Apple released iTunes Match yesterday, a service that was first announced this summer at WWDC, in conjunction with version 10.5.1 of iTunes. Available only in the U.S. for now, iTunes Match costs $24.99 per year and offers cloud synchronization and storage of music purchased from the iTunes Store as well as “matching” of music ripped from CDs, which can then be streamed or downloaded to up to 10 devices associated with your Apple ID.
Here’s a brief description of the service from Apple’s site:
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 iCloud for you to listen to anytime, on any device. Since there are more than 20 million songs in the iTunes Store, chances are, your music is already in iCloud. And for the few songs that aren’t, iTunes has to upload only what it can’t match. Which is much faster than starting from scratch. Once your music is in iCloud, you can stream and store it to any of your devices. Even better, all the music iTunes matches plays back from iCloud at 256-Kbps AAC DRM-free quality — even if your original copy was of lower quality.
I’ll be honest with you – I was a little fuzzy on what would make iTunes Match a compelling service for someone like me. In researching a little more, I came across some additional information and resources that helped answer my questions that may also be helpful for you:
- You’ll need to have a computer with OS X Lion 10.7 or Windows Vista or later and iOS 5 on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to use iTunes Match. A list of requirements and instructions on how to subscribe to the service are available on Apple’s site in this knowledge base article.
- iTunes Match doesn’t care where your music came from when it comes to matching. If you ripped music from CDs, purchased music from Amazon or another digital music retailer, or even if you obtained it via torrenting or some other method (which is still illegal even though iTunes Match doesn’t penalize you for this). Ars Technica has an interesting article that addresses the question about whether or not Apple would use iTunes Match to identify those who have pirated music here.
- iTunes Match is limited to 25,000 songs (not including the songs you’ve purchased from the iTunes Store). Macworld investigated how to circumvent this limitation and describes the process in this article.
- There’s one question that I still haven’t seen answered directly by Apple and that’s what happens to your music if you let your iTunes Match subscription lapse or cancel it intentionally, specifically if you deleted the “original” songs from your library in favor of the higher bitrate versions that iTunes Match replaced them with. Will iTunes Match let you keep those songs or will they disappear, leaving you with no music at all? (Of course, the smart thing to do is make a back-up of your music first so you have a copy of it somewhere.) This article at The Next Web indicates that you get to keep that music, making iTunes Match a great way to get high-quality versions of music you obtained from other sources aside from the iTunes Store, legitimately or illegitimately.
If you have multiple Apple devices, iTunes Match is probably more compelling for you than for those who don’t. For example, iTunes Match will let you access all of your music through an Apple TV 2, which has little internal storage to hold music on its own (nor is it meant to), making it easier to listen to nearly every song in your music library through your home theater system. Or, if you have an iOS device with a small amount of storage that can’t hold your entire music library, iTunes Match will at least let you access more of your music than you would be able to otherwise.
I’m going to give iTunes Match a try. I’m particularly interested in accessing most of my music library on my iPhone and iPad without needing to physically load it all onto each device. I’ll also probably check it out on via my Apple TV 2 though that’s not a way I usually listen to my music. Are you going to subscribe to iTunes Match?