iTunes Match is a hidden gem for your music listening pleasure

iTunes Match is a hidden gem for your music listening pleasure

Summary: For just $24.99 a year, you can listen to your music on any device and from anywhere


I had heard about iTunes Match, when it was released to just iPhone developers. I had debated about trying it back then, but Apple had mentioned that it would remove all of your matches as it moved from beta to live, so I figured there was no rush.

The iTunes Match service officially went live in November 2011 in the United States, and then worldwide shortly thereafter. The surprising thing for me, though, is that I never heard anyone talking about it, not to mention that to this day, I never hear anyone talking about either. For that reason, I decided to write this article.

I have 13,157 songs, in 57.58GB, in iTunes. In my home I keep all of this music on a network drive, and use Sonos to stream my music throughout the home. This works great when I'm home, but what about when I'm traveling or just out and about? Enter iTunes Match.

As I mentioned above, I had heard about iTunes Match a while ago but the value of what it can offer didn't hit me until I was on a recent road trip. I was sitting in an airport with a three hour layover, and had a desire to listen to some of my music. It was at that moment that I realized I didn't have any of it with me, since it was on a network drive at my house. Long story short, I downloaded some of the tunes that I had previously purchased on iTunes, but most of my collection came from ripped CDs, so this was only a short-term fix.

When I got home I signed up for iTunes Match. I figured that for $25 for a year, even if I barely used it, it would pay for itself pretty quickly. Well, I couldn't have been more wrong about its usefulness and have been enjoying music since Friday on both my Mac and iPhone.

If you're not familiar with iTunes Match, it's a service that leverages iCloud. It basically allows you to access your music from anywhere, or from the "cloud", as it's known. iTunes Match works by analyzing the music you have in your iTunes program on your PC or Mac. It literally works in three steps:

  • Step 1: Gathering information about your iTunes library.
  • Step 2: Matching your music with songs in the iTunes Store.
  • Step 3: Uploading artwork and remaining songs.

In my case, since my songs are on my network drive, I chose to not create a copy of them on my Mac and then I dragged all of my music into iTunes. Once iTunes finished updating my iTunes library, I then forced an update to iTunes Match. A bit later I was informed that my music was now in the cloud and available for streaming from any device.

How it works If iTunes Match finds a match to the songs in your collection on your computer, it makes that song immediately available for streaming from iCloud. There are more than 20 million songs, so chances are pretty high for a match, which will then offer a stream and even a download of the same song at 256Kbps AAC (DRM-free). If you don't match, iTunes will upload what it can't match.

As I mentioned above, my library is 13,157 songs. iCloud is currently showing me that I have 9475 songs. Since iCloud will let you store 25,000 songs, and even more if you purchase songs from the iTunes Store, I'm left wondering if the remaining 3682 are dupes, or just not matching, for whatever reason. Regardless, that still leaves almost 10,000 songs available for streaming from anywhere. Thankfully, the iTunes interface will show me what it thinks are dupes, so I will soon have a dupe-free collection.

First Impressions

Listening from your Mac I was a bit skeptical about how well the service would work so the first thing I tried to do was listen to the songs from my Mac, while not connected to my network. Unfortunately, this was where I hit a snag, though it didn't take much to get it resolved.

I had tried to play my music from iTunes and was immediately informed that it couldn't find the music and asked me to try to locate the source. I knew that I could obviously download the music directly to my Mac again, from the cloud, but this was far from the experience I had hoped for. Some quick Googling surfaced this thread on MacRumors, where I was informed that I have to delete the songs from my local library, at which point I would be prompted with a dialog giving me an option of also deleting from iCloud.

At this point, I chose to not check off the "delete this song from iCloud", and then the songs that I had just deleted remained, but now had a cloud icon in the iTunes Match column. I then clicked 'play' on the song and the streaming started right away.

Listening from my iPhone I had a much more seamless experience streaming from my iPhone. I launched the Music app, and was immediately presented with a full list of my library. I then clicked 'play' on a song and it started streaming immediately.

