Why You Should Delete All Your Music

iTunes Trash

“I keep running out of space on my iPhone and my Mac, what do I do!?”

This is a question my clients ask me all the time, especially music lovers. If you have a lot of music you I’ll show you how you can free up the space it takes up, and still have it on your devices.

Many of us want all our music with us to listen to whatever we want at the drop of a hat. There is a service called Spotify you can subscribe to and listen to just about every main stream album out there, but some of us already bought a ton of music and don’t want a monthly subscription like that. One of my clients, Wally, is like that. Here’s a short synopsis of what we did and how we were able to get over 700 Gb worth of music on his iPhone and other iOS devices using iTunes Match.

Wally REALLY loves music. So much so, his collection of CDs numbered 875 albums! His wife even catalogued them so he could reference a sheet for whatever album he was looking for. He loved it, but wanted to go mobile and have it all with him at all times AND he wanted to free up the space in his house. Can you imagine how much space 875 albums would take up? He came to me for help and these were his objectives.

  • Digitize the music at CD quality and donate when finished.
  • Have all music accessible from all mobile devices and the home sound system/TV.
  • Back it up where it will be safe.


Now Wally is where you most likely are. He has a ton of music on his computer and he wants it all on his iPhone etc. Since there is so much music it doesn’t all fit on his mobile devices. He can create playlists and fill his phone with music by syncing, OR he could employ iTunes Match.

iTunes Match and How it Works

iTunes Match is a service built into iTunes and costs $25/year. What it does is look at your library and find any music that is already in the iTunes Store and makes it available on your account. If iTunes doesn’t already have certain things that are in your library, it uploads it to your account. Since all this music is on the “cloud”, it’s not taking up space on your iPhone or iPad. That means when you play a song you have to be connected to the internet, either through wifi, or by using cell data to stream the songs.

How much data does iTunes Match use when streaming music? iTunes Match data usage is 256-Kbps or about 115 MB per hour. So, you’re using 1 GB for every 9 hours of streaming. If you have a 3GB/Month plan you can stream a maximum of 26 hours per month. Most of us are not going to stream music that often. If you are going to listen to music that much you’ll want to figure out what albums you listen to most and make sure to download those to your phone.

One of the things you can do is download specific playlists or albums that you listen to a lot, then it won’t have to stream it every time you listen to it. For example I downloaded my running playlist when I was on wifi and now when I play it, it’s not using up any data.

So what’s thing about deleting all the music from your computer and iPhone? Once iTunes has “matched” all your music, you can delete it off your computer and it will still appear in your library. You might want to back up your library by doing a Time Machine backup on your Mac, or if you’re using a PC copy the music folder to an external drive first before you delete everything just in case something went horribly wrong. On a side note, you’re not going to get that space back on your computer that the music was taking up until you empty the trash.

On your iPhone or iPad, when you turn on iTunes Match, it deletes the music that is currently on your phone and replaces it with everything you have on the cloud, which frees up the space your music was taking up on your device.

Countless clients of mine have done this and absolutely love it! When I deleted my library I freed up over 40GB on my machine. I don’t miss having music on my laptop since I almost always am connected to wifi, and if I’m not, my phone has a data plan and I can use it!

If you’re like Wally and need some extra help, please reach out through the comments section or by going to my contact page. If you subscribe to updates you’ll be given my contact card with a phone number and email to reach me.

Question: Do you use iTunes Match or another streaming service? What has your experience been? What’s holding you back from trying it?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Simplifying all the “stuff” in my life, including my music, is a huge goal for 2014. Music, both physically and in my iTunes, makes up a lot of “stuff.” I’m going to do what you suggested here and then I’ll only be left with those recordings that are too obscure to be on iTunes Match. (You know me — haha.)

    The one time when I don’t like this system is when I’m traveling and I’m trying to stream something but I don’t have very good cell coverage. Oh, one other time I ran into this was when I was in a hotel hosting a conference and I couldn’t connect to the wifi. I wanted to play music during a break and there was no cell coverage either. Suggestions for times like this?

    Thanks, Shawn.

    • Brian Hogg

      I haven’t tried iTunes Match yet, but looks like you can download any songs to your device for listening with no network connection in case of emergencies! http://www.apple.com/ca/itunes/itunes-match/ under FAQs.

      • Exactly, Brian. You can download your some or all of your music to your devices, computer or iPhone etc. I have certain things downloaded in case I don’t have coverage or wifi. Thanks for joining the conversation!

    • Check out Brian’s and my responses. Also if you keep an external drive with you, we can put your library on there for emergencies.
      As far as the recordings too obscure for iTunes Match… iTunes will upload it whether it has the track or not and attach it to your account. That’s what really sets it apart from things like Spotify.

  • I just migrated computers and my hard drive with all of my music crashed (yes… sadly at the same time)

    I turned on the new computer and downloaded all 26,000 of my songs in beautiful high quality from iTunes Match… #LifeSaver

    • Whew! So glad you started iTunes Match before that happened! I love this. My Macbook Pro went on the fritz for about a week after I spilled a few drops of water on the trackpad. When I realized what was happening I created an account on my wife’s Macbook Pro and signed into my accounts of various services and had everything available except my pictures and movies, which I don’t need with me on a day to day basis. It took me minutes. #LovetheCloud!

