A detailed look at iTunes Match: What it is and how it can make iTunes better for you

“Apple launched iTunes Match three years ago to much fanfare,” Bryan M. Wolfe reports for AppAdvice. “Other than the addition of an ad-free version of iTunes Radio, little has changed about the service, which costs $24.99 per year.”

“Currently, iTunes Match supports up to five devices using the same Apple ID — including your Mac or PC, iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and Apple TV,” Wolfe reports. “Apple will match your older files that are 96 kbps or higher, and make them available in 256 kbit/s DRM-free AAC format. When downloaded, these high-quality files are yours to keep, even if you let your iTunes Match subscription expire (more about this later).”

“Since iTunes Radio launched in Sept. 2013, iTunes Match subscribers have been able to listen to the streaming music service ad-free. However, you still can only skip up to six tracks per hour per station,” Wolfe reports. “Apple’s iTunes Match provides a nice service for those hoping to improve the sound of each track in their music collection. It also makes it easier for users to access those tracks across multiple devices. However, iTunes Match isn’t for everyone.”

Much more in the full article here.

45 Comments

      1. It’s really not that hard or expensive to legally amass a large collection. Garage sales and flea markets can provide piles of cheap music.

        I have digitized a fair number of my LPs over the years and having collected them since the early 70s there are a lot of them.

        1. That’s exactly correct. I’ve been purchasing CD’s since they debuted in the 80’s. A few of my tracks (actually 28,000 and change) are from vinyl I ripped as well. ~2000 or so I’ve purchased from the iTunes store, and those don’t count against the 25,000 track limit I believe, but the remainder still leave me over.

        1. Paul, that’s BS. In our family, we have a music server that hosts a single library for multiple users. We took the time to rip all of our legally purchased CDs to iTunes in Apple Lossless.

          To an audiophile or serious music collector, the iTunes store and any streaming service is worthless. Your unfounded accusation is meritless.

          1. Do you have 25000 tracks that are NOT on Apple servers?

            i.e. Is your music so out of whack with what exists on the iTunes store? If it IS, then iTunes is NOT for you!

            Apple is trying to tell you this……Apple is saying that if you have SO MUCH music that doesn’t exist on the iTunes store then you are NOT their customer. It is AMAZING that they even let you have 25000. It should be something way less.

            1. You obviously have no idea how iTunes Match works, so stop talking out of your ass.

              I have almost 31,000 tracks, and I’d say 90% or more of them exist on the iTunes Store (despite having somewhat eclectic tastes).

              THAT DOES NOT MATTER.

              If you BOUGHT them from iTunes, then it matters and they don’t count against the 25K. If you got them elsewhere (Amazon, CD rip, etc), then they DO count against your 25,000, EVEN IF the iTunes Store already has them.

        2. Why do you have to be such prick, ‘Paul’?
          Jumping to the conclusion that the only way someone could acquire that many tracks is by Torrenting,ms how’s you to a small-minded, mean little tick.
          Anyone who’s been buying CD’s since 1982 are likely to have a large collection which will rapidly fill up a chunk of disc space. I have several thousand tracks in iTunes acquired from a couple of hundred CD’s of sample tracks given away free with music mags, then there’s several hundred CD’s bought over the last thirty-two years, and music ripped from friends borrowed CD’s.
          As far as iTunes Match is concerned, I refuse to use it, partly because the track limit is less than my total library, but mainly because I refuse to allow my library to be compromised in quality by a global downgrade to 256Kb from the 320Kb I always RIP at.
          When Apple ups the bitrate and track total to 320Kb and 50,000 or higher, I’ll look at it again, but not before.

          1. Here is the iTunes Match text from Apple:

            “…………You can store up to 25,000 songs in iCloud (more if songs are purchased from the iTunes Store)………”

            Lets see now…. If you have 25000 tracks, each approx 1GB in a lossless form…..that means 25 Terra-Bytes of storage. Now lets multiply that by the number of customers…….say 100 million (?) ……that’s about a “HECK OF A LOT”. Now Apple already is giving this as a guarantee. But NOOOOOOO, you want limitless. A bit impractical wouldn’t you say????

            1. Continuing to show your ignorance.

              1) It’s “Terabyte”, not “Terra-Byte”.
              2) Who said Apple’s storing them lossless?
              3) Are you really stupid enough to think they’re storing a copy of every song for every person who has it???? Don’t be a moron…they have ONE copy of each song, and simply keep record of who is allowed to access it and who isn’t. This is why everyone gets the same bit rate when they download, because THAT is the bit rate Apple is storing.

              Stop embarassing yourself and just bow out of this conversation.

            2. Oh its a tera not a terra….oh excuse me…..IDIOT!

              You have to ENGINEER for lossless!

              If you have a copy that Apple does not It gets stored. If another person has the exact same track It gets stored AGAIN. Apple CANNOT share YOUR copy to other people!!! They CANNOT have ONE copy of something that is NOT theirs to share!

              Such idiots on the board these days.

            3. On what planet is an Apple lossless track from a CD 1Gb? An entire CD can only hold ~780MB. Apple Lossless removes about half the space. Say 15 tracks per CD to be generous, and that’s ~26Mb per lossless track. 25000 tracks is then ~650 Gb. My iMac’s drive is 3Tb. How big of an idiot are you?

      2. I have over 1400 music CDs, all ripped to my computer, in addition to numerous MP3s I’ve legally bought (usually from Amazon), comedy and spoken-word content I’ve bought, etc.

        I’m at almost 31000 tracks, so yeah…it’s very easy to amass a large collection if you’re a serious music listener (and old enough…I’m 47 and been buying CDs since 1986).

        1. Too much music Not enough brains.

          If you had bought your music from iTunes you would be fucking complaining.

          If you buy most of your music from elsewhere Apple doesn’t need you. If you buy the occasional track (up to 25000 occasional tracks apparently) that Apple does not sell on iTunes you are welcome to Match. What part of this don’t you understand? Go cry at Amazon.

          You ARE an Amazon customer…goodbye!

    1. I thought the 25,000 track limit was music that was not available on the iTunes store? Meaning, if say 20,000 of your 40,000 tracks were on the store, you would be fine. You would need more than 25,000 tracks that were not on the store before it would be a problem.

      1. The wording is “not purchased at the iTune Store” which I take to mean that I didn’t personally purchase it there. If it was just whether it is available there, I’m sure that my library would qualify, but it doesn’t.

      2. No. Let’s assume you have 31,000 tracks (as I do), and they came from:

        1) 500 bought from the iTunes store
        2) 2000 or so bought from Amazon or some other MP3 download source
        3) 28,500 that came from ripped CDs (I have 1400 or more CDs)

        Of those 31,000 tracks, assume that 10% (3100) do NOT already exist on the iTunes Store (it’s probably more like 1%, but let’s go with 10% for the sake of argument).

        Here’s how it works:

        The 500 bought from iTunes do not count against your 25,000 limit. EVERYTHING ELSE DOES. I know this because that’s my situation and it won’t let me turn on iTunes Match. It used to until my iTunes Library got to around 25,500 songs, then it stopped working and won’t update. I can still stream the first 25K I had (via my iPhone, etc), but it won’t update with new stuff.

        It *would* make a lot more sense if the 25K limit only applied to tracks that are NOT already in the iTunes Store (but then the 25K limit would be way too high….I don’t see anyone needing more than 5K-7K).

        What’s REALLY stupid is that they have this limit, and yet don’t have a way to specify what you do and don’t want to count. I have a good chunk of classical, but listen infrequently and only when I’m working (ie. at home), so don’t need it in the cloud.

        I also have a bunch of “learn a language” CDs, which tend to have a LOT of tracks each. I don’t need those in iTunes Match, but my only option would be to completely remove them from iTunes (or build a separate library for them), which isn’t worthwhile.

        So instead, iTunes refuses to sync up the most recent stuff I’ve bought (since I exceeded 25K), and instead I can listen to “Pimsleur Learn French” that I bought 10 years ago.

        Idiotic.

  1. Recently got iTunes Match, and after doing a little work on my collection it has really done a great job for me. Love that I can access my songs anywhere and download individual playlists if I want. I’ve enjoyed it.

  2. Seriously people? 25,000? I have a ton of music but have not run into this limit. I think you’re hoarding. You really don’t listen to that much music. That’s 90 days of straight music, or 270 days assuming you could listen during all reasonable waking hours. Meaning you could at most listen to each song just once per year, and for your favorite 25% of the songs, twice per year. You’re a hoarder, and these comments on the limitation are nothing more than your admission that you have a psychological problem. Unless of course you’re a DJ, in that case then you have a premium to pay for larger storage capacity, and you probably wouldn’t want to stream your music or worry about downloading it in that case anyway.

    Seriously: get rid of the clutter and keep the music you truly enjoy, you’ll be much happier with your library in general that way. You don’t need 10 remixes of every song from your childhood that you haven’t listened to in 3 years. Let go. Talk to a digital compulsive behavior hypnotherapist if you have to.

    I happen to love iTunes Match, and for anyone with more than one Apple device who isn’t a mentally ill hoarder, it is perfect for you and well with the price.

    1. That’s harsh. What about books? Why do you need more books than you can realisticly read in a year? Get rid of the clutter and keep only the books you truly enjoy, you’ll be much happier.

      1. It’s very true. I believe in minimalistic living. Aside from my Apple products, my clothing, and a very small number of sentimental items, I ridded my life of useless clutter that nobody needs around them. I can fit everything I own nearly into the trunk of my sports car and live freely without the burden of junk. The same can go for your digital life. If you maintain a small enough amount of data, you can fit all your data into iCloud Drive and not have to be burdened with as much of a threat of losing it. Physical products are a thing of the past. I buy my books, movies, and music on iTunes and have zero physical copies of any of those things. I think of myself as the opposite of a hoarder: the moment I come into possession of something new I immediately begin thinking of ways to digitize it or use it to replace something old or just get rid of it entirely.

    2. You’re going to get some crap, but I think you have at least a minor point. I have about 12 or 13 GB of music, over 7,000 tracks, and it’s really too much. I listen to a tiny fraction of it. I saw that as a reason to subscribe to iTunes Match, because it felt stupid wasting that much space on my phone. With iTunes Match, I’d just store the tracks I actually listen to, and leave the archive on my Mac.

      But what happened is that Apple bumped the mid-range iPhone to 64 GB. Now swimming in more space than I could ever imagine myself using, filling 13 GB with music seemed trivial, so I didn’t bother with iTunes Match.

      ——RM

    3. You miss the point.

      The great thing about digital music is that it doesn’t physically take up space, and at today’s disk storage prices, the cost to store it is inconsequential. Who are you to say what I should keep or discard? Also note that a chunk of the tracks belong to my fiancee (I ripped her CDs to our server as well). We don’t have children, but let’s say you’re talking a family with 3 kids, and parents who are avid music fans. Assuming different tastes, that’s only 5000 tracks per perrson….getting pretty sparse.

      You’re right in your numbers, at least…my 31000 tracks would play without repeat for 105 days, according to iTunes.

      But that’s not the point. The point is that while I will go several years without listening to some of my music, I DO make a point of cycling back through to things I haven’t listened to in a long time, and usually enjoy it immensely.

      And after all, I *did* buy it, so wouldn’t it be pretty stupid to throw it away (or sell it for $0.50 or less per CD, on average) just because Mike thinks I have too much?? 🙂 After all, as I said, disk storage space is extremely cheap nowadays, so why not leave those options open?

      And for the record, I’m nowhere near a hoarder, and in fact regularly get rid of stuff I *don’t* need via Craigslist or eBay. Music is not on that list.

    4. It’s not clutter, it’s VARIETY. I’ve been collecting music since the late 70’s (still have all my old vinyl), and I discover new music every day. For instance, if you’re into Lounge or Downtempo at all Apple has a great deal right now: “Best of Lounge Music 2014” — two HUNDRED tracks for $3.99. Then after I shuffle that for a while, I’ll dip into the collection and play some hair metal from the 80’s, and then later I’ll kick back with some Chopin. Or some Harold Budd. Or, I don’t know, Final Fantasy VI Piano Collections (which I had to import on CD from Japan and is NOT on the iTunes store). I’m glad you’re happy with whatever minimalistic collection you have, but I’m not you.

    1. I listen to the BBC’s 6Music station during the day; I don’t get adverts on there, and I get a continual stream of totally new music, some of which, like three or four new songs I heard today, won’t get a release until January or February next year.
      Doesn’t cost me anything to subscribe to, and I listen on my phone.

  3. I have been an enthusiastic user of iTunes Match since it debuted. I never have to connect my iPhone or iPad just to synch music. All of the playlists get automatically added or updated. It has saved storage on one of my Macs. I have all of my content loaded physically on only one Mac.

  4. My iTunes Match will expire this Friday, It’s been nothing but grief. Holds only 16000 songs, uploaded are over 40 versions of a same song, recorded live in multiple locations, I don’t need any. Could never fit the rest of the 28000 songs.

  5. I’ve used iTunes Match since it’s been available. I like the service, when it works, but I have to consider it largely broken. Anyone who uses a computer with multiple accounts should be aware. Do not use iTunes match. Apple’s Apple ID policy allows only one iTunes account to be associated with any device, computers included. If your wife happens to stream a movie she bought under her user with her iTunes account, it instantly locks you out of your iTunes Match for 90 days under your user. Using hardware, software and services from the same company should not result in this.

    1. I can’t help but wonder if you are doing something wrong. My wife and I took advantage of the new family settings. She can buy a movie under her account, I can switch over to her account on my ATV and see/watch the movie and she can do the same with mine. Nobody gets locked out.

      1. Apple TV is great for that type of switching. On a computer or a mobile device, the association is only good for one iTunes account. Mobile makes sense because it’s really designed for a single user. A computer works the same way though. It’s designed specifically for multiple users and still only allows for a single association. So my issue there is you can’t run multiple iTunes Match off a single computer even with separate users and you can’t change the association in one user (let’s say to download previous perchases) without locking out the others.

  6. I subscribe to iTunes Match and here are my problems with it.

    1- The metadata supplied by grace note replaces your carefully cultivated information. For example, many iTunes tracks have the date on the file of the CD release- not the original album date. Also, the categories used by GraceNote are sometimes kind of strange.
    2-The AAC files are an improvement over the original iTunes files, but are still way less than they should be. I use Apple Lossless.

    1. How accurate are the matches? Some of my early rips are rather primitive by today’s standards, and I worry that iTM wouldn’t recognize them. (For example, back then I was using an MP3 encoded that inserted seconds of silence at the end of the song.) Does it match based on the entire track, or a sample?

      ——RM

  7. For the neanderthals trolling this article: If you’ve lived longer than 40 years, it’s entirely possible that you can exceed the 25k limit. I have thousands of physical CD’s ripped as lossless and an LP collection that I have personally collected over the course of 50 years nearly as large (that I’ve not yet begun to digitize). I have a handful of iTunes purchased tracks and a much higher number of hi-resolution audio files purchased online elsewhere. ITunes helpfully tells me I could listen continuously to my digital library for the better part of a year before repeating a track.

    I’d love the convenience of match for use across devices, but for the inconvenient facts of a 25k limit coupled with streaming music over “3G” (hoho) NEVER worked reliably for me on ATT and Verizon. Reliable streaming data over cellular networks is a cruel joke as far as I can tell, but I digress. Match would be awesome if cellular data did not suck (and wasn’t usuriously expensive) and I could actually have my entire library matched. Oh, and it is absolutely lousy at matching classical music tracks. And someone else just mentioned another critical flaw: metadata being overwritten instead of completed (which should be the correct behavior to be useful to anyone who cares about library data integrity).

    So, Match fails epically thus:

    1.) 25k Limit
    2.) streaming is a joke on cellular networks and tenuous even on wifi
    3.) indiscriminate application of metadata

    But otherwise, really cool idea.

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