If you're wondering how well it streams, I streamed an entire Dane Cook album over 3G on AT&T on my iPhone, while driving on the highway for over an hour yesterday. The stream was flawless the entire time.

iTunes Match is definitely my new favorite toy. I'm still trying to figure out what happened to my 3600 or so songs, but for now I'm just happy that I can take my music with me anywhere, and on any device.

Read more about iTunes Match and subscribe for $24.99 for a year, to see how useful it really is.

Topic: Legal

Joel Evans

About Joel Evans

With more than 15 years of mobile, Internet and wireless experience, Joel specializes in taking existing brands and technologies into the mobile and wireless space. Joel is currently the VP of Strategy Integration for Mobiquity, an enterprise-class mobile solutions provider.

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  • Any device?

    You can listen from any Apple device, that's important distinction.
    Jeff Kibuule
    • Exactly.

      The article is very misleading.
      You can't listen on any device, or from anywhere. It only works on an Apple Devices that supports Match and only works in places where you can get WIFI if you don't have a 3G device (WIFI-only iPad for example).

      It's a ridiculous service anyway. Google Play offers their cloud player service for free, and you can upload up to 20,000 songs.
      Google Play works on many more devices than Match does, as Google Play is available on Android phones/tablets, iOS phones/tablets, as well as Windows & Mac laptops/desktops.

      Amazon Cloud is also a free service. Same kind of thing.

      Why anyone would pay a $25 yearly fee to listen to music they already paid for once (except for Mr. 200,000 pirated songs below), is beyond me.

      Apple fanboys will truly buy anything with an Apple logo on it. Wow.

      Save your $$ and spend it on something worthwhile. Use Google's free.
  • I am confused...

    I can do this with Amazon MP3 and the only devices it doesn't work on are iOS devices as it works on everything else. The only difference is that Amazon's MP3, the cloud storage is free for any Amazon purchase and the first 5 Gigs are free and that means no yearly fee.
    • Yes.... Yes you are:)

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn
    • Amazon MP3

      That is just a storage locker. It doesn't match and improve the audio quality of songs you have on your local devices. iTunes match allows you to have your music fingerprinted digitally, regardless of filenames etc, and it will find the matching song in the cloud, so you don't have to upload nearly as much. One the songs are matched or uploaded, you can redownload all the matched music in highest bit rate available 256kbps Variable Bit Rate. I redownloaded about half my entire library. When I set my a new iPhone, I could see all my collection on the phone and download whatever I wanted immediately without needing to sync it with an iTunes library at home. Great for shared libraries for multiple people, folks with mid-size music collections (I have about 12,000), folks that want easy music management. Amazon is just uploading and storing, doesn't do anything related to improving music quality.
      • UMM

        What if you ripped you music at 256 kbps? And, if you bought them from Amazon they were already high quality.

        All I am saying is that there might be benefits to this but Amazon MP3 covers most of them for free... Now what happens if you cancel your subscription? Are you back to the same old files that you started With?

        That's another thing ... On my Android and Windows Devices I can enable DLNA and wirelessly send my music to my TV, Bluray player, or stereo for free.

        With Bluetooth my phone pumps the music to my car audio. I guess I am thinking you're over valuing the benefits of this service.
      • It can improve the audio quality

        It can improve the audio quality you have on your local devices if you choose to do so, just redownload from iTunes and you have a new copy.
  • It's a great service especially if you have an extensive CD collection

    It took quite a while to copy my 300-400 CDs to iTunes. With Match, I'm sure to have my music everywhere with me, not just the one I bought from iTunes. It's cool.
    • Re:

      This sounds like something someone would say on a cheesy commerical. Imagine the people from the mycleanpc commericals saying exactly that.
  • It streams

    Doesn't the streaming leave you paying for data bandwidth to hear songs that you would otherwise have in local storage on the device?
    Robert Hahn
    • Yup. Streaming any digital media has a price attached to it.

      However, if the user so wishes, that initial streaming could also just download that MP3 file onto the local iOS device.

