Setting up Spotify to Work with the Built-in Apple Headphones Remote

spotify-generic I’ve always found it extremely annoying that the remote on the Apple headphones not only didn’t work with Spotify but also opened up iTunes every time I accidentally tried to use it to pause whatever song I was listening to. After Googling around for a couple of days with no luck, I managed to piece together a few separate posts on message boards that combined let me stop iTunes from opening anytime I tried to play/pause on the headphone remote as well as control Spotify. I’ve included all of the steps below, as well as download links to all of the files you’ll need to set it all up.

Step I – Stopping iTunes from Opening on Play/Pause
This was the easiest part to figure out and was on pretty much every site I came across. It boiled down to three main steps:

  1. Disable SIP:
    1. Restart your Mac.
    2. Hold down Command+R before OS X starts up. Release the keys once you see an Apple icon and progress bar.
    3. From the Utilities menu, select Terminal.
    4. In the command prompt, type: csrutil disable
  2. Download and run this DMG file.
  3. Re-Enable SIP:
    1. Restart your Mac.
    2. Hold down Command+R before OS X starts up. Release the keys once you see an Apple icon and progress bar.
    3. From the Utilities menu, select Terminal.
    4. In the command prompt, type: csrutil enable

That’s it! The patch should stop iTunes from opening every time you click the play/pause button.

Step 2 – Setting the Remote to Control Spotify
This part took significantly longer to track down and make work. Basically, we need to tell the controller driver to link up to apple scripts with commands for play/pause, etc. in Spotify. Rather than walk you through the entire process of setting up a ControllerMate configuration file, I’ve included mine for download below.

  1. Download and install ControllerMate.
  2. Download the ControllerMate configuration file I made from here.
  3. Import the ControllerMate file (File > Import).
  4. Check the box next to it in the Programming Items panel on the left: Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 12.26.11 AM
  5. Close out of ControllerMate.

That should be it! From now on your mic should control Spotify as if it were iTunes. Personally as I don’t keep much local music on my computer, this has been a huge live upgrade, so hopefully this’ll help a few other people out there that are just as frustrated as I was.


Updated on 10/03/2016 to fix the broken dmg link.

35 thoughts on “Setting up Spotify to Work with the Built-in Apple Headphones Remote”

  1. Simon says:

    please reup the download link for your ControllerMate configuration file. thx 😉

    1. tarikfayad says:


  2. MJ says:

    the play pause function doesnt work anymore w/ the updated spotify

    1. tarikfayad says:

      Which version of Spotify are you using? It’s working for me on which I think is the latest.

  3. Andrew says:

    Thanks for taking the time to create this tutorial! I’m trying to setup my bluetooth headphones with this but it doesn’t seem to work. Spotify controls is selected and I see the “Apple Mikey HID Driver” stuff.

    1) Does this only work for the apple earbuds or do they work for bluetooth headphones also?
    2) Does my ControllerMate need to be registered for this to work?

    – OSX Yosemite 10.10.2
    – ControllerMate 4.9.3
    – Spotify

    1. tarikfayad says:

      I’ve actually never tried it with bluetooth headsets so I’m not sure! But ControllerMade definitely does not have to be registered (my copy isn’t any it’s working fine). One thing that I noticed recently though when I got a new computer and had to reinstall is that in new versions of ControllerMate it looks like you need to check two boxes rather that one in the left hand menu:

      ControllerMate Check Boxes

  4. Rachel says:

    Does this fix still work with the latest Yosemite? I followed your instructions but I get an error in Controllermate saying “The variable playpause is not defined.” when I test the button on the headphones.

    The iTunes patch works, which is great in and of itself since I was always annoyed by iTunes, which I have zero use for at work, constantly popping up when I hit the keyboard play button to resume spotify.

    1. tarikfayad says:

      Hmmm…it’s working for me on the latest version of Yosemite so I’m not quite sure what’s happening on your end. Any chance you could post a screenshot and I can try and help you troubleshoot from there?

  5. Vegerot says:

    This isn’t working for me. Whenever I try to use it, I get error symbols next to them. I have done everything I can to try to fix it. I even went to System Preferences>Security>Accessibility and enabled ControllerMate. Is there anything else I’m not doing?


