After iTunes: macOS Catalina and the New Media Apps

macOS Catalina was released yesterday, and users are starting to discover this new operating system. It has plenty of interesting features, but there’s one big change for people who use their Macs to manage and play media. iTunes has been replaced by four apps, each of which manages a specific type of content:

  • Music: This app, which retains the core features of iTunes, manages both a local music library and a library in the cloud. It also gives users access to Apple Music, which offers streaming of more than 50 million tracks. The Music app can also store and play back music videos.
  • TV: video management features in iTunes, the TV app lets users manage a local movie and TV show library, as well as providing storage for home videos (these can be videos of your family, as well as rips of DVDs you own). In addition, it is the gateway to Apple’s large offering of movies that you can buy or rent from the iTunes Store and Apple TV+, Apple’s forthcoming streaming service, which will offer original content starting in late 2019.
  • Podcasts: Just as iTunes managed podcasts, allowing you to find, subscribe to, download, and listen to episodes of your favorite podcasts, the Podcasts app does this, and nothing more.
  • Books: The Books app, which has existed for a few years to manage ebooks, has expanded its reach, and now manages audiobooks, which had previously been the purview of iTunes.

In addition, the interfaces of these apps have been simplified, though there are two distinct styles of interface. The Music app is fairly minimalist, with all navigation done from the sidebar, whereas iTunes 12 required a combination of the sidebar, the Media Picker (a pop-up menu above the sidebar), and a series of tabs at the top-center of the window, to navigate different types of content. The Podcasts app presents a similar stripped-down look, but the TV and Books app do have tabs at the tops of their windows to allow you to navigate between local content and that from the iTunes Store.

For while the iTunes name is gone on the Mac desktop, the iTunes Store still exists, and is broken up into content-specific stores in each app (with the exception of the Podcasts app, which features a podcast directory, but doesn’t call it part of the iTunes Store). And the iTunes Store is not going anywhere soon, for two reasons. First, because Apple has a lot of content to sell you; and, second, because Windows users are not seeing this split into four apps. For them, iTunes continues to function as before, and Apple has not said whether they are bringing these new apps to that platform.

There are other changes: features that have been removed or replaced.

But one of the biggest changes is that the locations where media files are stored has changed. This is especially important for people with large libraries, notably with lots of podcasts and audiobooks. These latter types of content are stored on your startup disk, inside you home folder, and it’s not easy to move them to an external drive.

So, before you upgrade to macOS Catalina, if your media is important to you, read the articles linked above so you know what’s changed before you take the leap.

Learn more about the new media apps that replace iTunes in macOS Catalina in my new book, Take Control of macOS Media Apps.

37 thoughts on “After iTunes: macOS Catalina and the New Media Apps

  1. My iTunes Library is on an external drive, as it’s 600GB and larger than my iMac internal drive. This is almost exclusively music I have uploaded from my CDs.
    What will happen to this library if I upgrade to Catalina? Will it stay where it is and be accessible using the new Music App?

  2. My first impression of the new Music app is the loss of my music artwork. I don’t understand what happened. My music library is 8 TB. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ve already sent a bug report to Apple.

  3. Thanks for the reply. I had read that but didn’t know if the situation had changed since the beta in June. I’ll go ahead and upgrade to Catalina.

  4. In the new TV app on Mac, when displaying Movies in list view, does anyone see how to display the Artist field so that I can sort / filer on artist name?

    • There is no Artist tag for movies. But if you right-click one any of the list headers, you can choose which columns display, then sort by any of the columns.

  5. Crazy question: I download podcasts from within iTunes and then convert those podcast files to music files so they are easier to manually manage. Currently, in iTunes that’s easy to do: For one track or a group of tracks, go to the media kind dropdown menu under Options and change it from Podcast to Music. With the walls erected between Podcasts and Music apps, is that still possible? Can I take a podcast file from the Podcasts app, change it to a music file and migrate it to the Music app?

    • I just tried dragging a podcast episode to the Desktop, then adding it to the Music app. It doesn’t get added to the app; nothing happens. So apparently it’s reading the metadata and seeing it’s a podcast, and refusing it. There might be a way to run podcast episodes through another app to change that metadata, but I don’t know how.

      • I have just found a work-around to this issue. After the podcast is downloaded in Podcasts, go to the file location (~/Library/Group Containers/ and select Open With > Music. Once it starts playing in Music it will appear on your song list (but will not be editable), but if you convert it to mp3 through File > Convert it will create a new track which it classifies as music and is fully editable

  6. The column browser would be a big loss. (Holding off on Catalina for a while because of several old 32-bit apps I don’t want to give up yet…) Anyone hear suggestions on whether it’ll make a comeback? I know the loss of star ratings on iOS was temporary, so I’m hoping.

  7. I do something similar to ssplank above, converting podcasts to music via files> convert to aac ( I’m fairly sure, but am away from my Mac right now). Is there any mechanism in the podcasts app to export or change file type before dragging into Music?

