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I occasionally purchase songs from Apple via iTunes. I really like this because it gives me access to the physical .m4a files that I can manually back up to listen to anywhere, offline, even if my Apple account gets closed or Apple goes bankrupt in the far future.

But iTunes only runs on Windows and macOS, which is a drawback. (I currently keep around a laptop with Windows on it, just for use as an iTunes terminal. But this is a bit annoying when compared with Bandcamp and Amazon MP3, which let me use any standard web browser to download my music.)

So my question is: does Apple offer any access to my (paid) music library’s .m4a files from a standard web browser such as Firefox or Chrome?


Stuff I already checked

I have already signed in to https://music.apple.com/ and https://beta.music.apple.com/, but I can’t check those since I’m not currently subscribed to Apple Music. (Does that site provide .m4a downloads if I were to subscribe? I can’t find any clear information confirming or denying this.)

This is not a duplicate of Is there a way to access and stream one's iTunes music collection from a web browser? because the Accepted answer (and every other answer) requires either iTunes, Windows, or both; additionally, they don’t actually grant access to the .m4a files. I’m asking if there’s any access to the .m4a files for a standard web browser, not “a web browser plus the iTunes desktop client plus some 3rd-party server software”.


Clarifications

I’m only asking whether I can download .m4a files from Apple with a standard web browser, or if dedicated software like the iTunes Desktop Client is required.


If there really is no authorized way to download my paid library’s .m4a files with a standard web browser, I would also be interested to know that.

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    What's actually wrong with just keeping all your files locally - as was the intention right from the start of iTunes? You buy some 'tunes', you have local copies to push to your iPod, etc. iTunes was the 'master' containing songs purchased from Apple, plus all the old CDs you ripped.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 16:52
  • Thanks for the flag and new question - I'm curious what part of this guide isn't in alignment with your question: support.apple.com/guide/music-web/… It seems Apple now has precisely what you seek, but perhaps I'm missing something specific in your setup. It says you don't use Windows or macOS but not what you are intending to use.
    – bmike
    Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 17:15
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    @bmike - that's like Spotify, but perhaps worse - you can listen to a minute of anything before being nagged to sign up, but you can't find your own music. It's like having 10,000 radio stations but no hope of finding the one you actually want.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 18:29
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    Thanks for the edit. So the whole question could be shortened to "How can I buy and download audio tracks from Apple's Music Store without using iTunes/Apple Music", which has a simple answer: you can't.
    – nohillside
    Commented Sep 9, 2023 at 13:30
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    Also: Part of the confusion both in the comments and the existing answer come from the fact that a significant part of the question text focuses on things you don't want. You could avoid all that by shortening the question down to the essential part (which probably is one or two short paragraphs only).
    – nohillside
    Commented Sep 9, 2023 at 14:13

1 Answer 1

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No web client to purchase and download. Once the files are downloaded, it’s your call how you consume, host and back them up.

Purchase or download requires a Mac or a PC or an iPad or an iPhone and use of Apple’s free to install programs to download - not a web browser.

  • You may access our Services only using Apple’s software, and may not modify or use modified versions of such software.
  • You may not manipulate play counts, downloads, ratings, or reviews via any means — such as (i) using a bot, script, or automated process; or (ii) providing or accepting any kind of compensation or incentive.
  • You may not use any software, device, automated process, or any similar or equivalent manual process to scrape, copy, or perform measurement, analysis, or monitoring of, any portion of the Content or Services.

The license for purchased music also stipulates you have to use Apple apps to consume the files. Whether someone has reverse engineered the protocol or Apple apps or if it’s technically possible, I will leave for others to answer.

Yes for streaming - Apple provides web services at http://music.apple.com to access your entire library on the web. “Your library” is inclusive of all things subscribed or purchased from Apple and songs you brought to the library from another digital purchase or rip/recording traded song. This is a fairly new development and also compliments the availability of Apple Music (or your iTunes music library when synced up to Apple servers) on Android:

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  • Of course you have to pay them for this service. It’s pretty clear that’s how it works @JamesTheAwesomeDude - you’d have to host your downloaded music yourself if you don’t like apple’s hosting costs and features. I’ll incorporate the now deleted comments to make this comment and my edits make sense.
    – bmike
    Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 21:20
  • I'm asking if I can download the songs—not just vaguely "access" them—I want the actual .m4a files that I can back up myself to keep offline copies of forever. Your suggestion would incur an additional 11 USD/month cost, but would it even answer my question as-asked, or is it only a suggestion for a streaming service? Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 16:34
  • Honestly, I thought you wanted the streaming service @JamesTheAwesomeDude since I read all the things you didn’t want it was the logical conclusion I reached. Here is the purchase option… support.apple.com/en-us/HT211330 and I will edit my comment and the answer to make sense after you cleaned up several comments. Thanks for the ping and questions!
    – bmike
    Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 17:21

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