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.

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