MacMost Now 703: Five Ways To Share Music In iTunes

There are many ways to share music between computers and user accounts with iTunes. The one you choose depends on with which devices and computers your are sharing. iTunes Match may be the ultimate method for a single person, but iTunes Home Sharing allows you to share music with other people whom have separate iTunes accounts.

Video Transcript
Hi this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode let's look at all the different ways that you can share music in iTunes with other users.
So there are five primary methods for sharing iTunes music news and media between different computers and devices in your home. First you could use iTunes Sharing, but you can also use a different function called iTunes Home Sharing. You could also share the entire media folder between users and computers, or you could share individual files between users and computers. You can also use iTunes Match. Which method you want to use depends on exactly what you want to do and who you want to share your media with.
So the simplest method is turn on iTunes Sharing. You go to iTunes preferences and in there you go to the Sharing tab and you turn on Share My Library. Now, what will happen then is other users in your same network, so other users in your house who have Sharing turned on will be able to see your iTunes library as long as you computer is on and iTunes is running. Then they could play, basically stream, over your network, any song in your library. So they are not actually getting the song, they are just temporarily able to stream it.
Similar to that, but it's a actually a completely separate functionality, is something called Home Sharing. This is different. You go into preferences and go to Advance and you turn on Home Sharing. When you do they you have to enter in an Apple ID and other computers on the same network that use the same Apple ID for Home Sharing will see each other and be able to stream music just like regular Sharing. So for instance, I turn on Home Sharing on this Mac and also my Macbook air. I click on it here over on the Shared list over here and I can see music,movies, all this stuff. This is all stuff stored on my Macbook Air, not here. Now I can double click on anything to play it, stream it just like with Sharing. But in addition to that, the cool thing is that I could also select something and drag it into my regular library. So here is the Shared library down here, this is my local library here. I can copy the music from the Macbook Air which is what I'm viewing over to my local iTunes library. So this ability to copy items from other computers into your own iTunes library is the big difference between Home Sharing and regular Sharing. For some copy protected things you may actually need to go into Store and authorize this computer for that Apple ID. So you can actually have multiple authorizations. For instance, if you and your spouse both have you own Macs, you can authorize your account and your spouse's account on your Mac and your account and your spouse's account on their Mac, use Home Sharing to copy files back and forth. Since you're both authorized to play things from both accounts everything should work.
In episode 631, I showed you how to take the iTunes media folder, which you can usually find; MacMost is my username here. You go down to music and go into iTunes and there is the media folder, and that is where all your stuff is stored. You can actually place that in a shared location. For instance, if I go into iTunes Preferences and in Preferences here I go to Advance, you see I've got this thing where I can set the location of the iTunes media folder, that's the location I just showed you. I can change it to somewhere else, so I can move my entire media folder to a shared location, say a network drive or a share drive on my computer, and then other computers can actually use the same media folder. It is important too only do this if all the computers always have access to this is media folder at all times which isn't usually the case unless you have a network drive. This is best done if you have a single individuals who has multiple Macs and you want to share that iTunes library across a user can't and your own Mac or across multiple Macs that you ow, maybe a network drive. This isn't really ideal for sharing something among other family members or people in your house.
Suppose you want to share music between users but you don't have duplicate copies of it, you only have a copy in each iTunes library. What you could do then is turn off this key setting, Copy files to iTunes media folder when adding to library. So what happens here is you've got in the finder a media folder, like I showed you before, and in there you've got your albums and your music and that's just yours. You can create in a shared location, like say under User Shared,a folder, any name you want, I just called it My Music and just put music here; these are just mp3 files. When you drag and drop these into iTunes, like so, what will happen is instead of them being copied into your library, the library will just link them at the share location. That is why it is important that the shared location be accessible at all time, some sort of share drive or a Mac that's always on. Then multiple people can have access to the same music, but the actual mp3 files are in one location. But everybody's got separate iTunes libraries they can organize and create playlists and do all that. In this case, if you download a new thing from iTunes it will put it into the iTunes media folder, because that is where purchases are put,so you have to move it manually out of the iTunes media folder into the shared location. Then users can drag and drop it into their copy of iTunes and it will remain in that spot for share.This is the key thing, a lot of people make the mistake of trying to share their entire music folder or their entire iTunes library with everyone. This leads to trouble because you've got multiple users trying to do things like maybe download apps, set up playlists, rate songs, do all sorts of organizational things. Instead you should focus on sharing the media and everybody having their own iTunes library. You've got the media in one place, turned off that Copy to iTunes media folder option and now people can share these mp3 files in their own library. The files are in one location but everybody has their own library that accesses them.
If you don't have a network drive that's always on or a Mac that is always on,so everybody can always connect to it, then Home Sharing is probably your best bet. It doesn't mean having duplicate copies of the music on these computer but unless you have a massive iTunes library it probably doesn't matter. In this way, you could travel with your Mac and have all your music available there.
If your goal is to share between Macs for one person, so all using the same Apple ID, then the ultimate solution now is iTunes Match. Not only do you have access across all your computers while at home but you have access while you are away since it's all stored in the cloud, and you are not cluttering your hard drive with lots of music because it's all in the cloud and you're accessing it as you need it. Another great thing about iTunes Match is that it works on iOS devices so you can use it on your iPhone, on your iPad and of course as well as your Apple TV.
So plain iTunes Sharing works best for just quickly streaming a song from one match to the other on a temporary basis. iTunes Home Sharing works best if you've got multiple users on multiple computers and you want to be able to share files between them copying from one machine to the other. It also works great for streaming stuff to Apple Tv and iOS devices. Sharing an entire media folder works best if you have a network drive or a Mac that's always on and always accessible to everybody and you want everybody to have exactly the same music in all of their iTunes libraries. Now just sharing the media files by themselves that works great if you also have something that's always on and available, and you want everybody to have something different music in there. They can just basically pick and choose from a central location what music is in their library. Using iTunes Match works best if you've got just one user and you've got multiple devices and you want to have access to all your music everywhere even away from your network.
So there's a look at five different ways to share your iTunes media. Until next time this is Gary with MacMost Now.

