Is iTunes Match Made In Heaven?
iTunes Match is a ‘Cloud’ music service i.e. it operates over the interweb – it allows you to access your entire personal music library from any computer with iTunes 10.5.1+ installed or any iOS 5.0.1+ device with an active internet connection (e.g. iPhone, iPod, iPad).
You can match and replace up to 25,000 songs stored in your computer – whether they are your own CD rips, downloads or purchases. Once you have subscribed to iTunes Match and matched or uploaded your eligible music, you will be able to access your music in iCloud directly from within iTunes Music library on any computer, or from the Music Player app on your iOS 5 device.
How It Works – iTunes Match tries to ‘match’ the songs you have stored in iTunes with the version available in Apple’s iTunes. If a match is found, a copy of each song is stored in iCloud for you to download or stream later – matching fills in any missing song tags and, crucially, if your version of the song is below 256kbps in quality then Match will replace it in iCloud with a higher quality version (if available, but iTunes is so large that it most likely will be).
An example may make it clearer:
- Assume you have 1000 songs stored in iTunes on your PC, from a variety of sources and with different levels of quality.
- After subscribing to Match, it checks your songs and finds 950 matches – 750 are good quality but 200 are poor quality.
- Match stores copies of all 950 tracks in iCloud – the copies of the 200 poor quality tracks are upgraded better quality versions.
- The 50 songs that were not matched must be uploaded to iCloud over the internet (which may take some time).
- Once finished, all 1000 tracks are available in iCloud for you to stream (play) to any of your devices over the net. And you could also download the higher quality versions of the 200 tracks to your own computer – a great way of replacing your local stored copies with better quality versions.
It is easy to see why concerns have been raised over music piracy. If a pirated song is matched, you could download the new ‘matched’ iTunes version of it from iCloud and delete the dodgy original, effectively creating a legal copy – laundering songs one might say…
Is iTunes Match Any Good?
Generally yes, it is receiving very positive reviews – some early UK subscribers had teething problems with usernames and passwords resulting in a temporary limit on new subscriptions (maybe the registration servers were simply swamped by the demand) but those problems were quickly resolved.
If you have a lot of relatively poor quality songs then Match is a brilliant way of upgrading them to a high quality format – it may be worth the first year’s fee just for that feature alone as, once the poor quality tracks have been replaced with better versions, you can download and store them locally on your computer – as well as playing them from the cloud.
Apart from the quality upgrades, what you are really paying for is the ability to have your entire music collection backed up and made available to your devices wherever you have an internet connection.
What Does iTunes Match Cost?
Costs vary by country but US users get a good deal – in the US an annual subscription costs just $24.99 per year.
Whereas in the UK it costs £21.99 per year – it ‘should’ cost c £16.08 at current exchange rates so there’s a degree of distinctly un-Christmasy penny pinching from Apple there…
You can read more about subscribing to iTunes Match at the iTunes Store here.