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Question: Import iTunes library into clean installation of Catalina

Hullo all, hope you can help:


  • I backed up my iTunes library (the entire "iTunes" folder—contains about 95GB of music ripped from my CDs) on an external hard disk.
  • I installed Catalina on a newly reformatted hard disk on my iMac.
  • I copied the backed up iTunes library into ~/Music (Home folder → Music).
  • I launched the Music app. It showed my handful of iTunes purchases, but not my playlists nor the music I had ripped from CDs. 🤔


Clearly, my iTunes library was not upgraded at that point. The Music app was just seeing the music associated with my iCloud account. Second try:


  • I quit and I deleted the new "Music" folder that was created (~/Music/Music).
  • I launched the Music app holding down option. It asked me the choose a music Library and pointed it to the "iTunes Library.itl" file (~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Library.itl).
  • The Music app launched. Again, only my iTunes purchases appeared, no playlists. 😢


Any idea how I can get the Music app to upgrade and see my older iTunes music library? There are plenty of playlists, ratings, play counts, album artwork from rare CDs that I scanned myself, even some digitised vinyl. This process has worked with previous OS updates, so I would expect my backed up iTunes library should somehow be able to be imported.


Any thoughts?

iMac Line (2012 and Later)

Posted on Oct 14, 2019 1:29 PM

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Answer:
Answer:

For anyone who still has this issue, I have a partial solution.


In the Music app, go to File → Library → Import Playlist… then navigate to your old iTunes folder and select the iTunes Music Library.xml file. Music will take a while (maybe half an hour, maybe one hour for my library of about 15,000 tracks—I went for lunch), but it will import all your music and playlists, including smart playlists. At least it did in my case after every other method had failed. Ratings and most other metadata was imported as well.


⚠️ Be careful—this is not a perfect solution:

  • It changes the “date added” information for every track to the time when you do the import. This may have implications to you if you are using that date to make smart playlists.
  • In my case it lost some of the artwork. From what I can tell, all of the artwork that I had scanned and pasted myself is present. My guess is that the lost artwork came from the iTunes Store by me selecting “get album artwork” in the past.
  • This method will also import any podcasts as songs. You can sort your music by genre to easily select and delete all the podcasts. Then sort by duration and scan everything that has “continuous” as duration. This will include old radio channels and podcast subscriptions as far as I can tell. You may need to delete those as well. You should be able to redownload those from the Podcasts app.


Hopefully, this is helpful to someone. It's a good enough solution for me for the moment.


(@turingtest2 You may need to include some of this in one of your guides.)

Posted on Nov 13, 2019 1:31 AM

Question marked as Helpful

Jan 8, 2020 10:53 AM in response to Orestes Chouchoulas In response to Orestes Chouchoulas

Had the same problem, but finally resolved with Apple Tech Support.    The key was in how you open the MUSIC app.    Hold down the OPTION key while opening the MUSIC app.    You will see a dialog box.   Pick the option "Choose Library".     Now, navigate to your ITL file (not XML) for the old iTunes database you want to import and double click it.  The MUSIC app will then ask you to Save this as a new Music Library.  Give it a different name than your other library(s).    Pick a location etc.    Once that is done, you still have one final step - to change the default directory of your actual music files.  Go to MUSIC preferences, select Files directory, and change it to where your actual audio files are.    MUSIC app will then ask you to organize, click YES.   This took 2 hours to do on my iTunes database (153,263 songs, library size 8.4 TB).   I was originally on Sierra 10.12.6 using iTunes 12.8.2.3.

Jan 8, 2020 10:53 AM

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Oct 30, 2019 6:19 PM in response to Orestes Chouchoulas In response to Orestes Chouchoulas

Yes Yes! Finally I found someone with the same issue as me.. (Probably same as you) I have been using für 10+ years now and have put a lot of effort into organizing my music library which I cannot access anymore. This is heavily disappointing and I hope that Apple will deliver a solution soon!


Thanks for starting this thread, will definitely watch closely!



Oct 30, 2019 6:19 PM

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Oct 15, 2019 8:33 AM in response to Orestes Chouchoulas In response to Orestes Chouchoulas

When you deleted the ~/Music/Music folder did you also empty the trash? If not Music may still know to look for the previous file where it is currently living in the trash, and it may also "remember" upgrading the old iTunes library so it doesn't try to do it again. I can't seem to make that happen here but offhand it is the only thing I can think of.


tt2

Oct 15, 2019 8:33 AM

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Oct 15, 2019 8:44 AM in response to turingtest2 In response to turingtest2

I emptied trash every time, and the Music app generated a new Music folder each time.


I just noticed my iTunes folder structure looks different to my friend's. For example, mine has "iTunes Music" instead of "iTunes Media". Could that be an issue?


My library:


My friend's library:

Oct 15, 2019 8:44 AM

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Oct 15, 2019 8:58 AM in response to Orestes Chouchoulas In response to Orestes Chouchoulas

iTunes Music is the old name for iTunes Media, suggesting your library might originate from iTunes 8 or earlier. Ideally at some point along the way you would have simply renamed the folder and iTunes would have worked it all out, leaving your library in better shape for the next migration/upgrade. It is possible that the Music import routine assumes that the media folder should be iTunes Media, and simply ignores everything it cannot find. Mobile Applications in the library folder also points to an older layout which again, I guess, could potentially cause problems. See Make a split library portable - Apple Community for some background. If nothing else works you might need to get access to an computer running Mojave so you can rearrange the library into the standard shape before bringing it over to Catalina.


tt2

Oct 15, 2019 8:58 AM

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Oct 16, 2019 1:28 PM in response to turingtest2 In response to turingtest2

I also have a very similar issue...