      Personally, I would only use that streaming option if I absolutely needed that song for a specific purchase. (say for a song track for an iMovie being composed on my iPad - or some other creative task)

      Barring that, I would just take along a portable HD unit filled with my digital media files and play the songs from that source. (As your implication suggested.)
  • or: Why not continue to pay for it while you still own it. Its fun!

    Here we have another 'service' which furhers the latest marketing campaign that 'even if you own it, you must keep paying for it'. ??So, you never really 'own' it, you just 'have' it. ??This is all masked by nifty words like 'convienience', and lofty commercial/articles like this one.
    Lets see: I pay 25 dollars a year to have access to what I already own. ??If I stop paying, I lose that access and somehow the value of what I actually own because I feel like I don't have what I own anymore. ??Additionally, since I've been distanced from the responsibilities of ownership, the perceived value of convienience supercedes the real value of choosing and planning to listen to my music. ??
    This is great if you're a forgetful meth addict with the attention span of a 2 year old. ??On the other hand, you won't enjoy the convienience of this service for long as you will be pawning all your fancy Apple products to get high for a week.
    Real World Situation/Alternative: ??I have a 10 year old Rio player, a Trisket sized mp3 player and an Ipad; the latter two, christmas presents. ??I have a 32gb sd car that used to be for a camera. ??When running around, I have these items with me. ??The card fits in all 3 devices. ??When the battery life (ahhhh, the REAL bane of portable music listening ) goes out in one item, I move the card to the next device; usually the rio, as it also uses a aaa battery, then the ipad, using ifile.??
    Now, on the plane for 8 hours, I am not slaved to the armrest music.... nor a cloud service that is... not in the clouds; that 'service' I would be paying for is just as much vapor as its namesake.
    That is complete, real ownership. ??And, this is how the article should've been written.
    • missing the point

      Any cloud storage gives you locker space - Apples is locker space with added convenience and features. But forget the convenience and features, how does it rate as merely storage space? Quite competitively. On the day it was rolled out it was far cheaper than Amazon's cloud service.
    • whut?

      And, this is how the article should've been written??

      Only if this was a freebie blog spot of some demented ranter who can't spell or form a coherent thought. I find it rather amusing you would claim iTunes Match is great for a meth addict with an attention span of a two year old, when you write like one.

      What are you on about? This is a low cost digital locker service. That's it. If you don't want to use it or pay for it, the music you have paid for or copied to your computer doesn't go anywhere. This isn't paying to stream whatever you want like Spotify. This is a hosting service that has your stuff you put on it, if you stop paying for the hosting it goes away.
  • How about 0$

    I can listen for 0 dollars per year on each device I have, including non-connected devices. How about that?
  • Very useful for cleaning up dupes and ripped audio

    I signed up for iTunes match. You can make a playlist of items with low bit rates, those are probably your unmatched items, anything less than about 100kbps. It also helped me identify dupes. I had various items that I had ripped at low bit rate a while ago when I was low on space. Now I rip everything at high bit rate and if they don't fit on my laptop, I can delete them and redownload later. I don't worry about backing up my music collection regularly now either, they are all backed up to the cloud. Cheaper in time and money to pay $25 for all this, than to get external drives and do the backups myself monthly etc, plus if something I play has a skip or data flaw, I can delete and redownload the matched version.
    • No

      It is not cheaper. You (I assume) backup all your photos, working documents, etc. How hard it is to add to this one more folder with your music? Does that cost 25$?
      Also the notion that redownloading is somehow less prone to errors that IO is really, really off.
  • how does free sound?

    I've been doing this for years for free. Apple fannybois have too much money. I hate my ipod for making me use itunes . . .
    • Then you were foolish to purchase an iPod in the first place:)

      Doubly so for admitting to your mistake on a public forum.

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn
    • COOL!

      So "fan boy" morphed to "fanboy", to "fanbois" and now to "fannybois"? I love the evolution of language. Aaaanyway, it appears you might have an iPod for sale soon? Can you toss me a price? Don't worry, I'm loaded. Hell. being an Apple "fannybois" as you say, I'd probably pay twice what you bought it for new!