Why iTunes Must Die!

| Dr. Mac's Rants and Raves

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #158


It’s no secret that I don’t care for recent versions of iTunes. To understand why I think it must die, at least in its current form, let’s start with a peek at what iTunes used to be, you know, back in the good old days…

iTunes Must Die

It was 1998 when a small Mac software developer called Casady & Greene, famous for utilities like Conflict Catcher and QuickDex and games like Crystal Quest (revived last year and available here for $4.99), introduced a new app known as SoundJam MP. It converted songs from audio CDs into MP3 files you could play on your Mac, or on the emerging category of pocket-sized MP3 players such as the Diamond Rio. (Remember, this was three years before the iPod…)

SoundJam MP was also a nifty organizer for your growing digital music collection—a simple app that did what it was supposed to do while simultaneously pioneering features we now consider ubiquitous, such as playlists, real-time equalizers, and the legendary visualizer.

SoundJam MP: What iTunes looked like before it was iTunes.

Then, in 2000, Apple bought SoundJam MP and transmogrified it into iTunes, which was introduced early in 2001. At the time, it still looked and felt more or less like SoundJam MP, now with a bit of glossy Apple veneer. The Apple press release said:

iTunes is miles ahead of every other jukebox application, and we hope its dramatically simpler user interface will bring even more people into the digital music revolution.

In the immortal words of The iTunes Guy, Kirk McElhearn, “If only that were true now.”

The problem is that over the years iTunes has become obese and bloated as Apple has added more features and functionality. That might not be so bad if the features and functions had to do with music, but most of them don’t. Today iTunes is a gargantuan behemoth—a music player and organizer; a video player and organizer; the front end for Apple Music; and the media library for Apple TV. It’s also the home several online content stores, Internet radio, podcasts, and iTunes U content. Oh, and it’s also the only sanctioned way to synchronize your media with your iPhones, iPads, and iPods.

Therein lies the rub. Apple has bolted so many features onto iTunes that it has become confusing and bloated (not to mention inconsistent and sort of ugly, too).

iTunes Breakdown

Just look at all the features you’ll only find after you click (or right-click) a cryptic icon…
(click to enlarge)

That being said, I have to admit that iTunes also offers a handful of sweet features including Smart Playlists, Up Next and History, and AirPlay. 

Still, that’s not enough to save it, so here’s what I propose: To fix the hot mess they call iTunes, Apple should replace it with three separate apps—Music, Movies (and other media), and Sync.

Or if that’s too much to ask, Apple should remove all the syncing crap and create a new app just for syncing, leaving iTunes to be a media player, organizer, and stores.

The bottom line is that I don’t mind using iTunes to listen to music or watch video at my desk, but when it comes to syncing, I usually turn to iMazing ($34.99; www.imazing.com), which is more capable than iTunes for both backups and syncing (and it launches way faster than iTunes). 

And that’s all he wrote…

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Andrew Shalat

(see what I did there?)


Absolutely right. I’ve been saying exactly this for several years. iTunes is unredeemable. The only way to continue is for Apple to take a large mallet and smash it into pieces. Then they can extract the music player and the video player, and the stores and reissue them as separate apps. Oh, will you look at that, This is precisely what they have done on iOS.

FWIW, last weekend I removed my iTunes library from my Mac. I put it on an external drive. I’m going to create a new library on my mac and ONLY use it to rent movies from the iTunes store. Music will be handled by other means and I never synch my devices to my Mac anyway. This freed up 170GB of space, important when later this year I replace “The Beast” and it’s 1.5TB of drive space with a new MacBook Pro with only 500GB.


Agreed. Apple should separate/develop other apps that provide the bloated capabilities that iTunes sort-of has now. Why couldn’t they call it “Media Central” or something, and have shortcuts/aliases within if need be that launch the other apps?

And bring back “USER SIMPLICITY” and INTUITIVE functionality which seems hopelessly irretrievable with the current version.

