iTunes Match will allow you to keep all the songs that you have in your music library -- even the ones that have been downloaded illegally. Lower quality music will be matched to iTunes' library and upgraded to a higher quality 256kbps AAC DRM-free file, so it can be ported onto any device.
And all of this only costs $24.99 a year.
I'll grant Apple this -- just under $25 a year to legitimise an entire music collection is not a bad deal whatsoever.
From Apple's website:
"If you want all the benefits of iTunes in the Cloud for music you haven’t purchased from iTunes, iTunes Match is 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.
Here’s how it 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.
Since there are more than 18 million songs in the iTunes Store, most of your music is probably already in iCloud. All you have to upload is what iTunes can’t match. Which is much faster than starting from scratch. And all the music iTunes matches plays back at 256-Kbps iTunes Plus quality — even if your original copy was of lower quality."
So, not only will Apple allow you to store vast quantities of music in the cloud, it will even replace the poor quality music you have if Apple has it in the iTunes library.
It is limited to 25,000 songs, however, and will require an iOS 5 device. But many will have far less than that. There are limits to every service, of course.
Whether iTunes Match will be a conduit for the music police to come knocking at the door, I heavily doubt. I do suspect that these clandestine deals with major record labels in the past few weeks will help repair the tarnished relationship between record companies and music pirates.
At this stage, it is not entirely clear how this will pan out. Some may say that this will be a way for Apple to 'legitimise' music piracy, but I for one am taking the optimistic approach.
It seems clear to me, that the $25 a year is a very little amount to pay compared to the piracy fines some people have received in the past -- for Apple to distribute money back into the music industry.
Did Apple just kill music piracy? Perhaps not, but I am quite certain that the industry finally has a way to recover losses through online file sharing.