    1. tarikfayad says:

      Is there any other text accompanying the error symbols?

  6. Ch333 says:

    Thanks so much!!! The functions on my inline controls work perfectly. I hope your page get more hits so others can better find it. (It took a bit of googling before I found this site.)

    BTW, Farhan Ahmad updated his site (http://www.thebitguru.com/projects/iTunesPatch) so that you can apply the first step (iTunes Patch) from a GUI interface rather than from commandline in the termial.

  7. Mustafa says:


    I get an error message when I use this tutorial.

    It says: rcd quit unexpectedly while using rcd-plugin

    Do you know what the problem is?

    1. tarikfayad says:

      Hey! Could you let me know what step you get the error on? Is it during disabling iTunes open at the very beginning?

      1. james says:

        same thing happened to me. Jut keeps saying it all the time. I need help.

      2. james says:

        I get the same error. After ive done the whole procedure when i use the play/pause button on my headphones that will pop up. I am running el capitan. Thanks so much!!

        1. tarikfayad says:

          Hey, I tried to dig into it (I can’t get the error to happen on my Mac so it’s hard for me to troubleshoot) and it looks like it’s caused by the patch used to stop iTunes from opening on using the mic play button. You might have done this already, but could you try uninstalling that patch, giving your computer a restart and then reinstalling?

          1. james says:

            how would i go about uninstalling the patch?

            Thanks, James

          2. tarikfayad says:

            If you re-run the patch there should be an uninstall option.

  8. dc says:

    Thanks for this, makes the process quick and painless.

  9. Jose says:

    Will this stop the headphone from controlling iTunes at all?

    1. tarikfayad says:

      Unfortunately it will. It will basically swap the functionality from iTunes to Spotify.

  10. Jack says:

    I get the following message from ControllerMate: “import the following item(s) by selecting the “Controller Types” button in the Editor window, and then dragging these items to the Directory panel.” The option listed is: Apple Mikey HID Driver (Consumer Control).

    However when I go to the editor window, under controller types, this driver is already listed, and I can’t drag it from the error window. Do you know how to fix this problem?

  11. Rush says:

    Worked perfectly on el captain. Thanks so much!!!

  12. Chadd says:

    Just as a heads up, turning off SIP (aka System Integrity Protection) is bad security practice (see http://www.imore.com/el-capitan-system-integrity-protection-helps-keep-malware-away for more details). I want to use my inline controls as much as next person, but not at the expense of security.

    Also, we should avoid getting people in the habit of “Disable this security piece”, then “just run this piece of software.” At least put a warning on the article…

    1. tarikfayad says:

      Hey, if you notice one of the steps I include is actually turning the protection back on. At no point do I recommend leaving it off. I like using my inline controls so for me it’s worth turning off SIP for five minutes to install a tweak.

  13. arbi_aa says:

    Absolutely Incredible! WORKS A TREAT, had me scared at first but it works

  14. Matt C says:

    worked fine until a few days ago, but as of Apple’s latest os update, the in line mic controls launch iTunes again. It seems to control both iTunes and spotify, so it’ll start playing two songs at once.

    1. Tarik Fayad says:

      Yeah…unfortunately any time you update OS X you have to reinstall the patch that stops the min controls from launching iTunes. It’s a royal pain in the butt, but they reset it any time you update.

  15. pipo padial says:

    Capitan 10.11.6 Funcionando perfectamente! Works!!

  16. Matthew C says:

    step 2… download and run this DMG file- it points to a broken link.

  17. Matt says:

    no longer works with MacOS Sierra. Can’t access terminal from recovery menu, and if one holds down the play/pause button, it calls up Siri.

    1. Matt says:

      Oh… I noticed that if I’m watching a video using Safari, such as on Netflix or youtube, if I push the play/pause button on the remote, it’ll pause the movie or resume playing it rather than launching iTunes.

  18. Trey Pelletier says:

    Is this fully working on macOS Sierra (10.12)?

  19. Reinis says:

    I can confim that this still works perfectly on macOS Sierra 10.12.2. and Spotify – I just did this for the first time and everything worked flawlessly! Thanks a lot – this finally allows me to control Spotify with my Apple headphone controls – awesome!

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