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Can I sync just my Apple Music playlists to my iPhone, without activating iCloud Music Library?

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I hope someone can help with this ... sorry if I'm being dim with the questions, but I'm having real trouble figuring out how iTunes is working these days.


Brief version: I don't want to use iCloud Music Library to have music/audio files synced to my iPhone - but I do want to be able to see the different Apple-Music-playlists I've set up on my iMac, so I can stream those from my iPhone as well. Is this possible? Can I sync just streaming playlists?


Further background: I've got iCloud Music Library activated for my iMac, but not on my iPhone. As far as I'm aware my iMac's library hasn't been corrupted or altered, although I haven't investigated too closely. But I don't want to activate it on my iPhone for fear of (1) getting everything messed up, (2) getting on an airplane and suddenly discovering all my music is no longer available. (Am I totally misunderstanding iCloud Music Library to fear that?)


But I'm enjoying the streaming with Apple Music because it gives me the chance to, for example, actually listen to different recordings of Winterreisse - something I've never been eager to spend the money on before. Finding those and, basically, bookmarking them is a lot easier on my iMac; can I then get those links easily synced to my iPhone? Can I just stream those Apple Music playlists, without going to the effort of searching for them yet again, and without worrying that iCloud Library is going to mess up all the files on my iPhone?


The one thing I've tried to do: I shared a playlist link to my (confused) wife, and attempted to then use that link from the Messages app on my iPhone - but on my iPhone, it wasn't a link, but rather just text.


(And is the way I want to use the iCloud Music Library / Apple Music completely bonkers? I'm increasingly concerned by how often Apple seems to make it impossible or difficult to use my devices the way I want to use them.)


Thanks in advance!

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The only way to copy anything from the cloud to an iOS device is to turn on iCloud Music Library on that device. You can, however, not turn it on, in iTunes and on the device, and not worry about your library being changed by Apple.


I'm surprised that link showed up as text, rather than a link that, when clicked, would tell you that you can subscribe to Apple Music.

I write about Macs, music, and more at Kirkville.

Author of Take Control of macOS Media Apps

Co-host of The Next Track podcast.

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Thanks - interestingly, and to my surprise, when I e-mailed the playlist to myself, and then opened that link in Mail on my iPhone, it did copy over and play properly, so it is possible to send a playlist. But in a confusing way - it appeared, and I started playing it somewhere in the middle, and then clicked over into some other menus. And then I was unable to find the playlist again - Up Next showed me the following items on the playlist, but as far as I can tell it was impossible to see the whole playlist again, or go back to earlier items in it. It doesn't seem to be saved anywhere within the Music app, although I can open it again from Mail.


When viewing the playlist as it first appears, I tried pressing "+", and yes indeed it's as you said: "To add songs, albums, and playlists to My Music, enable iCloud Music Library in the Settings app." But I'm scared of doing that.


So, if I've got this right, I basically cannot bookmark anything in Apple Music on my iOS device without also having Apple (rather unreliably) cloud-sync everything to it. That seems ... odd. So they're not letting me keep audiobooks and music files in the same app, but they're tying these two functions together?


A workaround that seems to work and may actually be useful for me:

  1. In iTunes, click on the Share button, and choose "Copy Link".
  2. Open Notes on my iMac, and paste the link into there.
  3. Open Notes on my iPhone, and then click on the pasted link. The Music app then opens and begins the playlist.

As I type, this has worked with your Grateful Dead playlist.


Hm. So if I want to use Apple Music playlists on an iOS device, without turning on iCloud Music Library, I can bookmark playlists in Notes. That's unexpected.

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