Convert Apple Music songs to AAC (M4A)

Apple Music songs are protected AAC files in M4P extension. You cannot convert to unprotected AAC in M4A extension if you change the extension to M4A or convert Apple Music to AAC using AAC encoder. In this article, we will show you how to reliably convert Apple Music M4P files to AAC (M4A).

Posted to Audio Converter Tutorials by Phil Hanks on February 17, 2021 | Buy Now from $14.95

M4A

Apple Music songs downloaded in iTunes or Music app are protected AAC files and M4P file extension (*.m4p) is used. Songs purchased and downloaded from the iTunes Store is are unprotected AAC files and M4A file extension (*.m4a) is used. If you want to convert Apple Music AAC files to normal AAC/M4A files, changing the *.m4p extension of the downloaded Apple Music M4P files to M4A (*.m4a) won't work. Also, if you use the built-in conversion function of iTunes or Music app by specifying the AAC encoder and create an AAC version of an Apple Music song in your music library, you will encounter a failure as well.

In other words, you can't convert Apple Music songs to M4A with simple file extension change or using AAC encoder of iTunes or Music app. In this article, we will introduce TuneKeep Audio Converter which can convert protected Apple Music AAC songs to all-purpose M4A files which are the unprotected AAC files.

Table of Contents
1. It Makes No Sense to Change Apple Music M4P Extension to M4A Extension
2. AAC Encoder of iTunes or Music App Can't Convert Apple Music to AAC (M4A)
3. TuneKeep Audio Converter: Best Apple Music to M4A Converter
4. Steps to Convert Apple Music Protected AAC Files to Unprotected AAC (M4A) Files

It Makes No Sense to Change Apple Music M4P Extension to M4A Extension

The audio codec AAC is an abbreviation for Advanced Audio Coding. Established as the successor format to MP3, AAC is irreversible codec as well, but AAC delivers higher audio quality and is replacing the older MP3. AAC is a generic term, AAC files we mentioned daily are actually the unprotected AAC files in M4A (*.m4a) extension. Music files purchased from the iTunes Store are unprotected 256kbps AAC files in *.m4a extension. However, although the term encrypted AAC or protected AAC is often seen, it currently mainly refers to M4P files downloaded from Apple Music, Apple's streaming music service. The audio quality of Apple Music is also 256kbps.

On macOS, right-click on an Apple Music AAC M4P file and right-click on an AAC/M4A song from iTunes Store, then click "Get Info", the difference between M4P and M4A will be immediately noticeable. The kind of AAC (M4A) is "Apple MPEG-4 Audio" while the kind of AAC (M4P) is "Protected MPEG-4 audio".

M4P and M4A information on macOS

Under some cases, you can simply change the file extension to make a format change. However, under most cases, it won't work. If you find an Apple Music song in iTunes Media folder and show file extension, then rename the extension from .m4p to .m4a, you will get the warning dialog as below.

Change .m4p extension to .m4a

If you can convert Apple Music AAC (M4P) songs to AAC (M4A) this way, you should be able to play the modified M4A files with VLC media player. However, if you try to play the renamed song on VLC Media Player, there won't be any response. In other words, it doesn't make sense to change the extension of Apple Music AAC files from M4P to M4A. If people can convert M4P to M4A in such an easy way, then the protection of AAC will be useless at all.

AAC Encoder of iTunes or Music App Can't Convert Apple Music to AAC (M4A)

iTunes or Music app have built-in AAC, MP3, AIFF, WAV and ALAC encoders. So you can convert music files in iTunes or Music app to MP3, AAC (M4A), AIFF, WAV. Here, let's see the result of converting protected AAC files of Apple Music to unprotected AAC files using AAC Encoder of iTunes or Music app. Here we use steps in Music app as example.

Step 1: Open the Preferences of Music App

Launch Music app, go to the menu bar, click "Music" > "Preferences" and you will see 5 tabs. Click "File" tab and you can easily find "Import Settings" button.

File tab in Music app

Step 2: Import Settings

Click "Import Settings" button to open "Import Settings" dialog. In "Import Using" list, choose "AAC Encoder", then choose "iTunes Plus" in Setting list. "iTunes Plus" allows you to create 192kbps AAC files, if you need 256kbps, choose "Custom" and then select 256kbps in "stereo bitrate" list.