Ray Mack Thompson

Right on Bob!  I really appreciate you’re review of “how we got into this mess” as my experience goes back that far but my MEMORY is a little foggy!
Sort of on the same subject, I’m disgusted at how complicated iCloud has become and how USELESS the sharing provisions are… Separate folders for each app’s files….half baked…messy…not up to the Apple standards I’ve come to expect.  Right now my family has LOST about half of our books, music, tv shows, etc. and when I Google the problem I see everyone else is complaining about the same thing!  App Store/iTunes Store…WHY TWO OF THEM?  RANT, RANT, RANT AND KEEP IT GOING!


Why not just use Apple Configurator to backup and manage your devices? Sync is better done through iCloud.  I can’t rememberer the last time I saved iTunes.

Buck D.

Bob, how do you access the play history in iTunes? It’s a feature I’ve long desired.

Bob LeVitus

Buck: Glad you asked. It’s hidden under the Up Next icon (which looks like an outliner icon), and then you’ll find it hidden under the little clock icon. You can see both the outliner and clock icons near the top of the final figure in the story.

Bob LeVitus

By the way, that’s exactly what I mean when I said iTunes is confusing… When users can’t find a super-useful feature like History, something is very wrong with the app’s design.

Terry Maraccini

Apple needs to give iTunes an interface overall. All suggestions saying that it should be broken up into small objects is just a little bit of a diversion.

It’s not the code space occupied by iTunes, it’s the interface that presents the user with too many choices (and never the right one). The engine is fine. The database supporting iTunes handles my media in a spritely fashion. Just get rid of the clutter in the interface so that each category’s most important tasks can be revealed.


When I’m not listening to podcasts, I’m listening to music.

iTunes is far too important to just ‘kill’ willy-nilly while working out what to replace it with. Chances are that what you’ll eventually be replacing it with is iTunes!!

It does need a good bit more love than it’s been getting lately, but these calls to destroy it or to hack it up into little bits are simply nonsense.

Sure, iTunes isn’t perfect, but it’s a whole lot more perfecter than any alternative I’ve seen out there, most of whom only do a small fraction of what we call on iTunes to do every day!!

Buck D.

Re: History

Thanks for the explanation Bob. History should be a top level option, especially with radio, when you realize you really liked the unfamiliar song you heard 20 minutes ago, or yesterday.


I don’t usually have much trouble with iTunes but since they made part of the OS, any problem becomes impossible to fix.
If it starts asking for network access the only fix is to wipe and reinstall the OS.  Which always breaks something else.
My latest issue is movies and TV Shows.  I buy either and it wants to download it again.  My Mac Mini did this for over a week with three movies.
It seems to have stopped doing this but now my MacBook Pro is doing the same thing now. And adding a group of TV Show episodes to the Movies.
I hope it will stop doing this eventually.  It makes me very reluctant to make any further purchases.
And getting any help from official support is nearly impossible.  Usually the only available option is the Apple Communities and and the usual response if you ever get one, is it’s never happened to me so it must be your fault.
I miss the UseNet days. I was always able to find answers from there. Google and the like have become useless. Most returned links are unrelated to the question asked or ads.


It’s “cool” to bash iTunes. Honestly, it’s not awesome, but it’s not so bad, and the ubiquity of one mega app counts for a lot. Syncing is mentioned. So big deal, don’t sync or use a competitor.

I’d like to see iTunes interface “unsquished” but aside from that it’s basically alright.


As a long time Mac and PC user, I’ve switched to different offerings such as JRiver Media Center.. but in the end, as bloated and bad as iTunes it, I still end up coming back to it in the end.

It’s sad when iTunes is still my defacto standard.

Bob LeVitus

Thanks for all the feedback, everyone.

For anyone who wants to try a different way of syncing, check out iMazing (www.imazing.com). You can try it for free and save 20% (off the $34.95 list price) with the Mac Geek Gab coupon code (MGG) when you buy it.

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