    • No, there is no tagging interface for podcasts. The Podcasts app is a Catalyst app, so it doesn’t allow for multiple windows.

  8. I get random brief bursts of static/noise during playback of Apple Music tunes in the new Music app. This is on a 2018 13″ MacBook Pro, USB out to a high quality PeachTree amplifier.

  9. Is the ability to sync specific playlists from Mac to iPhone gone in Catalina? I don’t sync my music to iCloud.

  10. Anybody figured out yet whether audiobooks will now be synced to iCloud, as books now are, in the Books app? I think it’s a distinct possibility because both types are now backed by the same container, but I’d love confirmation. It might prove to be the only ray of light in this whole omnishambles.

    • No, and in the Books preferences, it only says Sync collections, bookmarks, and highlights. Ebooks and Pdfs do sync to the cloud, so this isn’t clear. I wouldn’t expect content of that size to go to iCloud. Remember, in Music, most of the music is expected to be matched.

      This said, if you buy audiobooks from Apple, then they do sync; like any purchased content, they’re available on all your devices. This isn’t new.

      • Right, well here’s an article from Apple, and it (and the article it links) very strongly hints that audiobooks may now very well be going to iCloud, even when you import them.

        This, and the fact that my phone will no longer accommodate my lossless rips, significantly changes the equation for me. If I swallow the bitter pill of a monthly recurring payment for iCloud storage, then it’s just possible that I can make the new arrangements work without too much insanity even on my smallest devices or with internal drives only (notwithstanding the adverse UI changes already discussed). I’ve already moved to the cloud for books because book sync is just so very obviously broken and isn’t getting fixed, so I might as well see about pushing everything else up to the cloud as well, seeing as how it’s the only way to get the kind of experience I am after. Obviously, I resent this bare-faced push for the cloud by Apple, but I suppose …

        I believe the trick, as with e-books, shall be to maintain a separate, offline copy of my audiobook library, and update it independently with each new addition, in case of disaster, or to restore quickly for a new install. Then the Music app will be the only app left that can work directly with my library on my server (I don’t back up my DRM videos, on principle, though I appreciate that I can now maintain my movie library in a separate directory in case I need to).

        Thanks for all your commentary, Kirk. It’s been very helpful.

        • In the article yours links to, it clearly says purchased:

          To see books or audiobooks you purchased on other devices, view your account information in Books on the device, then download the items.

          • In the article that I linked, the text (and link) that is giving me hope is this bit:

            If you have imported books, audiobooks and PDFs on your other devices, you can use iCloud for Books to see them on your Mac.

            I won’t have the means to test this until I upgrade my iMac to Catalina. You can be sure that I will be testing this for myself because this is basically what clinches it for me, at least until things change. I just can’t have significant portions of my audiobook library on my boot drives.

  11. Oops, forgot to ask: is there any way to up the volume level in Podcasts (besides adjusting the system volume)? I did this routinely in iTunes and would hate to lose it, though it looks as though that’s gone as well as in iOS.

      • Thanks Kirk, but isn’t this just the master volume? In iTunes you could boost the podcast volume, i.e. set the volume level above 50% for the selected podcast(s) by opening the Get Info dialog and going to the Advanced tab. Is there any way to achieve that in Podcasts?

        • Sorry, you weren’t clear. I thought you meant the app, not individual podcast episodes. No, that’s not available; there is no Info window for tagging or other options in Podcasts, nor in Books for that matter.

          • You’re right. I was hasty. Thanks for the clarification. I’m very much afraid that all these changes are just making me angry. I am going to have to go away for a bit and decide what to do about this, but I can’t help feeling that even iTunes for Windows is not such a terrible refuge anymore. 🙁

  12. How did you make the connection? Mine was no longer associated with an iTunes library (Don’t recall why I broke the connection). When I enter iTunes Remote -> Settings -> Add an iTunes Library. I get the four digit code….but nothing in Music. There is no Remote button to click on.

  13. On and In other forums there are a lot of same complaints and I myself have the same problem: after updating from mojave using on the actual iOS the itunes-remote-app connects to my music-database on my mac. I can see my music, but not start playing or do other controls.
    Why it works for you?


  14. My music app is very slow. When I do shift+comand+F to search for a song, it takes too long to write in the search bar. My library is big, but on iTunes I had no problem with that. Do you know any way to fix it? Thank you.

    • I noticed that during the betas, but I don’t see it as much any more. Large library? Stored on a hard drive as opposed to an SSD? Not a lot of RAM? All those things could contribute.

  15. A year and an operating system upgrade later, we still have pretty much the same features in the new media apps. For some use cases, they’re just not very good.

    Any 2021 recommendations for third-party replacements for iTunes, for folks who just want to manage a medium-large local music library (mostly ripped CDs, plus Bandcamp, etc. MP3s)?

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