Comments: 39 Responses to “MacMost Now 703: Five Ways To Share Music In iTunes”

    5/1/12 @ 2:55 pm

    I’d like to first mention what an extremely useful tutorial it was, but I have one question:
    You said that a network drive could be used as a central location for the media files and then everyone has their own ratings/playlists etc. Could I use a cloud based location such as dropbox to keep my mac and PC iTunes libraries in sync, whilst also keeping the data (ratings/playlists etc) in sync also. Furthermore, how would this affect my internet download/upload usage (my iTunes Music folder is 14GB)?

      5/1/12 @ 3:31 pm

      1. When you use Dropbox, the files are on your hard drive. They just sync between locations. So it would mean everyone has a copy of every song. It would be the same as giving everyone a copy of every song, except Dropbox would do the copying automatically and charge you for the massively huge use of drive space and bandwidth (and your ISP perhaps as well).
      2. This would not keep playlists and ratings in sync as that’s part of your library. To do that you’d need everyone to share the exact same library, which is not a good idea any way you do it.

    5/2/12 @ 5:12 pm

    So you mentioned music what about photos. Sharing from hotel isn’t good when traveling. Hotel internet is slow.

      5/2/12 @ 5:36 pm

      Completely different story. And it depends on what you mean by “sharing” — Sharing via Flickr, Picasa, Photo Bucket, etc are what comes to mind. But I have a feeling that you mean sharing a huge iPhoto library.

    5/3/12 @ 7:38 pm

    Great tutorial Gary, (just looked and I know it’s kind of old now, so sorry)

    1 thing that I have noticed that is nearly always neglected when this type of story is published, is the data usage issue with iTunes match, easy to get a big surprises when out and about and 3g usage is turned on, on an iOS device, also if you don’t happen to have a large data package at home.

    5/9/12 @ 1:55 pm

    Hi Gary,

    Thanks for your valuable information!
    I have mac computers at home and at work. I would like to listen to my music at work. Is that possible? My work computer is registered to me, used exclusively by me, but it a college computer on a separate network where I also have a different email and password. Any way to bring over my music?

      5/9/12 @ 2:58 pm

      iTunes Match is made for exactly that kind of situation.

