from iTunes or Apple Music, you can download any music directly into your iTunes, as long as it doesn’t have some sort of rights protection associated with it tying it to a particular service.
When you download the music it will automatically go to your Downloads folder on your Mac.
Just open the Downloads folder, locate the tracks and drag them into your Music library. As long as they are a compatible format they will now be available to play in Music.
You may even find that if you click on the track in the downloads folder it will automatically be opened and play in your Music app, being added in the process.
Import tracks from a memory stick
The same goes for importing music from a memory stick:
- Plug it into your Mac.
- Locate the tracks.
- Drag and drop them onto the Music app.
Navigating the Music app
Our music library is decades old now, so it’s pretty messy and overwhelming, but luckily there are lots of ways to find the music you want to listen to.
How to find a track
If there is a particular track or album, or artist you want to play there are various ways to track them down in your collection.
You’ll find various options in the left hand nav bar of the Music app. The first section relates to Apple Music: For You, Browse, Radio, and below that, your Library: Recently Added, Artists, Albums, Songs. This is where you will see any music in your personal collection.
Depending on whether you have music in the iCloud Music Library (if you are signed up to iTunes Match or Apple Music) the music may be stored in iCloud rather than on your Mac, so you can click on a track to stream it, or click on the cloud icon to download it to your computer.
Recently Added includes anything new you have bought from iTunes, downloaded from Apple music, imported some other way. Artists, Albums and Songs are different ways of sorting what music you have - if you click on Artists, you’ll see a list of artists and beside that tracks by album, for example.
Albums view shows you all your albums with art work if that’s available, it’s quite a nice visual image if the artwork is downloaded, not so great if it isn’t (our library looks terrible in this view: here’s how to download the artwork).
Next you will find any Playlists you have set up. We’ll discuss how to use Playlists below.
How to play music on a Mac
To play music all you need to do is click on a track in your library.
However, what plays next will depend on a variety of factors.
If you want to play music from a particular album you need to locate your track in album view, then the rest of the album will play once the initial track finishes.
You don’t have to play the track in order - you could shuffle the tracks, just click on the icon with two arrows crossing.
Similarly you could play tracks by a particular artist by locating the track in the Artist view.
Alternatively you can just play a track and turn on shuffle so that the next track to play is a randomly selected track from your music library.
How to shuffle music
To shuffle music so it plays in a random order, click on the arrows on the left of the area at the top of the window that shows the track currently playing. When they are shaded dark grey the shuffle feature is on.
How to repeat a track
If you really like a track you can choose to play it on repeat.
The way you do this in Music is a little different, and not as obvious as in iTunes.
In the menu, click on Controls > Repeat > One, to play a track on repeat.
How to find out what tracks up next
If you have Shuffle on you can still see what track will play next.
- Click on the icon that shows three lines in a list.
- Click on Up Next. Here you will see the list of tracks that are on your Playlist.
- Hover on any track and a - will come up which will allow you to remove it.
How to skip a track
If a track starts to play that you don’t want to listen to it’s easy to just skip it. Click on the fast forward icon beside the play button.
If you skip tracks you don’t like you could remove them later by creating a smart playlist of skipped tracks and deleting them all - we’ll explain how to make a smart playlist below.
How to delete a track
Of course you could just delete a track from your music library.
- Right click on the track and choose Delete From Library.
- If you have iTunes Match you’ll see a message asking you to confirm you want to delete the song from your iCloud Music Library.
- Click on Delete Song.
Sort the music in the Music app
Now that you have some music in your library you’ll want to do a bit of housekeeping for the best listening experience.
If you have an iTunes library with multiple tracks amassed over many years we expect that you’d recommend anyone new to the Music app follow this advice.
We have over 5,000 items in our Music library. That’s probably a fraction of what some people have. We have to admit that we don’t listen to them all - in fact there are some that we actually hate listening too. You can easily make sure that the tracts you enjoy listening to play often and the ones you despise never play. There are various ways of doing this.
Rate your music
You can give a track a rating out of five, or you can heart a track you love. Once you have done that it’s easy to just play music you like.
The easiest way to do this is to click on the heart icon beside the listing for the track that is playing.
If you like to be a bit more specific, then you can rate your tracks, you’ll need to add the rating column to the Music view, so right/control-click on the row at the top and choose Rating.
Hover over that column beside the track you like and add a rating.
Other ways to sort your music
There are various ways you can manage your Music library, these haven’t really changed since iTunes. For example, you can choose what column headings appear, for example, alongside Name, Time, Artist, you can also see Genre, Plays (as in how many times) and it you right click on the bar you can choose from an extensive list of options including whether it’s been skipped, purchase date, last played, in addition to whether you have indicated that you ‘love’ it.
We find that sorting our library by the Most Played is a good way to find our favourite tracks.
However, the best way to play your favourite music is to create a playlist.
There are two ways to make playlists in the Music app (as there were in iTunes). You can either add music to a playlist, or you can create a Smart Playlist, whereby the music that fits a number of rules set by you is added to a playlist (we like this second method as it can be updated in real time).
Create a new playlist
If you want to create a New Playlist here's what to do:
- Click on File > New > New Playlist.
- Name your Playlist - you will now see the playlist appear in the sidebar.
- Go to Songs, Artists, Albums or any playlist that might contain tracks you want to add to the new playlist, or simply search for the music you want to add - but note you can’t add Apple Music tracks without first clocking on + to ‘Add’ them and then opening Recently Added to locate them there (it’s not all that logical unfortunately).
- Locate your playlist in the sidebar but don’t click on it. Just drag the songs you want to add onto it.
Create a smart playlist
Apple also allows you to create Smart Playlists which work in a similar way to smart folders in the Finder. You set some rules and the music that fits those rules will appear in that playlist.
So, for example, you could create a playlist automatically that includes 30 songs by a particular Artist, or the 25 songs you have played the most, or the 25 songs last played, or songs last played in August 2007.
Create a genius playlist
iTunes had a feature called iTunes Genius, which was an algorithm that would gather similar tracks together. If there was a track you really liked you could click on iTunes Genius to create a Playlist of tracks like it.
This is maintained in Music.
Just right click on a track and choose Genius Suggestions. You’ll see a list of tracks you own, just click Start Genius if you want to start playing them, or click on Save as Playlist and a playlist will be saved.
Create an Apple Music Radio station
Another way to discover the kind of music you like is via Apple Music, if you have a subscription.
Find the track you want to base your Radio station on in your library and right/control-click on it as above.
Choose Create Station and it will immediately start playing your track, followed by other similar music from the Apple Music store.
This is a great way to discover new music you might not have heard otherwise.