Understanding iTunes Match: iCloud and More Details

By , Nov 15, 2011

Apple finally released iTunes Match in the US yesterday, and many have already subscribed to the $24.99 a year cloud service. We gave you the complete rundown of iTunes Match yesterday, and we also showed you how to enable the service on your devices.

While iTunes Match is fairly simple to use, there are some more technical details that many will find helpful…

iCloud Status Icons

You may notice some new iCloud icons next to your songs in iTunes after enabling iTunes Match. If you don’t see the icons, you can enable them by navigating in iTunes to View > View Options. From there, check the iCloud Status box.

Now you should see new information next to each track regarding that track’s iTunes Match status. Apple has given a helpful breakdown of what each of those symbols mean:

On iOS 5, you’ll see an empty iCloud icon next to each track that you haven’t downloaded to your iDevice. The icons will disappear as you download tracks from iCloud to your local storage.

File Formats and Bit Rates

iTunes Match takes all of your music and offers it at a high-quality 256 kbps AAC file. iTunes Match will also recognize ALAC, WAV, or AIFF formats. Songs that are encoded as MP3 or AAC and can’t be matched with iTunes will be uploaded as is. Songs that are 96 kbps or lower cannot be matched in iCloud. Apple has set a 200MB limit for tracks that can be uploaded.

If you would like to upgrade all of your music to Apple’s higher bit rate at once, refer to this tutorial on creating a Smart Playlist in iTunes. You’ll have to delete the music you want replaced from your computer and re-download it from iCloud.

The 25,000 Track Limit

Macworld has a helpful tip for overcoming the restriction that Apple imposes on how many tracks you have have uploaded in iCloud. While songs purchased in the iTunes Store don’t count against your 25,000 track limit, other files, including all those CDs you burned, cannot exceed 25,000 for each iTunes Match account.

By creating a separate iTunes library, you can circumvent this restriction and have more tracks in iCloud.

In a perfect world, rather than giving you the boot, iTunes would then offer a suggestion along the lines of “Since your entire iTunes library is too expansive for iTunes Match, would you like to upload some of your favorite playlists?” But it doesn’t. So you must take matters into your own hands. And that means feeding iTunes Match a different library.

To do that, quit iTunes, hold down the Option key, and launch iTunes. You’ll be prompted to create a new library or choose a different library. Choose the option to create a new library. iTunes will open and you’ll have nary a tune in your library.

Move to the Store menu and choose Turn on iTunes Match. You’ll be prompted for your Apple ID and password. Enter them and click OK and iTunes will switch on iTunes Match. Now open iTunes’ preferences, click the Advanced preference, and uncheck the Copy Files to iTunes Media Folder When Adding to Library option and click OK. This will prevent iTunes from generating duplicates when you follow the next step.

Head over to Macworld for the full tutorial.

Authorizing and Deauthorizing

We know what you’re thinking: “Cool! I just got iTunes Match, so that means I can login into my friends iPhone and let him have all my music for free!”

It’s not that simple. Apple has a 90-day login window, so that means your friend will be stuck with only your iTunes Match account for three months. An iTunes Match account will work with 10 devices and computers (combined) at once. We detail sharing iTunes Match libraries extensively on our previous post.

Here’s our video walkthrough of iTunes Match:

Only songs work with iTunes Match for the time being, and there is no evidence that Apple does check song info to determine if a track was downloaded legitimately or not. Songs that are made available for download in iCloud are DRM-free and can be downloaded an unlimited amount of times on authorized devices. Welcome to the future of your music library.

If you have any other questions about the service, feel free to ask in the comments. We’ll do our best to respond.

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  • http://twitter.com/NormGregory Norm Gregory

    I have thousands of songs that are “Waiting.” I don’t see any evidence that an attempt is being made to match or upload any of them. Even when I force a iTunes Match Update.

    • http://www.alexheath.me Alex Heath

      That’s pretty weird, Norm. Not sure what to say to that. Perhaps the bit rate is too low or the tracks are just unmatchable and iTunes hasn’t figured that out yet.

    • John Pruett

      Norm, same here been on phone for 2 hours with Apple they are stumped told me they would have to send it to the engineers and find out. Outstanding Apple customer service!!!! Just think they rushed it out before they tested it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-Ochoa/100000953095775 Patrick Ochoa

    is there any way to use itunes mach to get the track info or the album art work for songs acquired else where?

    • http://www.alexheath.me Alex Heath

      Unfortunately, no. iTunes Match uses the metadata (song info) you have already. Songs from the iTunes Store have good track info, but no lyrics.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alexlangan31 Alex Langan

    i have a feeling that itunes match will be free one day and there may be soon be a service similar to this for apps.

