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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Strange things are afoot in my iTunes Library

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

Earlier today, I went to play a song in Music on my iPhone. I’d bought it a few weeks ago, so it should have been in my Recently Added list, but when I scrolled through, there was no sign of it. I tried searching the library. It didn’t show up.

Missing iTunes Song

So I searched for the album, which did show up…but only showed the other song I had from that album. Weird. I started to question my memory of whether or not I’d actually bought the song, so I checked the iTunes Store. Sure enough, when I went to the album in the store, that track was listed as Purchased. But then I checked the Purchased list in the iTunes Store: no dice. I checked the iTunes Library on my MacBook: only the other song from that album. I checked the iTunes Library on my iMac: same result. Was Apple secretly deleting my music?!1

By this point, I’d puzzled aloud about this on Twitter, and received a variety of suggestions, including updating my iCloud Music Library (there’s no longer an ability to Update iTunes Match independently), logging out and back in to the iTunes Store, and logging out and back into iCloud.2

Twitter user Mario eventually reminded me of the ability to hide purchases, which I actually wrote a story about almost a year ago. So I opened up my account, and sure enough found both albums by this artist listed as hidden–even though I swear one of them had still been visible the whole time. I unhid them and the missing track returned to my iOS device–as of this writing, it still hasn’t showed up again in the iTunes Library on my MacBook.

But here’s the bigger question for me: how the hell did these tracks end up as hidden? According to Apple’s tech doc on the feature, you have to go through a number of specific steps to hide tracks, which I’m pretty sure I would have remembered doing. (Also, I would have needed a reason to hide those tracks.) Have I accidentally invoked some keyboard shortcut that bypasses all those steps? Did a glitch in iCloud accidentally choose to hide them? Is it perhaps possible that a mischievous imp living somewhere in Apple’s network is giggling furiously with itself? All totally valid possibilities.

By this point, pleas to fix iTunes have become a broken record (ha ha), but the addition of Apple Music and integration of the iCloud Music Library have definitely upped the complexity of the system. What’s most damning about this is the silent nature of the issue: it wasn’t something I was going to notice until I went looking for that song. In the end, everything worked out, which is great, but it doesn’t exactly give me a lot of confidence in a system where, say, my Mac might want to automatically decide which files it can safely store in the cloud.

  1. Spoiler: no. 
  2. That was a bridge too far, so I left it as a last resort. 

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at or reach him by email at His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is now available for pre-order.]

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