    7/21/12 @ 3:53 am

    Hi Gary
    Your video seems to say that in Family Share IOS devices can access a shared iTunes library. I am looking for a way to play my iMac library through my iPad. I have Family sharing and sharing enabled. Can you help?

      7/21/12 @ 8:41 am

      Home Sharing is what it is called. Turn it on on your iMac and your iPad and you should then see your iMac’s music on your iPad in the Music app — but only if the two are on the same wifi network.

        7/21/12 @ 9:49 am

        Thanks Gary. In the ‘songs’ view it lists alphabetically by title. Can I vary this?

          7/21/12 @ 10:23 am

          Vary it how?

            7/23/12 @ 7:31 am

            Vary the listing parameters. For instance by artist or by album.

              7/23/12 @ 8:02 am

              If you want to list them by artist then choose artist instead of Songs. Same for albums. See what I mean? Or is it that you want the list to look like the songs list, but grouped first by artist or album? Don’t think there is a way to do that.

    10/6/12 @ 2:18 pm

    We have 3 computers and 3 itunes accounts. I want to have all songs on a NAS (ideally in one folder) and have all accounts and all computers have access to them. Each computer can have its own itunes library. Account holders should be able to choose what songs that want from the master library and build plays lists.

    Some songs have been ripped from CDs and other songs were purchased via the 3 itunes accounts.

    How to get the music from the 3 accounts, move it to the NAS so that it is accessible from a single location (e.g. easy backup and restore) and also allow different account holders to be able to access and play the songs (any DRM issues)?

      10/6/12 @ 2:42 pm

      You’ve got a lot going on. No method will be ideal for you. You just need to try out the various methods and work to get something that is close to what you want. It is going to take a lot of work — there is no simple solution when you are dealing with multiple libraries and multiple accounts.

    11/18/12 @ 2:01 pm

    Thank you very much for the tutorial.
    I’m having an issue with accessing the new iTunes media folder on the network drive.
    Only one user can access it at a time i.e. User1 is using iTunes to play music then User2 cannot access folder to play music (folder has “-” sign on it).
    I’m sure it is a setting I need to change but nothing I’ve tried has worked.
    The network drive is connected to an airport extreme.

    Neil Reyn
    11/26/12 @ 12:52 am

    Really informative video,

    I do have one quick (I think) question. I have about 100gb of music in my Itunes library which I’ve had to myself on my mac. My GF has recently made the transition from blackberry to Iphone and wants to set it up on my mac. I’ve created a useraccount for her so she can store her contact/email etc… separately for when she syncs her phone but we want to share music/photos. How can I move my music to her library? The only way I can think of is to load my entire library into her useraccount which will double the memory to 200gd which I dont have.

    Thanks v.much,

      11/26/12 @ 7:37 am

      I have several videos that dig into this. Like You could use that technique, but put the media in a Shared folder that both accounts have access to — it doesn’t have to be an external drive. That’s one idea. Sharing photos is harder since there is no way to separate the photos from the library.

        Pavel Sigarteu
        1/13/13 @ 10:30 pm

        IPhoto preferences can be set to “Do not copy photos into the library” (I do not remember exact text). Then you can keep the photos in 1 common place as the music and then import in as many libraries as you need.

    Jo Dixon
    11/26/12 @ 6:10 pm

    Really useful information, thank you. I have activated the ‘Shared’ option in itunes so different users can access the same itunes, but my music tracks have all doubled up!! Could you please tell me if there is a way to reverse this or how to fix this problem without having to go through and delete every copied track? Thanks.

      11/26/12 @ 6:56 pm

      Simply turning on the sharing options in iTunes shouldn’t cause your songs to spontaneously duplicate. I’d look for another reason. What happens if you turn sharing off? Are you perhaps seeing all of the songs in your library, plus all of the songs in another library on your network — thus causing it to look like you have two of each? Control+click on a song and show it in the Finder to investigate each of a pair.

