Arriving a couple of weeks late, Apple has finally released iTunes Match in the United States and I love it!
What is iTunes Match?
iTunes Match is Apple’s cloud-based music service designed to store your music purchases and make them available to all of your iTunes-enabled devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac, PC, and Apple TV). Music purchases don’t just include iTunes purchases but also your whole library of songs you might have imported from CDs or other sources. Apple charges $24.99 a year for this service which not only stores your music in iCloud but also upgrades your lower-quality tunes to 256-Kbps AAC DRM-free quality.
How Does It Work?
iTunes attempts to match all of your tunes to its 20-million song database. When it finds a match, it automatically adds that song to your iCloud account. Any songs it couldn’t match, such as songs not in its library, jam sessions created in GarageBand, custom re-mixes, etc… get uploaded to your iCloud account ready to be shared to your other devices.
So How Do I Get It?
I’ve compiled a walk-through of my experience to share with you and to be honest, it was quite easy and only took about 30 minutes. In this walkthrough, I installed iTunes on my iMac, Macbook Pro, Win 7 PC, iPhone 4, and Apple TV.
My initial device – my iMac
If you haven’t already, update your iTunes to the newest 10.5.1 version. I had already done this on my computers prior to writing this article.
Starting with my iMac, I was greeted with an introduction to iTunes Match and the ability to subscribe for $24.99 a year. I promptly paid my money and was ready to go.
After choosing to subscribe, I was taken away to an easy 3-step process.In Step 1, iTunes gathered information about my existing library. I had roughly over 1100 songs, which probably pales in comparison to some of you reading this, and about 75+ songs that I had imported from my CD collection. What I was most anxious to see, however, was how iTunes Match handled a few recordings of my daughter, Haley, singing.
During Step 2, iTunes Match matched all my tunes to its 20-million plus songs in its database. However, for all you metadata users, not only is it matching the songs, it’s also uploading your custom metadata! If you’ve painstakingly tweaked your library with different genres, ratings, etc… this info is carried with your metadata to the iCloud and synced with your other devices as well. No losing all that hard work!
Step 3 consisted of uploading my remaining songs and any artwork already attached to your music. Did I also mention that with iTunes Match, any missing artwork is also replaced?
After this 3-step process was over, iTunes told me how many songs were available in my iCloud account and how to connect the rest of my devices.
I noticed that I also had a new icon below the iTunes Store labeled iTunes Match which appeared after my initial iTunes update.
I went to my Music library in iTunes to see what exactly had happened during these updates.
Songs that I had imported at a lower bit-rate from a CD now had a small iCloud icon with a line through the cloud in a new column next to the song title. So now I had duplicates but the Match version was a better quality so i was happy with that. When I am ready to delete the duplicates, I can easily sort by the iCloud column and delete the inferior versions.
I didn’t expect to see a lot of changes since this was my master library so I moved to my MacBook Pro to see how this whole iCloud thing worked!
Moving on to my MacBook
Opening iTunes, I clicked the iTunes Match icon I mentioned earlier and saw that all I had to do was click “Add This Computer” and my Macbook was ready to go.
Navigating to songs I knew I didn’t have on this computer, I noticed a regular iCloud icon in the iCloud column. This signifies the song is in your iCloud library and is ready to be played. What I happily discovered was that the songs didn’t download automatically to my computer. I didn’t want to waste valuable room on my hard drive for songs that I might not listen to on the go. To download the song, you can click the iCloud icon and it automatically downloads or you can play the song. There’s a second or two delay while the song buffers and as it plays, it’s added to your library and the iCloud icon goes away.
The iTunes-Shared PC and a Problem
Moving to my PC, I encountered the same “Add This Computer” screen but was met with a message I wasn’t happy with. I use this PC to sync my son Keegan’s iPod as well as sign in with my iTunes account to play my music. Apparently, only one computer can now be linked. I guess this stops people from signing into their friend or co-worker’s computer and adding their songs to their iCloud account. I’ll have to investigate this more later.
Turning iTunes Match on on my iPhone was as easy as going to Settings –> Music and toggling iTunes Match “On”. I was informed that iTunes Match would replace my music library. At first I was concerned that the songs on my iPhone would be deleted but after I clicked “Enable” a new setting appeared allowing me to “Show All Music” from my iCloud library or just view my local iPhone library. Like before, songs that weren’t local had an iCloud icon beside them ready to be played and/or downloaded to my phone.
Apple Tv Awesomeness
Last but not least was my Apple TV. After the last Apple Tv update a few weeks ago, I was teased with the below screen offering iTunes Match.
I was finally able to turn it on!
Selecting “Turn on iTunes Match” led me to a simple setup screen.
After clicking “Ok”, my library was there!
So, Who is iTunes Match NOT For?
I’d like to point out that if some or all of your library is in Lossless Codec, there is no way to pick and choose what songs are copied to the iCloud library so these songs will be replaced with the standard 256-Kbps format. In addition, if you purchase music directly from iTunes and you don’t import any CDs, there is no need to pay the annual fee as your purchases are already stored in the your iCloud library and are available from your other devices.
I was quite happy with the short and painless process. I now have all my music wherever I want it and finally have a reason to rip the rest of my CDs to my iCloud.
How was your experience upgrading to iTunes Match?