Apple’s iTunes Match explained

With iCloud, the music you purchase in iTunes appears automatically on all your devices. You can also download your past iTunes purchases. Where you want, when you want.

It’s as easy as 1-2-3:
1. Buy music: Download music from iTunes on any device.
2. iCloud stores it: Your music is stored in iCloud.
3. And iCloud pushes it to your devices: Your music automatically appears on your iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Mac, and PC.

Available now in beta, iCloud automatically downloads any new music purchase to all your devices over Wi-Fi or over 3G, if you choose. Yup, you can buy a song from iTunes on your iPad at home and find it waiting for you on your iPhone during your morning commute. All without having to sync. It just works.

Also available in beta now, your past purchases are available on all your devices. Now you can download music you’ve previously purchased to all your devices. When you buy music from iTunes, iCloud stores your purchase history. So you can see the music you’ve bought, no matter on which device you purchased it. You can access your purchase history from the iTunes Store on your Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. And since you already own that music, you can tap to download your songs or albums to any or all of your devices.

Apple’s iTunes Match is coming this fall. If you want all the benefits of iTunes in the Cloud for music you haven’t purchased from iTunes, iTunes Match will be the perfect solution. It lets you store your entire collection, including music you’ve ripped from CDs or purchased somewhere other than iTunes. For just $24.99 a year (limit 25,000 songs; iTunes purchases do not count against 25,000 song limit).

Here’s how iTunes Match works: iTunes determines which songs in your collection are available in the iTunes Store. Any music with a match is automatically added to your iCloud library for you to listen to anytime, on any device. Because there are over 18 million songs in the iTunes Store, the vast majority of your music is likely already in iCloud. So, all you have to upload is what iTunes can’t match – that’s much faster than uploading everything. Right Amazon and Google? And all the music iTunes matches plays back at 256-Kbps iTunes Plus (AAC) quality — even if your original copy was of lower quality.

Can you say “amnesty,” music pirates? We knew you could! $24.99 a year and your music karma will be as pure as pure can be!

Try the beta features today with iTunes 10.3, free for Mac and PC. More info and download link here.


  1. The only question I have that hasn’t been answered. If I buy 16G of music at home on my iMac. In theory, that should download on my phone. But what if I don’t have that much space on my phone. What gets downloaded and what doesn’t. Is it set by date? I’m just curious that I haven’t seen this question brought up or maybe I’m just clueless on how this works.

    1. Manage your music on your phone manually, not automagically. Have it just download playlists, and don’t include purchased music as a list. If a song qualifies for a Smart Playlist, I imagine it would download then.

  2. Apple should provide a year of iTunes Match gratis to those MobileMe subscribers who have 6 or more months left on their subscription. These subscribers paid $99 for a year of MobileMe. Comping them a $25 annual subscription seems fair to me.

    1. Good idea. Now write Apple a feedback note suggesting this and I’ll support you with a feedback note of my own. I bought a 2 MobileMe codes from Amazon last year for only $50 each. Completed submission to Apple yesterday for a full $99 refund for the unopened box-code. Looks like I’m in MobileMe for free since last October. 🙂

  3. A bigger question remains unanswered. So you pay the $24.99 and iTunes Match “upgrades” all the songs it can finda match for and stores them in the cloud. Do you now own those songs? Like, can you download them and keep them on your computer forever? Or are you actually renting them, and when you stop paying the annual fee, they’re gone? Anyone know?

    1. Yes, you own them, since you ‘owned’ them before matching. You can download them from the cloud to your machine and they’ll stay there forever (it is DRM-free AAC). Even if you cancel the $25-per year.

      1. No, I don’t think so. As long as you pay your annual $25 you will be able to continue listening to your non-iTunes music. If you stop, then the i-Tunes music will be unplayable.

        It would be better if you back up a copy of your non-iTunes music on another media, just in case.

