I finally broke down a couple of weeks back and signed up for Apple’s iTunes Match Service. I like the idea of having my entire musical library available from all of my computers and my iOS devices.
In this rather lengthy post, I hope to explain what the iTunes Match service is and share my experiences in setting it up.
What it is
iTunes Match can be thought of as server-based music management. The general idea is that you store your music on Apple’s cloud services and manage it from your various devices. The nice thing, is that you don’t have to upload all of your music files. If iTunes has the file in its catalog, it will “match” the file and automatically add it to your iTunes Match account. Moreover, it will add the 255 k bit rate version of the file, even if the file you currently own is of lower quality.
There are a couple of restrictions to be aware of:
- First of all, you can only add music to your match account – no movies, television shows, .pdf files, etc. You can however, upload voice memos or other audio files as long as they are classified as music in iTunes.
- Music can be no lower than 96k and must not be larger than 200 mg.
- There is a limit of 25,000 songs. At this time, I am unaware of the possibility of purchasing additional iTune Match storage if your library exceeds the maximum number of allowable songs.
- Only one iTunes Match per computer is permitted.
- You must be running the latest version of iTunes
- To use iTunes match on your iOS devices, they must be running iOS 5.
The cost of the service is $24.99 per year and at this time, it is only available to subscribers living in the US. The fee will automatically be renewed at the end of each year. You can turn off the auto renew, sign into your account and in the “iTunes in the Cloud” area, click the “Turn Off Auto-Renew” option.
Elements of the iTunes Match service
The two main elements of the iTunes Match service are Uploading/Matching & Downloading.
Uploading/Matching – getting your existing music to the cloud servers.
This involves three steps :
1. Analyzes your library
2. Matches your library against theirs
3. Uploads the difference
First, iTunes match will scan your iTunes library and pick up the metadata of your songs. It will then try to “match” those songs with the songs that iTune has in its existing catalog. If it does, it will mark these songs as “Matched” and will not upload them. Instead, the song is automatically added to your iTunes Match cloud.
If any of your songs do not exist in the iTunes catalog, they will then be physically uploaded to the iTunes Match cloud server. Note that this can take a considerable amount of time, depending on the number of unmatched songs in your iTunes library.
iTunes Match will check your library periodically and upload any new songs that you have added (purchased elsewhere online or ripped from a CD).
Downloading – accessing your music via your computer or iOS devices. Once the uploading/matching is complete, you will be able to access your music in iCloud from iTunes on your computer for from the Music App on your iOS 5 device.
You can stream from your iTunes Match library to your computer but not to your iOS devices. While you do have access to your entire library from your device, the songs are not “streamable” – you will need to download the songs you want to your iOS Devices. To download a song from the cloud to your device, open your Music app and click the song you wish to download.
Once you’re Matched…
From this point forward, any time you make a purchase from iTunes, the 256k DRM-free version of the music will be automatically added to your matched songs. With iTunes Match, you can re-download any of your songs as long as your subscription is active.
Preparing Your Library
Before getting started, there are several things you should do to ensure that your iTunes library is in tip-top shape. It’s a good excuse to fix those iTunes Library issues that you’ve been meaning to take care of for awhile.
- First off before anything else, BACK UP YOUR LIBRARY. Things can go wrong or you may end up inadvertently deleting something you hadn’t intended.
- Make sure all of your music has the proper category. I found that several of my rather large audio books were classified as Music and because of that, iTunes uploaded them to the cloud. This took quite a bit of extra time before I noticed what was going on. I quickly changed the category of my remaining audiobooks to “Audiobook”. You may wish to do with with any of your larger “spoken” files.
- Make sure that all of your songs have the proper genres assigned to them. Also, be aware of any songs that contain multiple genres.
- Rip any CD’s to iTunes that you want included in the match.
- Check your library for duplicate songs (using File > Find Duplicates). Then, delete any duplicate songs you do not want or need.
- Create any playlist you want included.
You will need to sign up to iTunes match from your computer and not your iOS device.
- Choose Store > Turn On iTunes Match and then click “Subscribe for $24.99”
- Enter any billing information or password credentials if prompted
- Agree to iTunes Match Terms and Conditions
- The match process will now begin! To see the status of each of your songs (matched, uploaded, ineligible or pending), choose View > View Options from the menu and then click the box next to iCloud Status.
Once your items are uploaded to the cloud, they are then accessible on your other devices.
Turning It On
To turn on iTunes match on your iOS devices, tab “Settings”, then tap “Music” and then choose “Turn On iTunes Match. To turn on iTunes match on other computers, simply open iTunes and choose Store > Turn On iTunes Match from the menu. Enter in your credentials if prompted.
You may find that some of your tracks did not upload properly to iTune match. Often, you may see a cloud with an exclamation point through it. This tells you that the file was not uploaded due to some error. It’s up to you to figure it out. If the cloud icon displays two clouds with a diagonal line through one of them, this tells you that there is a duplicate of the song.
Below are some things to look at when troubleshooting:
- the song is encoded below 96 bits
- song is larger than 200 meg
- tracks are poorly encoded
- song is not categorized as music
- physical location of song is incorrect in your library
Tomorrow, we will look at using iTunes Match to “upgrade” your music library!