How to Delete Music from Your iPhone But Not From iTunes or iCloud Music Library

You’ve been curating your music for years, the last thing you want to do is accidentally delete music from your iTunes library that you want to keep in your collection. Yet our devices can only hold so many gigabytes of data, which means deleting music from our iPhones or iPads becomes an important practice once our collection has grown too large. Especially if you have Apple Music, it’s good to know the difference between deleting a song from your iPhone and deleting a song from iCloud Music Library or iTunes. Here’s how to delete music from your iPhone but not from iTunes, plus a couple extra tips for managing music storage on your device.

Related: Buying A New iPhone? Your Guide to a Seamless Transition

Table of Contents:

How to Delete Music from iPhone But Not iTunes (With Apple Music)

How to Delete Songs from iPhone But Not iTunes (Without Apple Music)

How to Remove a Song from Your iPhone but Not iCloud Music Library

How to Delete a Song from Your iTunes Library (Mac or PC)

How to Optimize Music Storage with iOS 10 

Whether you’re subscribed to Apple Music or not, you can keep music downloaded on your iPhone. There are subtle differences between deleting music from an iPhone with Apple Music and deleting music from an iPhone without Apple Music—so we’ll go over both. When it comes to deleting music from your iPhone but not from iTunes, you can’t accidentally delete a song from your iTunes library on your iPhone. If you're subscribed to Apple Music, you can, however, remove it from your iCloud Music Library. When a song is deleted from your iCloud Music Library, it is removed from all devices and your general iCloud Music Library collection. If you don’t have Apple Music, the song is simply deleted from all of your devices. To delete a song from your personal music collection in iTunes, you’ll need to get on your computer. We’ll cover all facets of this and include from where a song is deleted in each case below.

How to Delete Music from iPhone But Not iTunes (With Apple Music)

This is also how to remove a song from your iCloud Music Library. When subscribed to Apple Music (or iTunes Match), you have access to iCloud Music Library. The iCloud Music Library allows you to have access to your music on your iPhone (and all other devices) without the song being downloaded to your device. You’re able to play songs in your iCloud Music LIbrary that aren’t stored locally on your device when connected to Wi-Fi or cellular data. Keeping songs in the cloud is a good way to save space on your iPhone. When you delete a song from Apple Music, you are deleting that song from your iCloud Music Library and all of your devices connected to the Apple ID associated with your iCloud Music Library. However, if you want to delete a song you own within your iTunes library, you’ll need to get on your computer. To delete a song from your iPhone:

  • Open the Music app and find the song you want to delete.
  • If you’re on iOS 9, you can tap the three dots next to the song.

  • If you’re using iOS 10 or later, 3D Touch the song to bring up your options.
  • If you’re using iOS 10 or later on a device without 3D Touch, tap and hold the song to bring up the menu.
  • Select Remove... from the list.
  • To delete the song from your iPhone and iCloud Music library on all other devices, tap Delete from Library. Deleting a song from your library will also remove the download.

When you delete an Apple Music song from your iCloud Music Library, you will need to redownload that song in order to have it again. Alternatively, you could simply remove the song’s download from your iPhone, thereby keeping it stored and part of your iCloud Music Library collection.

How to Delete Songs from iPhone But Not iTunes (Without Apple Music)

When you’re not subscribed to Apple Music, all songs you sync from iTunes are stored locally on your device. When you delete a song from your iPhone, you remove it from all of your devices. However, the song you delete from your iPhone will still be available in your iTunes library or via your iTunes purchases. To delete a song from iPhone when not subscribed to Apple Music:

  • Open the Music app and find the song you want to remove from your iPhone.
  • If you’re on iOS 9, you can tap the three dots next to the song.

  • If you’re using iOS 10 or later, 3D Touch the song to bring up your options.
  • If you’re using iOS 10 or later on a device without 3D Touch, tap and hold the song to bring up the menu.
  • Select Delete from Library.
  • Confirm Delete Song.

The song will be removed from all of your devices. On iPhone, you can redownload the song by visiting the iTunes store and restoring your purchase of the song. If it's a song you own (have downloaded from someone other than the iTunes Store), the song will still be available in iTunes on your computer.

How to Remove a Song from Your iPhone but Not Your iCloud Music Library

When you’re subscribed to Apple Music, iCloud Music Library is the home for all of your songs. If you use the tip above to delete a song from your iCloud Music Library, you’ll have to open Apple Music, find it, and add the song to your iCloud Music Library once more.

This tip, however, allows you to simply remove the download of the song on your iPhone. Doing so is the best of both worlds because the song will remain in your collection yet it won’t take up space on your iPhone. To remove a song from your iPhone but not your iCloud Music Library:

  • Open the Music app and find the song you want to remove the download of.
  • If you’re on iOS 9, you can tap the three dots next to the song.
  • If you’re using iOS 10 or later, 3D Touch the song to bring up your options.
  • If you’re using iOS 10 or later on a device without 3D Touch, tap and hold the song to bring up the menu.
  • Tap Remove… from the list.
  • Select Remove Download.

How to Delete a Song from Your iTunes Library (Mac or PC)

If you still own music—as in have the files on your computer, imported into iTunes for use with your device—then you can use this tip to delete said music forever. If it’s music you’ve purchased from iTunes, you can delete it and still be able to download it later by restoring your purchases. If it’s an Apple Music song, it’s part of your iCloud Music Library and will be deleted from said library. But if it’s a song you imported from a CD or downloaded from a different place on the internet, then you can really, truly delete the song and its file from your computer’s hard drive. To delete a song from your iTunes library:

  • Open iTunes on your Mac or PC. It doesn’t matter which you have in this case— once the software is downloaded, it’s roughly the same on both Mac and PC.
  • Locate the song you want to delete. (*note that you can also multi-select songs to be deleted).
  • Right-click on the song.
  • Click Delete.
  • It will ask if you want to keep the file on your computer or delete the file. If you keep the file, you can always change your mind and import the song to iTunes later. If you delete the file, it will be moved to your computer’s trash bin.

How to Optimize Music Storage with iOS 10

Optimizing your iPhone music storage in iOS 10 is pretty easy to do and completely automatic. Optimizing storage on iPhone means selecting a minimum amount of storage your music can take up and allowing your iPhone to remove the downloads of all that extra music you rarely listen to. I love this feature because it helps me create more storage on my iPhone automatically while keeping all my music available in the iCloud Music Library. To turn on automatic music storage optimization:

  • Open the Settings app.
  • Tap Music.
  • Select Optimize Storage.
  • Toggle on Optimize Storage.
  • Under Minimum Storage you’ll see five options: None, 4 GB, 8 GB, 16 GB, and 32 GB.
  • Select the amount of music you want your iPhone to keep downloaded on your iPhone.

When your music storage capacity exceeds the limit selected, your iPhone will automatically remove the downloads of music you rarely listen to. 
 
 
Top image credit: GongTo / Shutterstock.com
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Becca is a blogger, freelance writer, and iDevice addict. She lives in the middle of the Arizona desert with her husband and two boys, and can't imagine life getting any better. Read about her crazy life at MyCrazyGoodLife.com, or connect with her on twitter @BeccaLudlum