Apple Music Not Playing Downloaded Songs (Offline Not Working)

In short: If Apple Music offline is not playing downloaded songs, switch “Cellular Streaming” on Apple Music to “None” and then activate Airplane Mode. If it doesn’t work, disable both the “Dolby Atmos” and “Download in Dolby Atmos” options, and redownload all offline songs.

Apple Music is a great streaming service, but it’s known for being lacking in the “playing downloaded songs” department, which is pretty much what it’s supposed to be used for.

I’m confident that if you read this article and try each troubleshooting step one by one, you should be able to solve the “Apple Music not playing downloaded songs while offline” problem.

I suggest you try one – if it works, great. If not, move on to the next.

Play from the “Downloads” tab, not “Listen Now”

Here’s one of the most random things I’ve noticed about Apple Music. If you try to play a song from the “Listen Now” tab (recently played list) it will always prefer to play via stream.

The trick is to play your downloaded songs from your library. Or better yet, navigate to the Downloaded section and try to play your offline songs from there.

Open the Apple Music app, navigate to Library, then tap on Downloaded to see all of your downloaded music, including playlists, albums, and songs.

It’s a simple troubleshooting tip, but works most of the time. Apple Music has a tendency to play downloaded songs when the song is selected directly from your library.

Turn on Airplane Mode (disable Wi-Fi and mobile data)

If Apple Music offline is not working (not playing downloaded songs), it could be that you’re in an area with poor reception or a bad internet connection signal (slow and patchy).

When it comes to playing downloaded songs on Apple Music, having a bad internet connection is worse than having none at all. To solve this issue, activate Airplane Mode.

Sometimes, when I’m exploring a rural area with a poor signal, I activate Airplane Mode to force the downloaded songs to play. If Apple Music thinks there’s a signal, it always gets stuck.

The same is true when a Wi-Fi network is slow.

The downloaded songs won’t play until I disable the poor Wi-Fi connection. I don’t understand why Apple Music would try to stream songs when I already have the downloaded version.

For some reason, I think that Apple Music prioritizes streaming a song over the downloaded version. Every time I turn on Airplane Mode, all my downloaded songs play with no problem.

I’m sure it’s trying to communicate that the song is being played and perhaps prioritize streaming, which I understand, but it can be annoying. Spotify has done the same thing as well.

Just remember to disable Airplane Mode once you’re somewhere with a good internet connection because you still need to verify you’re paying for the Apple Music subscription.

Otherwise, a person can just download everything and cancel.

Don’t allow Apple Music access to Cellular Data

Assuming you have some downloaded songs, you can prevent Apple Music from using mobile data. This forces the app to play the only available songs, which are your downloads.

Open Settings, tap Music and disable the Cellular Data toggle. Now, Apple Music won’t be able to use cellular data for streaming, updating your library, and loading artwork.

Switch “Cellular Streaming” on Apple Music to “None”

Remember what I said about Apple Music prioritizing streaming over playing downloaded songs? You can actually command Apple Music to not stream music via cellular data.

On your iPhone, open the Settings app and tap Music. Under the AUDIO section, tap Audio Quality. Tap Cellular Streaming and select “None” from the list of options.

After you’ve selected “None” for Cellular Streaming, Apple Music won’t stream anything over cellular data and would be forced to play the songs you’ve downloaded.

You’ll be able to listen to music you’ve downloaded to your phone or stream music over a Wi-Fi network. This setting is only recommended if you’d like to use less cellular data.

Once you’ve selected “None” for Cellular Streaming, you can also double down by turning on Airplane Mode when you want to listen to your downloaded songs.

Enable content and privacy restrictions, then disable it

This is a specific troubleshooting step recommended to me by Apple Support. I don’t fully understand the logic behind this, but for some reason, it worked for me and some people.

First, you’ll need to turn Cellular Streaming off.

On your iPhone, open the Settings app and tap Music. Under the AUDIO section, tap Audio Quality. Tap Cellular Streaming and select “None” from the list of options.

Next, go back to the previous window (Music) and disable the Sync Library toggle. You’ll need to wait for at least 30 seconds, then enable the Sync Library toggle (green).

My guess is that this action triggers the Sync Library feature to kick into action, which means any changes you make to your library will sync across all your devices.

Lastly, set your device’s content and privacy restrictions.

On your iPhone, open the Settings app and tap Screen Time. Tap on Content & Privacy Restrictions, then turn on Content & Privacy Restrictions.

Wait for at least 10 seconds, then turn it OFF again.

To be honest, I don’t know why screen time had anything to do with Apple Music not playing downloaded songs, but these specific steps solved the issue for me.

Disable “Dolby Atmos” and “Download in Dolby Atmos”

I’ve written a lot about the problems between Dolby Atmos and Apple Music on this website. Not only does the feature cause the app to skip songs, but it also stops playback as well.

So, if Apple Music is not playing downloaded songs, disable both the “Dolby Atmos” and “Download in Dolby Atmos” options. Then, redownload all of your offline songs.

You can find both options after you open the Settings app and tap Music.

When you download in Dolby Atmos, a song comes with both the Dolby Atmos version and the stereo AAC version. They are downloaded as one file though, not two separate files.

Basically, whatever version you download, it will continuously play that version. However, there seems to be an ongoing issue with the Dolby Atmos version of downloaded songs.

This is the reason why I think you should always disable Dolby Atmos when listening to Apple Music, especially if your setup doesn’t support Dolby Atmos (not compatible).

After disabling Dolby Atmos and redownloading all of my offline songs, I’ve yet to encounter the problem again. A lot of people have also found success by turning off Dolby Atmos.

Disable “Lossless Audio” entirely

This particular solution is worth a shot, especially if you have a problem with the playback of downloaded songs while offline (where a song would stop after 15 seconds).

Disable the “Lossless Audio” toggle. You’ll also need to change the download quality from lossless (ALAC) to stereo (AAC), and redownload all your offline songs.

On your iPhone, open the Settings app and tap Music. Under the AUDIO section, tap Audio Quality. Make sure that the Lossless Audio toggle is disabled (gray instead of green).

Once you’ve disabled Lossless Audio, inspect the Downloads quality. You’ll need to change it to the “High Quality” option, which will download the AAC version.

After you’ve done this, delete all your offline songs and redownload them.

For some reason, Apple Music often has trouble playing the lossless version of downloaded songs when it’s offline but never has trouble playing the original stereo version.

If you’re a casual listener like me, just turn Lossless Audio off. It doesn’t even work with AirPods anyways. Even if it did work with AirPods the difference would be virtually imperceptible.

Personally, I can’t hear the difference.

Redownload your songs often

Like Spotify, Apple Music is an amazing streaming platform that lets you listen to songs offline. However, you should remember that it’s a streaming service, which means you “rent” songs.

While the company never explicitly explains what’s going on, you are ultimately paying for a license to stream, not own songs. So, any offline download has an expiry date.

Similar to Netflix and other streaming apps, the offline downloaded songs only last about 30 days before it’s deleted by Apple Music due to licensing agreements.

Remember, Apple Music prioritizes streaming over offline listening, so the best thing you can do is to check your settings and redownload your songs at least once a month.

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