  4. The biggest question for me is regarding the download requirement. That’s still a major time and space commitment that I’m not sure this cloud service eliminates. I’m also not totally sold that this won’t turn out to be streaming. There’s been a lot of interpretation on this point hanging on the relatively few voice words used to describe the service, and I don’t believe there would be all this effort to just simply give us a glorified wireless sync. iTunes in the Cloud may be available – at least in part – today, but no one’s seen Match yet. Only time will tell.

    1. Nobody ever said anything about streaming. Not yesterday (in the keynote), not today, in all the web material Apple posted around. There were, however, quite a few people who followed some live bloggers from the event and concluded something about streaming. Just NOT true.

      1. All I am saying is that I don’t think it was CLEAR. Too many conclusions / interpretations on too little known official info. Beyond rumors, straight to assuming. And we all know what assume does?

        1. Based on what was said at the keynote yesterday, it would seem that you have the choice to either stream or download. Download the ones you want to have constant access to, stream the rest.

          I reach this conclusion based in part over the big deal Apple made about not having to upload your whole library. It would make sense that this would apply to downloads as well, as this would be a major bandwidth and time issue. Also, this procedure was laid out with the Photostream app and the way it works with Apple TV.

          You’re right though that there isn’t enough info yet as the service is still a few months from launch. I say, trying out the beta of iCloud’s iTunes purchase service would probably answer many of these questions.

          Anyone here done so yet?

          1. I’m not sure the iTunes in the Cloud beta gives us enough insight into what the iTunes Match service will look like. I can understand why you’d want to be able to download a song you purchased from iTunes on as many devices as you want: you paid for the FILE. I further believe that with Match you’ll be buying access (not the actual file) to files that didn’t originally come from iTunes. Which is why I’ll continue to believe it’ll be closer to streaming than syncing, until I OFFICIALLY hear (from Apple) otherwise.

    2. You will OWN the songs that are matched. FOREVER! They will be downloaded to your computers’ hard drive. That makes it YOURS.
      Also, lets ASSUME they are not yours. They are, as you say in some kind of “rented” form. All you got to do then is back them up to a backup drive and you have them in a time machine going back to when they were on your hard drive. But you don’t have to assume any of this, because they definitely ARE YOURS once they are matched.

    1. 99% of us… It’s free.
      You should have asked about iTunes match, the part that costs.

      And no, I won’t be paying for iTunes match. The rest, yes I will. I like the features already released for app store/iTunes.

  5. 25,000 non-iTunes tracks? That could be upwards of 150 gigabytes in itself. You’d think Apple would set a memory limit like the other services do (say 50 GB).

    1. EXACTLY. And who has a 150gb iDevice, or the time, bandwidth, etc. to move those files, especially to multiple platforms? That’s why I still believe this service will turn out to be closer to streaming (in improved iTunes quality) than syncing. Stop paying for the service, stop getting the cloud’s offering and back to sync.

      1. Again, no. No streaming. It simply cannot happen, as it is NOT set up for that. It will only be syncing. When there is not enough space, the cloud will behave EXACTLY the same way your desktop iTunes did when you hooked up your iPod: it will fill it up with random selection of music, unless you manually pick playlists to sync. And it will do that for free (no paying).

        The only time you’ll need to pay is if you did NOT buy your music from iTunes. Then you’ll be paying Apple essentially to rent additional space for your own music, even though technically, most of it won’t even need additional space, as iTunes Match would find all those tracks in their library anyway, and just point to them for you to sync.

      2. I do, I have nearly a terrabyte and 1/2 of music. My records, the records I got from my folks. (we are talking thousands, not hundreds) My cassettes, my CD’s, 45’s all beautifully encoded and organized. I’ve worked in record stores, radio stations, and am just plain a collector. I love music…

  6. i believe you own them. they upgrad them and send them to your devices. they made a point to say these matched songs are drm free. they wouldnt be if you were renting them

  7. So, essentially, those local files (ripped, torrented, whatever) will never really go anywhere if iTunes Match ends up recognising them. For every track iTunes does recognise, the iCloud will just add the same one from iTunes Store library to your account. Then you sync and all the crappy songs called ‘Track 02’, by a singer named ‘Artist’, from an album called ‘Album’ and encoded in 128k MP3 will now become available to you in AAC 256k, with proper names and all artwork.