    • http://twitter.com/jmarsh5 Justin Marshall

      There already is a service like this for apps. It’s called iCloud…

  • Anonymous

    Bit nervous of trying but if I I I switch to the US store from the uk, a: can I subscribe it match and b: will match actually then work! I’ve switched to the US store and it shows the Match options just not sure if I should try!?

  • http://twitter.com/ahbap Ömer ARI 【ツ】

    I have 19700 mp3. I try 4 times but everytime iTunes error 4100. Any suggestion?

  • Anonymous

    I started iTunes Match last night and it’s still trying to match and upload which is understandable for how many songs I have. I just have one question, how do I go about deleting the files off of my computer but making sure they still show in iTunes so I can download them when I actually listen to them.

    The whole point of me using iTunes Match was to free up 100 gigs of space on my computer, I just don’t want to accidentally delete the songs from my computer and iCloud.

    Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/JaredABurnett Jared Burnett

    Can you play a song on your iPhone from iTunes if you don’t have it the song downloaded to your device? This would be the equivalent of streaming a youtube video in my mind.

  • http://twitter.com/dirtynine dirtynine

    My Match question: I matched and uploaded from my central iTunes library (a Mac Mini at home). Turned on Match on my iPhone, which replaced the library completely with un-downloaded tracks. This is less than ideal, as I’m on the subway or otherwise out of data range (or might just want to conserve 3G use) often. So, I made a playlist of a few gigs of music, went to the phone (where it popped up magically), and at the bottom, clicked “Download All”. Now this should keep approximately 5 GB of my library locally on my phone, about 5000 songs, which is enough for almost anything I need.

    Here’s what I’ve noticed.

    1. Over wifi, those 5 GB are taking a long, long time to download altogether. Maybe 20% of the tracks are local now and have gone from having “cloud” icons to actually existing on the phone. I know 5G is a lot of data, but the phone has been on wifi for about 20 hours since I set this up.

    2. When the phone is on 3G, the battery drains ultra-quickly even though I haven’t changed any settings other than to turn Match on. I’m assuming it’s working on the downloads on 3G too, which is pretty much what I asked for, but it doesn’t show a data use “spinner” indicator anywhere.

    3. In a similar vein, if I walk down into the subway, losing reception in the process, I’m getting a bunch of modal popups about how the Store can’t be reached, and asked repeatedly to sign in with my Apple ID. Which I obviously can’t do, because I have no reception. Airplane mode, or a reboot, makes this stop. Again, I’m assuming it’s because I have the phone working on downloading tracks from the Cloud, but there is no indication of this and no way to tell which app is pissed that my data isn’t working. Is it possible to tell the Cloud only to download bulk tracks in the background when on wifi (but retain the ability to stream or download on demand, in the foreground, over 3G)?

    4. This is weird. If you turn on Airplane mode, and set the phone to play your tracks on shuffle, it will (obviously) skip Match songs that aren’t locally on the phone. When you’re on 3G, it will stream them. But when I’m on 3G, but somewhere with bad reception, say 1 bar, if it gets to a cloud track, it will sit and spin as it tries to load and stream the song. There’s nothing telling the phone to “move on” and go to a local track if reception is bad. And what’s even weirder, is that this behavior seems to be occurring on local tracks as well – the phone gets caught up trying to communicate with the cloud, even regarding tracks that it could just start playing locally. If you turn on Airplane mode, the local tracks play fine, and the cloud tracks are skipped instantaneously.

    So to me, in cases 3 and 4, it seems like some logic is missing in the phone’s music player app telling it “hey, I know we supposedly have 3G right now, but it’s not working, so just play or skip – stop trying to reach the cloud.” Does that make sense?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jazz-Bo/508367497 Jazz Bo

    To play a song on your device from icloud, do you need to first download it? Or can you play the song direcly from icloud on the device?

  • http://www.facebook.com/davedupre Dave Dupre

    I have a master library with 15,000+ songs in ALAC. I then have 2 Macs with subsets of the main library — all connected via iTunes Match. I still have an iPod Classic and 2 iPhone 3G devices that do not run iOS 5. Will I still be able to sync normally to one of my libraries? Obviously, I expect to only be able to synch to the songs that are downloaded.

    Note, I haven’t been able to test this myself yet because the match on my master is still running (24+ hours now).