AAC Encoder in Music app

Step 3: Convert Apple Music to AAC

After completing the settings, select an Apple Music song in the music app, then go to menu "File" > "Conversion" > "Create AAC Version" to convert Apple Music to AAC.

Create AAC Version of Apple Music

If the selected song is in MP3, WAV, AIFF or M4A format, then you should be able to see a conversion progress and can get an unprotected AAC song soon. However, when it comes to an Apple Music song, you will only see the error message that "xxx could not be converted because protected files cannot be converted to other formats". In other words, with AAC encoder in Music app, you cannot convert protected Apple Music AAC (M4P) files to unprotected AAC (M4A) files.

Apple Music AAC Conversion Failure

For Windows OS, the procedure in iTunes is slightly different, but the result is the same. How can I convert a protected AAC file to an unprotected AAC file? The answer is to use TuneKeep Audio Converter.

TuneKeep Audio Converter: Best Apple Music to M4A Converter

With TuneKeep Audio Converter, you can remove DRM protection from Apple Music M4P files easily and convert them to unprotected AAC (M4A) files in only a few clicks. It is no exaggeration to say that it is the best and the most powerful Apple Music to M4A converter.

Great features of TuneKeep Audio Converter

  • Remove DRM protection of Apple Music AAC songs and convert to unprotected M4A
  • Convert Apple Music 256kbps M4P files to 256kbps AAC (M4A) losslessly
  • Convert at 16x faster on Windows and macOS up to 10.12.6, convert at 1x on macOS 10.13 and later because of system limitation
  • Other formats like MP3, WAV, AIFF, FLAC, AC3, AU are also available
  • Keep ID3 tags like song title, album, artist, track number, genre, artwork, etc.
  • Rename output M4A files by title, album, artist, track number, hyphen, space, etc.
  • Sort output M4A files into folders by album, artist, album/artist or artist/album
  • Fully support latest versions of Windows, macOS, iTunes and Music app

Steps to Convert Apple Music Protected AAC Files to Unprotected AAC (M4A) Files

TuneKeep Audio Converter is extremely easy-to-use and intuitive. With this professional Apple Music to M4A converter, you can convert protected Apple Music AAC files into unprotected AAC/M4A files in only a few clicks. Check the guide below for your reference.

Step 1: Launch TuneKeep Audio Converter

Launch TuneKeep Audio Converter on your computer, and iTunes or Music app (on macOS 10.15 Catalina or later) will be launched at the same time. All the music files and playlists in your music library will be listed as playlists in the left panel. Please do not exit iTunes or Music app before the Apple Music to M4A conversion is done.

TuneKeep Audio Converter interface

Step 2: Choose Apple Music Songs

Click a playlist in the left panel and then tick the checkboxes to choose Apple Music songs you want to convert. If you want to convert the whole playlist, you can check the top checkbox in the information bar. If you are seeking a specific song, there is a built-in search box where you can search song title, album or artist.

TuneKeep Audio Converter interface

Step 3: Choose M4A as Output Format

As we mentioned above, M4A files' quality is better and the file sizes are smaller compared to MP3 files when using same bitrate. You can easily find M4A format in the output format list and select quality in profile list. 256kbps M4A is recommended as Apple Music songs are also in 256kbps AAC files.

Choose M4A as output

If necessary, you can click Options button to set conversion speed (Windows only), output volume, renaming method, sort method, etc.

Step 4: Start Apple Music to M4A Conversion

When everything is ready, you can simply click the "Convert" button to start converting protected Apple Music AAC (M4P) files to unprotected AAC (M4A). After conversion, you can click "Open Output File" button on Windows or "Explore Output File" button on macOS to open output folder and locate the output files.

Converting Apple Music

Conclusion

M4A is one of the most popular audio formats that people would love to use since its excellent audio quality and wide usage. Both Apple Music songs and iTunes Store songs are encoded in AAC codec. However, now more and more songs are only available in Apple Music service and can't be purchased from iTunes Store, sometimes, it makes difficult to get an unprotected AAC version of a favorite Apple Music song. TuneKeep Audio Converter provides a best solution to convert Apple Music songs to M4A, strips the DRM protection of AAC files and makes an unprotected version for them. If you also need to convert Apple Music AAC (M4P) files to normal AAC (M4A) files, do not hesitate to try TuneKeep Audio Converter.