1) Backed up iTunes folder to external drive

2) Wiped HD and installed Catalina from USB

3) Opened Music app and used import option to import all files from back up

4) Files no exist in Music/Media/Music folder

5) Turned off Sync Library option as I do not want to sync c. 200GB of music

Result is that my library just shows a few purchase from iTunes and not my library which h I can actually see on disc.


6) If I then also try to create a playlist and add a track it seems t try and re-download it to my Music library. I'm not sure why this has got so much more complex.

Oct 16, 2019 1:28 PM

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Oct 16, 2019 1:44 PM in response to reb_tribal In response to reb_tribal

Regarding 4) is Copy files... enabled under Music > Preferences > Files?

Regarding 5) do you have a subscription to either Apple Music or iTunes Match?


You could potentially access the old library by holding down option as you launch Music, clicking Choose Library... and browsing to the iTunes Library.itl file in your old iTunes folder on the external drive.


tt2

Oct 16, 2019 1:44 PM

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Oct 16, 2019 2:09 PM in response to reb_tribal In response to reb_tribal

4) Odd. They should have been imported unless Music > Preferences > Files has the copy files option turned off.

5) Normally you'd want your entire iCloud Music Library available unless you were testing things. In such a case you'd be better connecting to the original library rather than importing media into a new one, which requires everything to be reconciled with what is already in the cloud.


tt2

Oct 16, 2019 2:09 PM

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Oct 18, 2019 1:21 PM in response to turingtest2 In response to turingtest2

Ok, noticed a new behaviour. If I delete all the new "Music" libraries and launch the music app, it pops up this dialogue box:


When I select "Choose Library..." and point it at my "iTunes Library.itl" file, it doesn't like it and pops up the same dialogue box again. If instead I select "Create Library..." it launches and shows just my iTunes purchases, none of my ripped tracks. So the behaviour we are observing is not "half importing" or anything like that. It's actually not importing anything at all, as if the .itl file were not at all parseable.


If that doesn't give anyone any more ideas, I'll downgrade a second Mac to Mojave, install my iTunes library, and then upgrade to Catalina without reformatting. Let's see if that does anything.

Oct 18, 2019 1:21 PM

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Oct 18, 2019 1:51 PM in response to Orestes Chouchoulas In response to Orestes Chouchoulas

See Repair security permissions for iTunes for Mac - Apple Community to make sure Music is allowed to read the file.


Otherwise see Empty/corrupt iTunes/Music library after upgrade/crash - Apple Community to try repairing the library with a copy from the Previous iTunes Libraries folder. I'd suggest copying, pasting, and renaming as if you were going to open iTunes with rather than simply accessing the file in the Previous iTunes Libraries folder.


tt2

Oct 18, 2019 1:51 PM

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Oct 19, 2019 7:14 AM in response to turingtest2 In response to turingtest2

Hi tt2, neither of these helped I'm afraid. No issue with permissions, and the same behaviour persists with previous iTunes libraries.


So I downgraded a spare MacBook to Mojave, copied my iTunes Library over, and opened iTunes. Everything worked fine, artwork, playlists, tracks were all present. I consolidated and organised that library on Mojave, just in case. Then I upgraded the MacBook to Catalina without reformatting. I launched the Music app, and no music was present. I quit and option-launched the Music app, navigated to the .itl, and again, no music was brought in, exactly the same behaviour as before.


There must be a significant bug that prevents Music from seeing/upgrading some iTunes libraries at all.

Oct 19, 2019 7:14 AM

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Oct 24, 2019 8:50 AM in response to chocojun In response to chocojun

I submitted a bud report for this issue, linking to this discussion. Not sure how many people have a similar issue, but I suspect it would help to chime in on this thread if you are experiencing something similar and show that you are affected by the bug. From my testing, it looks like the fact that it was a clean installation did not matter.

Oct 24, 2019 8:50 AM

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Oct 30, 2019 11:35 AM in response to chocojun In response to chocojun

Just as an update, I just installed 10.15.1, which, according to the release notes (see What's new in the updates for macOS Catalina - Apple Support), “improves reliability of migrating iTunes library databases into the Music, Podcasts, and TV apps”. Unfortunately this has no effect on my library. The previously described behaviour persists, the library cannot be imported.

Oct 30, 2019 11:35 AM

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Question marked as Helpful

Oct 30, 2019 6:19 PM in response to Orestes Chouchoulas In response to Orestes Chouchoulas

Yes Yes! Finally I found someone with the same issue as me.. (Probably same as you) I have been using für 10+ years now and have put a lot of effort into organizing my music library which I cannot access anymore. This is heavily disappointing and I hope that Apple will deliver a solution soon!


Thanks for starting this thread, will definitely watch closely!



Oct 30, 2019 6:19 PM

Reply Helpful (5)
User profile for user: Orestes Chouchoulas

Question: Import iTunes library into clean installation of Catalina