  • http://www.facebook.com/nyy77 Bruce Bernfeld

    I have set up Match over the
    Past few days and have over23,000 songs in the cloud. When I play a song on my iPhone does it download and fill up my IPhone or does it stay in the cloud? Is there any way to keep it on the cloud? Thanks. Bruce

    • http://twitter.com/jmarsh5 Justin Marshall

      No. It downloads it to your device as it plays the track. If you want, you can go through and slide to the left and delete it. It will stay in the cloud but be removed from the device.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1400713865 Frank Wester

    Went through the matching process last night and it’s rather odd with the outcome as it matches some but “uploads” others. I’m not sure how they match songs, but as an example – my Bon Jovi New Jersey album. It matched every song I had from that album, except two – “Wild Is The Wind” and “I’ll Be There For You”. It uploaded both of those. And it’s really strange for “I’ll Be There…” as it’s showing not only in New Jersey, but also on their Cross Roads, Bon Jovi Greatest Hits – The Ultimate Collection, Chronicles (Box Set) and Bon Jovi Greatest Hits albums. You think it would have matched one of those at least instead of uploading.

    It’s not just limited to this album, both many others where one or two songs from an album weren’t matched and instead were uploaded, when the rest of the album was matched.

    Hmm, as I’ve typed this I may have found the reason. The length on my songs, which I may have edited at some point, is different from the version in iTunes. That appears to be consistent across each of the song not matched, with a few exceptions (Van Halen’s Running With The Devil). Not sure about those exceptions yet, so if anyone has any ideas?

    I also have a few, nearly all on The Beatles 1 album, that are showing Waiting, even though my iTunes Match is shown as complete.

    I do like how it uploads your metadata, so that when I download a song I am assured that all the work I’ve put into high-quality artwork and lyrics is retained.

  • Franz Elizondo

    I have many songs that show as “uploaded” on my itunes in my computer, but they are not in my ios device, not even grayed out! How do I “update” my ios device to get the more recently uploaded items?

  • http://twitter.com/wesleytullisjr Wesley Tullis Jr.

    I really like the feature on your iOS to “Show All Music.” Is there a similar option on the computer? I have an iMac with 9000 songs, and a MacBook Pro with 2000 songs. I want to be able to download SOME of the songs onto my MacBook Pro, and then hide the rest after I download what I want. Is there a way to turn hide your iCloud music on the computer just like you can on the iOS?

  • Terry Dawson

    What do we do with all of the tracks that are ineligible? I thought it might be as easy as dragging and dropping them to my device — but I can’t get any ineligible items to my iOS device now that I have Match. I have over 1,000 MP3 files that I can’t get to my device. Is there a workaround?

  • http://www.facebook.com/iwerthmann Ingrid Werthmann

    Now that my music library is uploaded to iCloud, can I delete the music from my computer? I could really use the space.

  • http://www.facebook.com/derek.hernandez Derek Hernandez

    I have a little bit of a problem which I’m not sure anyone else has encountered or even noticed. Say that I do the procedure of deleting the matched songs from iTunes and redownload them, I can listen to the high quality song once. If I listen to another song and come back to the same song the old version is the one that plays and not the one that was downloaded from iTunes. Is there something I’m doing wrong or is this just how the service is, because if so I feel like I just wasted $25….

  • Michael Ferreyros

    After enabling iTunes match is there a way to still add music to a device via a usb cable? It takes just way too long to download if via wifi…

  • http://twitter.com/JTKeiff Jason

    I thought you could just stream music without downloading it to say an iPhone? So if the song has the cloud next to it and I play it on my iPhone and the cloud now disappears its downloaded and using space on my phone?

  • Dalton Greiner

    I just downloaded itunes match because i want to free up space on my iphone. However, all my music is still stored locally on my phone, how do I delete the songs from the harddrive of my phone so that I’m only accessing my music via itunes match?

  • http://twitter.com/rubbertoedavis Rob Davis

    I don’t understand why I have iMatch turned on yet still my devices are full of audio storage from when I used to synch music with actual mp3 files. Shouldn’t everything be on the cloud except a few songs? How can I change this so that I have more space on my devices?

  • Esteban Cruz

    If the music file to be matched is an MP3 file, will that format be preserved or will it be downloaded in AAC format on the rest of my devises using iTunes Match? I have my whole library in MP3 format. What will happen to that library? Will all matched MP3 be replaced with AAC files in my devices eventually?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ondrej-Rudolf/100000448739254 Ondrej Rudolf

    Has anyone covered the topic of videos iTunes-matched? It appears to work a bit inconsistently – on iPhone, the music videos are on cloud and you can stream them (yet it is quite slow and buggy). On iPad, the videos are there in Videos / Music Videos but they only show a download icon but that does nothing but changes its shape. Music videos included in Music app as part of albums / artists, do stream but only audio, no video. This seems strange to me.
    This would deserve a separate post I think because videos were not mentioned by Apple to work but they actually do, at least on iPhone.