  8. I still don’t get it. By “get it”, I mean I don’t see the appeal of the service and it’s associated cost. I’m not being critical. I’m trying to understand.

    Is this a workaround for being tied to a computer? Is this the future now?

      1. Also BEFORE: 25,000 songs at home on your hard drive, and a subset of 5,000 of them on your iPhone wherever you are, with no access to the ones at home.

        AFTER: 25,000 songs ALL accessible from your iPhone, anyplace with a wifi or 3G signal.

        Worth a lot more than $25 to my ears.

      2. I ripped all of my music using Apple Lossless. For iPod use, I then converted them to AAC 128. Purchased songs from iTunes are pretty much all at AAC 256 (upgraded to DRM-free a couple of years ago).

  9. Not what I found out! I downloaded a previously owned song and it did download the the iPhone. But, as I then sync’d the phone back to the Mac, the file was ‘exchanged’ back to the lower quality original file. Lower bit rate and now on the iPhone. Also couldn’t get the purchasing of a new song to ‘push’ to the iPhone from a G5 Mac, running Leopard. The preference file for pushing music to the other devices seems to be problematic on a PowerPC machine.
    Still testing other items.

    1. Well, what you are describing is exactly what the steps are meant to do. The iCloud is the main host. All other devices should be ‘clients’. When you look up your purchased songs on any of your devices, they will become available to you for syncing (downloading) from each of them, wherever they don’t exist. If I understood you correctly, you iMac already had an older copy (128k, DRM-encumbered version, perhaps?) of a song. Your iPhone didn’t. You downloaded the song to your iPhone. Then you connected that iPhone to your Mac and are now synching the music back FROM the Mac. Since your Mac already has that song, it just overwrote it on the iPhone.

      What you probably should have done is synched your Mac with the iCloud. Perhaps deleting all early purchases that have DRM versions of songs (with 128k bitrate), and re-download the fresh new DRM-free, high quality versions of them.

    2. It looks like some features will require an Intel processor machine or Lion, which will only run on Intel machines. See the footnotes on the Apple website:
      1. Available in beta now in the U.S. only and requires iOS 4.3.3 on iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 (GSM model), iPod touch (3rd and 4th generation), iPad, or iPad 2, or a Mac or PC with iTunes 10.3. Previous purchases may be unavailable if they are no longer in the iTunes Store. Download iTunes 10.3 free.

      2. Requires iOS 5 on iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPod touch (3rd and 4th generation), iPad, or iPad 2, or a Mac computer with OS X Lion or a PC with Windows Vista or Windows 7 (Outlook 2007 or 2010 recommended). Limit 25,000 songs. iTunes purchases do not count against limit.

  10. No streaming, not interested. The whole point for me (I have TONS of CDs I own that I converted to digital files over the years) is to have a streaming “server” to stream my songs to me so I don’t have to take up space on my portable devices.
    As it stands, Stream To Me works fine as a streaming server, and only cost $3 one time. So no sale for their match service. At least for me!

  11. Nice way for me to upgrade the sound quality on all my CDs I ripped back in 2004 when the default was 128 Kbps.

    Just want to make sure that the upgraded songs will be mine to own and won’t disappear if I decide not to renew iTunes Matching.

    Don’t really see the point outside of increasing the bit rate. I already spent considerable time adding artwork and making sure all my info on the songs were correct (no thanks to iTunes’ Find Album Art).

  12. iTunes Match is worthless for folks who use lossless, folks who correct iTunes’ crappy metadata entries and to those who have a lot of music not on iTunes. I personally volume correct every single song that I rip from CD using Pro Tools. Sound Check was never a viable answer. I’d been using 320k MP3 for compatability reasons, but with most of us moving away from optical discs and storage getting cheaper. I’ve begun to move to lossless. So for me, iTunes Match would be a downgrade.

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