Subscribing to iTunes Match is about as easy as making an iTunes purchase. All you need to do is plop down $25/year, set up the software, and get to streaming. Yay!
When it’s all said and done you’ll have access (in the U.S. only for now) to all of your music (up to 25,000 songs not counting iTunes purchases) streamed (downloaded) to all of your devices (5 computers with a max of 10 devices) at 256 kbps (unless your songs don’t match up with any in the iTunes catalog) for the most part. Yep, it’s that easy!
Set up iTunes Match on your PC/Mac
For this demo I set up iTunes Match on my PC, but it’s the same for Macs just make sure you have iTunes 10.5.1 or higher installed.
1. Open iTunes, click on iTunes Store, then click on iTunes Match.
2. Click the big blue button with the $24.99 pricetag to subscribe to the service, then enter your password. You get charged. You agree. Blah blah blah.
3. Click another blue button to add your computer.
4. The last step requires you wait forever and possibly restart the process more than once.
Step 1: Gathering information about your iTunes library. Apple scans all your songs in your library (~15 min).
Step 2: Matching your music to songs in the iTunes Store. Apple compares your library to the gazillion songs in their iTunes catalog. Anything that already exists in their catalog is immediately made available at 256Kbps (~2 hours).
Step 3: Uploading artwork and remaining songs takes any other music in your library. Apple attempts to upload anything it couldn’t match with their catalog of 20 million songs so it’ll be available to you from the iCloud in its original format (~41 hours. Restarted setup 3x)
After a long while iTunes Match will finish doing its thing and you’ll have access to your music from pretty much anywhere. Enjoy!
Set up iTunes Match on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch
