The real difference between iTunes Match and iCloud Music Library: DRM

“The whole iTunes Match and Apple Music thing is confusing,” Kirk McElhearn writes for Kirksville.

“Apple says they are ‘independent but complementary,’ and, on first glance, they look quite similar,” McElhearn writes. “But when you look closely, they are very different.”

“If you’re using Apple Music, and not iTunes Match, Apple doesn’t make a distinction between which files were originally yours, and which you downloaded for offline listening from Apple Music,” McElhearn writes. “This means that if you’ve matched your library with Apple Music and iCloud Music Library, you need to keep backups of your original files. If not, you’ll end up with files that you can’t play without an Apple Music subscription.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We used to have thousands of songs that we own on our iPhones. After Apple Music’s launch, they weren’t there. We had to download them to the iPhone’s local storage from iCloud. Why? Color us confused as well.


      1. That doesn’t make it good. Who gives a crap about what others do. I would have expected them to go away when subscription is cancelled. Another poor design flaw.

    1. You have to have DRM on the streamed songs, otherwise people would pay $10 for a month of streaming, download every song they want, and then quit. It would be like a rental car company failing to require in the contract that you actually return the car at the end of a 3-day rental.

      What’s more concerning is that they’re applying DRM to downloads of “matched” tracks from your iTunes library. If you already have a DRM-free version of the song, why are they replacing it with a DRMed version? It makes no sense.

        1. To be clear, if you subscribe to iTunes Match (the $24.99/yr service), then your matched songs that get downloaded from the cloud should be DRM-free. If you only subscribe to Apple Music, then the matched songs that get downloaded from the cloud have DRM. This is only after you download them on a different Mac/PC that doesn’t already have the song – any machine that has the original DRM-free file will keep that copy.

        2. Re-reading my original post, my use of the word “replace” is confusing. Suppose you have two Macs, Mac 1 and Mac 2. Mac 1 has all your DRM-free songs, and Mac 2 has nothing on it. After enabling Apple Music and syncing your Mac iTunes libraries via iCloud, Mac 1 still retains all of its DRM-free songs. Mac 2 now has DRMed versions of all of the DRM-free songs (previously it has nothing).

          The replacement of the DRM-free file is happening in the cloud, not on Mac 1. I would argue that Mac 2 should receive DRM-free versions of Mac 1’s songs – that’s how iTunes Match works. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to be how Apple Music works.

          1. Thanks for the explanation, it was confusing me but you’ve nailed it. I’ve got Match, so is this how it’ll work?:

            My MacBook has DRM free AAC files on and stays as it is – original files remain intact.

            My work PC, which I’ve just installed iTunes on and synced will download DRM files and my iOS devices will too.

            So if I cancel my subscription and sync my iOS devices to my MacBook, no problem. If I sync them to the PC they won’t play. Does that sound right?

            One other question – if I have some 128kb MP3’s on my MacBook and they have been Matched, if I delete the MP3 files and re-download the songs from the cloud, will they be DRM free? This is what I loved about Match, you could replace your cruddy old MP3s (legally ripped in iTunes 4) with 256kbps AAC’s. SJ even said it was like an amnesty between downloaders and the music industry IIRC. Has this come to an end?

    1. The confusing thing for me is that people are confused when they hear that they cannot keep listening to a “subscribed” song after the subscription ends.

  1. My iTunes library, 6000 songs strong, ripped from purchased CDs to 320 kbps, is crawling up to iCloud. Gonna take eight days at current rate. Alarmingly, several songs are greyed out now, unable to be played.

    Very strange.

    1. iCloud is straining right now.

      I was updating my devices preparing for a road trip at home on a fast Cable Internet connection and the usual iCloud tricks for moving files around was proving a very slow process.

  2. count me in the opposition. I used to have 26,000 songs during the napster & early days of iTunes. Half were ripped from CD’s that I ‘borrowed’ from everyone including neighbors. The rest were of course a collection of napster mined songs and a small but growing collection of ones I paid for in iTunes.

    Years later, after many computers & hard drives, those files were lost and I was sadden.

    Cue this new Apple Music… I’m ever so gladly paying for a subscription to get to access thousands of songs that I may want to listen. Its no longer about “collecting for the sake of collecting”. I can sit back and listen to anything on the entire iTunes streaming end of things & its downloading IF it needs to be.

    Honestly, I still can’t imagine why I’d need offline files? Why take up MY hard drive space with thousands of songs that I may or may not listen too from time to time. All my iOS devices have LTE & I’m just fine streaming over the internet. Let someone else burn their hard drives up with storage…

    Just my feelings about it, I’m more than happy to spend it on a subscription…its the way I wanted iTunes to be all along. I can’t imagine wanting to BUY another song–just use it via the Apple Music ecosystem.

    1. I recommend not admitting that you used to get music illegally even if you no longer have the files. The RIAA is still around and like to pick on people.

      Offline access is useful when there is no internet service available. Best example is flying, where you are stuck in a tin can for many hours and listening to music is a good diversion. But the same can be said for traveling overland where cell coverage can be spotty or even in some parts of the city when cell signal is low or WiFi is not available.

      I’m using the download feature to grab songs or albums that interested me so I can listen to them later.

      I may still buy the odd song that I really like but the subscription allows me to listening to the whole album and pick and choose those that are very good. Still early days so I am not sure how my listening behavior will change.

    2. Why would anyone want/need offline files? Because music services come and go all the time, and their libraries change as well. If the service goes away or you decide to cancel the service, your entire music collection also goes away. If the provider gets into a rights dispute with a label, entire portions of your collection can get pulled offline (which happens all the time on Netflix).

      Also, most data plans are capped, and not all areas have reliable network connections.

      Hard drive storage is cheap. My collection, which includes a sizable number of uncompressed high res files, has about 10,000 songs. Whole collection takes about 160 GB. Those are my files, they’re all DRM-free (mainly because they’re ripped from CDs and LPs that I still have), and they don’t go away if a streaming service shuts down or changes its offerings or just decides to change their strategic focus.

      Currently, about 1/4 of my music collection is not available on iTunes. That’s a chunk of my music that I would not have available if I relied only on a streaming service. And in the case of Apple Music, the available music selection is more limited than iTunes.

    3. I just checked this since I have been using iTunes Match for a few years now. I have a new MacBook I just bought and I have no music on it. I did subscribe to Apple Music. I downloaded three types of songs: One that I uploaded to Match, one that I purchased from iTunes, and one I downloaded from Apple Music. All three files are distinctive. The Matched song is still DRM free and if you Get Info on the file you can see that it is labeled as such. The second track was purchased on iTunes and it remains DRM Free. The third track from Apple Music is Protected and it is called Apple Music AAC.

      So Match songs DO NOT become DRM, because that would be theft of your music, if you stop paying for the sub.

  3. Apple is all about freedom and equality. Except when it comes to music (and perhaps other things). Those CD’s you bought are not equal to the music you buy or rent from Apple. Apple is in a war against optical media. Fine. That seems to be the future for most folks. I have thousands of CD’s. Apple should not infringe upon my ability to use them on my Mac.

  4. Checked out iTunes on my MBA. Everything looks like it should. Purchased AAC tunes are still on my drive. iTunes matched tunes are either in the cloud or have been downloaded for offline playability–no changes here. When I download my matched tunes, they come down DRM-free, just like they should. Not saying that others aren’t having problems. It just ain’t happening here.

  5. Fuck Apple Music. I’ve had iTunes Match since it came out, I buy the music I want to listen to, and don’t give a shit about radio or listening to garbage. Haven’t listened to radio since the debut of SouljaBoy. I’ll keep my iTunes Match just the way it is.

  6. As I use Apple Music each day I am getting to know some DIRTY secrets. Creating playlists was hell of a job but I found an easy way that worked. But the shock of shocks: You can’t make more than 10 playlists. Once you make the 11th playlist, number 1 disappears. It never happened with Spotify. Apple Music is the most user unfriendly service. Very disappointed!

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