  • http://twitter.com/martybishop Marty Bishop

    SInce moving my library to the cloud, I find that my songs are “unavailable” to use in iMovie on my iPhone. I managed to get a few songs downloaded to my phone, and could then use them as iMovie soundtracks. But I’m not sure how I did it. What’s the process for getting a particular song to stick on the phone? Is there a way to do this directly from iMovie, or do I have to grab it some other way?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1397824514 Matt Sinclair

      I’m having the same problem. Did you find a solution Marty?

      • http://twitter.com/martybishop Marty Bishop

        Not perfect, but workable. Once downloaded, a song can be imported into iMovie. In Music app, you can download by playing a song, by hitting “download” next to the song, or scroll to the bottom of the playlist or artist index and hit “Download All.” These songs start to use up space on your device, which kind of defeats the purpose of iCloud, so eventually you’ll want to delete the local copies. But while they are present, you can work them into a video. So — a couple of extra steps, but no big deal.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1397824514 Matt Sinclair

        Thank you so much, for your reply.

  • http://twitter.com/PatBaz9 Patrick Bazinet

    Can I use the “Complete My Album” feature on matched songs?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6WCNJXCRRLKBGDG45MG2LFNLUI Doug

    Prior to iTunes Match, I could download a playlist to my phone so that I could listen to it anywhere. I am finding that some of my favorite music hasn’t been downloaded when i am off the “grid”. Is it possible to set an entire playlist to be downloaded to the phone? Downloading song by song is cumbersome. I like having the entire library on demand in the Cloud, but the clicking on each song to download is a negative. I must be missing something to make this easier.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you! This helped SO much. I am unsure though if–as I already have my library backed up elsewhere along with original CD’s–I can go ahead and delete all my files from my computer as they are uploaded or matched in iTunes Match?

  • averi schaubman

    I have subscribed to Itunes Match and there are several albums I copied to Itunes Library from purchased CD’s that won’t match. And now they are off my Iphone 4 and I don’t know how to get them on since they won’t match with Itunes Match. How do I get these songs onto my phone?

  • http://twitter.com/JWWalmsley Jonathan Walmsley

    About 300 of my songs won’t upgrade to 256kbps and are stuck at 128kbps.
    The weird thing is some of the tracks from albums have upgraded while others haven’t.
    Any solutions?

  • http://twitter.com/nkvsg Naresh Verma

    What happens to the matched songs if service is not renewed following year? Would the matched songs still avaiable or gets deleted from devices!

  • Jorge Lampreia

    I tend to create Playlists that that my Best of. For exemple, Echo & The Bunnymen – Best; or Tori Amos – Best and so on.
    Normally I have the songs im my Mac ordered from older to more recent.
    When iTunes those laylits are copied to my iPhone (IOS 5.1.1) this order is not maintained. Any clue on how to solve this?

  • http://twitter.com/DRainsbergerii David Rainsberger II

    My iTunes library is on an external HD since i have an air and it does not all fit. explain to me why when i than disconnect from said hard drive that i can not stream from itunes match on my macbook air. instead of trying to stream it from the cloud it yells at me that it can not find the HDD the music is on. how can i fix this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steven.harper.146 Steven Harper

    Is it possible to get music on my phone downloaded onto my computer? My previous computer died, I do not have access to my CDs anymore and I cannot see a method to add the songs to my iTunes library.

  • disqus_HRmdjI5j8A

    If my music library is uploaded to iCloud and I delete my
    music on my computer, is there a way to redownload my music from iCloud and get rid of it?

  • jean

    my computer recently crashed and i lost all the music on my computer but
    i still have it all on my iPhone. if i subscribe to iMatch, will it
    allow me to transfer songs from my iPhone (purchases and from CDs) to
    iCloud and get it on my computer? all the info i’ve found online about
    iMatch is browsing the library on a computer

    • http://twitter.com/jmarsh5 Justin Marshall

      Yes. You should. Once subscribed go to iTunes and all your music should sync into your library. Once there, there should be an option (iCloud logo next to track) to download to your computer. Simply select all music and push the download option. Voila, all your music on your iphone

      • jean

        it’s already on my iphone. i want it to get back to my computer

      • http://twitter.com/jmarsh5 Justin Marshall

        Yeah, I meant on your computer, from your iPhone on that last part. My bad.

  • Josh

    I had my laptop stolen and thought getting iMatch would be a way of getting songs from my phone to my computer. After setting it up on my new computer and turning it on on my phone I lost everything that I didn’t purchase from iTunes. Is it possible to get it back?