    12/20/12 @ 12:13 am

    While I’m not using a Mac, I believe my question is still pertinent as it should be an iTunes issue.
    The household iTunes library is on a NAS. I have enabled Home Sharing and can now see the library from other home computers. The issue is – the original “owner” computer is about to be formatted and rebuilt. Any way I can take “ownership” of the shared library from one of the other household computers? My now deceased husband spent many hours rating the music and creating playlists. I don’t want to lose any of that!
    Thank you for any insight or suggestions you can provide.

      12/20/12 @ 7:30 am

      Try it. Use one of the other computers and run iTunes (hold down the Alt key when you launch it). Then select that library. You may need to log in to that iTunes account to have access to some content (V shows, movies, iCloud stuff, etc). But it should work. Of course that is only if the “library” is on the NAS. If only media is there, then it is much more complex.

    12/20/12 @ 12:13 pm

    Thank you! That resolves my issue :)

    I had completely forgotten about the Shift + iTunes to select Libraries. I was thinking that the only place to make that selection was in the Preferences -> Advanced tab.

    Thanks again. Your prompt response is appreciated!

    12/25/12 @ 10:14 am

    Gary, great information – thank you!

    My situation involves one home MacBook Pro, a wife with an iPad and iPhone, daughter with an iPod touch and iPad, finally my youngest just got an iPod touch for Christmas. My oldest daughter and wife have their own iTunes accounts on their devices, but nothing on a computer.

    I want all three of them to be able to share on the one MacBook Pro. How would you set up accounts on the MacBook and in iTunes?

      12/25/12 @ 10:38 am

      Difficult to advise because there are so many factors and choices. No one right way. I would start by creating use accounts for them on your Mac, so everyone has their own user account. Then they would have their own iTunes accounts and libraries set up in each user account. Then it depends on whether you want to try to share anything — music, etc.

        12/25/12 @ 11:17 am

        Thanks so much. I was going to set up different user profiles for each of them, but was not sure if that was right. The primary thing we want to share is music. How would you advise with one machine?

          12/25/12 @ 12:53 pm

          There are many ways to do it. I would probably choose this: but using a Shared folder on the drive, not necessarily a shared external drive. So everyone has their own Mac user account, with their own iTunes library. But the media files (not library) are stored in a shared location.

            12/25/12 @ 12:57 pm

            Much Appreciated! Merry Christmas!

    1/13/13 @ 9:43 am

    Hi Gary, I am hoping you can help me. I purchased a new ipod nano for my mother for her birthday. I have a mac she has a pc. I installed itunes to her pc. I then wanted to share music from my library to her new apple id library. I copied music to a data cd and copied them into her library. However, now the music will not play saying it cannot locate the original file…help! I authorized my account on both computers and still not working…

      1/13/13 @ 10:03 am

      Perhaps you have her iTunes set to not copy the files to her media folder? Then iTunes is still looking for that data CD.

        1/13/13 @ 2:00 pm

        Thank you! How would I find that out or change that?

          1/13/13 @ 2:40 pm

          See 4:20 in the video where I talk about that feature.

    1/13/13 @ 2:19 pm

    Gary, what would you recommend as the best way for me to share music with her? I’m not sure how to transfer my music to her library being they are two different apple ids. Thank you for any help you can provide.

      1/13/13 @ 2:41 pm

      What you are doing is a good way. Just sounds like you missed a step or don’t have things configured correctly. But watch the video again — it is all about the different options you have.

    Laura Moffatt
    2/7/13 @ 8:33 pm

    I have an iomega network drive connected to my AirPort Extreme. I would like to move all of my music from my iMac to the network drive due to the huge library. What do you suggest? My household is all under one apple ID using iPods, iPads, etc.

    2/13/13 @ 11:48 am

    Hi Gary, Thanks for all the info.We (3 in family)just purchased a new Macbook pro which will be the main family computer for a while. We are migrating from a pc. We all use one itunes account for purchases and music management. We have 2 iphones, an ipad and 3 ipods. What about the strategy of setting up a generic user account on the macbook, perhaps name it Music and Photos, and thus doing our sharing that way? i.e.When we want to do itunes or photo stuff, we log in as that generic user?

      2/13/13 @ 12:03 pm

      I guess you could. Not the way I would do it if forced to work this way. I can see it working well for photos. But for music there’s no reason not to simply put the music files on a shared location and each of you can have your own iTunes library.

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