  • I uploaded all of my albums to Google Play about a year ago. Did I mention it’s free?

    • Thanks, Stephen!

      It’s a great alternative if you don’t mind using Google’s website and apps, but what sets iTunes Match apart for me, is it just works with everything I already have. I don’t mind paying 25/year to not have to fuss with a website or make sure I’m using the Google Play app instead of the native Music app.
      If I had a Droid, and a Roku… it’s a no brainer, Google Play all the way!

      • While my computer is a Macbook Pro, the rest of my devices and online presence is part of the Google ecosystem. Apple makes terrific hardware, but their software is crappy –iTunes being the worst offender of them all.

  • Shawn,
    Can you create playlists in iTunes Match? Or is it just a single long list of every song?
    Thanks for the article!

    • You can create playlists and they show up on all of your devices, not just the device where you create the playlist. I’ve been using iTunes Match since it came out and I love it!!!

    • Any playlists you have already created get uploaded to Match by default, then when you create new ones, like iRoswell was saying, they show up in Match as well.

  • What’s also nice about iTunes Match is the connection with iTunes Radio! Just for having Match, you get commercial free listening on iTunes Radio!!!!

    • Agreed! It has replaced Pandora for me.

    • That sounds awesome!!! Last question, what about if I import a song from a CD that I didn’t actually purchase through the iTunes store….will iTunes match still import it or make me buy that song?

      • It will either match the song, or if per chance it’s not in their inventory, they will upload it to your account. You will not have to repurchase the song. In fact, 90% of what I have on iTunes Match is from CD’s.

  • Shawn, will Match actually let you stream music to iOS device now? Before, I would start listening to a song on my iPhone that was in iCloud, it would download it also. Can you confirm? Thanks for the post!

    • It does stream without downloading now.

  • Major Chisholm

    Great read man. I may just do this.

    • Hey, Major! I don’t know why I held out for so long, but I’m sold!

  • johnTnash

    You convinced me, so I signed up. The transition has not been perfect, but not horrible. A few hiccups worth noting.
    1 – Not every track gets matched.
    • I burned U2’s Unforgettable Fire from CD years ago at a lesser quality than I would today, so I was excited about getting the iTunes match with the better quality format. Some tracks “Matched” and some “Uploaded.” This is apparently because iTunes did not recognize the track somehow, even though it was a part of the same album.
    • Some tracks were “Ineligible.” These tended to be the oddball things that I’ve accumulated over the years, so it’s understandable.
    • Some tracks were marked as “Waiting” and these were the troublemakers. They actually caused the whole process to error out. Turns out that it is in part because the data has been partially corrupted. There is a wonky workaround for this, but in the end I decided that I could live without those tracks and just deleted them (easiest option).
    2 – You know all those freebies that you downloaded over the years that you decided that you hated, so you deleted them? … They show up again (because of the Cloud).
    3 – Some tracks ended up getting duplicates because I changed the metadata (year of recording and such).

    Overall, I think I will be happy when I’ve ironed out all the wrinkles.

    • Nice John!
      Any tracks that are mono and not stereo will not be uploaded. That includes Voice Memo’s you recorded on your phone. Why, I have no idea. I sure want mono tracks included…
      For the songs that have messed up meta data and for the duplicates, you can try some software called TuneUp. I used it years ago to straighten out my library and it did a great job. Not perfect, since you and I have tweaked this and that so TuneUp doesn’t always know how to straighten out my mess, but it got the majority of things.
      Like you I deleted a ton of items in the process, but that was when I did TuneUp so I didn’t run into errors with Match.
      For all the freebies that you don’t want to see in your library anymore, you can go to the iTunes Store, click Purchases, Songs, and click the X on the right to hide the purchase.

      Thanks for the feedback! I hope you really enjoy the service!

  • travisaustin

    I think you have a typo: iTunes Match data usage is 256-Kbps or about 115 MB per hour. That is just under 9GB/hr.

    • You’re right! Thank you. It should be: For every 9 hours of streaming, you’re using 1 GB of data.

  • Yingmanhon Travis

    so may i know.
    if i upload the music to stream.
    then i delete the music in my computer.

    and then i stop the service from itunes match.
    of cos i can no longer listen to the music from cloud, that makes sense

    WHAT IF. if i re-subscribe itunes match again.
    does it need to re-sync everything again?
    or else as i have deleted all music in computer. so no longer listen again. right?

    • Yingmanhon, I’m actually not sure. I expect they would have to upload everything again. I haven’t cancelled it and resubscribed myself.

      That would be a very “Facebook” style thing to do, keeping your files after you have cancelled the service. I would hope they would delete my files and make me re-upload it later, just for privacy. Apple doesn’t seem to be in the business of selling our data, so what purpose they would have for storing incredible amounts of music, I can only imagine.

      Sorry I don’t have anything more concrete for you.

  • Josh

    What happens if you decide to discontinue the subscription at some point? You’ve presumably deleted the music from your computer at that point. Are you able to easily download everything from your iMatch library to your computer before discontinuing the service or are you stuck without your owned music?

    • You can download everything before you decide not to renew your subscription, don’t worry!

  • Pingback: Backing up you Mac on the Go | Shawn Lemon()