How to Add Any Audio File to iPhone Music App

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It’s 2017, and yet you still can’t add music to the Music app on your iPhone. If you have an MP3 file that someone sent you, downloaded, or created with one of the zillions of powerful apps on iOS, you can’t just add it to your library. Instead, you need to add it to iTunes on your Mac or PC and then sync it manually with your iPhone, over Wi-Fi, or with a cable.

This is absurd, and today we are going to fix it. You’ll still need a Mac to run, but at least you don’t have to touch it.

How to Add Your Own MP3s to iPhone Music App

This trick obliges. A small setup, but once you’re done it works. We’ll be using the new iOS 11 Files app, as well as Dropbox, to get the job done. Once things are set up, you just need to copy a compatible music file (MP3, AAC, etc.) to a folder using Files, then the rest will be done automatically. If all goes well, your new song will automatically appear in your iPhone’s Music app.

The “Automatically add to iTunes” folder

Every Mac has a folder called Automatically add to iTunes, which does exactly that. Any music or video file you drop into it will be immediately deleted and sucked into iTunes. What we’re going to do is create a shortcut to this folder in Dropbox, so you can add music to it from anywhere. On a standard iTunes installation, you can find it here:

/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/Automatically Add to iTunes

or somewhere near that, depending on your setup.

A.k.a

The Mac has some cool features called a.k.a, which allows you to create a virtual copy of a file or folder that references the original. It would be ideal, but aliases don’t work in Files app on iOS, so we have to use the more hardcore symbolic link. This is where the tricky part comes in. There are a few apps that can do this for you, but this one is unique, so we’ll be using the terminal. Yes, today you can look like a movie pirate for a few minutes by typing into a little text console.

First, create a new folder in your Dropbox. Call it Tunes, or whatever you like. Then open the Terminal application, inside the Mac Applications> Utilities case.

To create a symbolic link in your Dropbox

In the Terminal window, type ln -s followed by the paths of the two folders. However, you don’t need to type these folder paths. You can just drag them into the terminal window and their paths will be pasted. So just drag into the source folder (the Automatically add to iTunes folder), then the Music Dropbox folder. The correct order is important here. Then press return. The symbolic link will appear in your Dropbox / Tunes folder. The Terminal window should look like this:

The terminal might sound badass, but for this trick it’s easy to use.
Photo: Mac Cult

And that’s all. It wasn’t that hard, right? Now, whenever you drop something into this newly created symbolic link in Dropbox (which appears as a normal folder in both Finder and the Files app on iOS), it will automatically be added to iTunes. If your Mac is on, it will happen immediately. Otherwise, the songs will be added the next time you run iTunes.

This feeling of synchronization

Just drop your audio into that folder, and it will eventually end up in the Music app.
Just drop your audio into that folder, and it will eventually end up in the Music app.
Photo: Mac Cult

This takes care of adding to iTunes. What if you embed the songs on your iPhone? It depends. If you have an iTunes Match subscription, which copies your Mac’s music library to iCloud and makes it available on all your devices, you don’t need anything more. Whenever a song is added to iTunes on Mac, it will appear on your iPhone shortly after.

If you don’t use iTunes Match, you still need to sync iPhone with your Mac, either through a USB cable or over Wi-Fi. It’s a pain, but once set up, you can at least trigger syncing from there. your iPhone (in Settings> General> iTunes Wi-Fi sync).

It’s ridiculous that you still can’t add your own songs to your iPhone’s Music app, and this workaround still requires a Mac. But at least it works, and in my testing it works pretty well. You can now add those downloaded SoundCloud songs to your music library instead of having to use the un-navigable SoundCloud app, for example. Or you can finally record your own creations along with all your other music.

What if you don’t have a Mac? If your only computer is an iPad? Hard, I guess. Thank you very much, Apple.


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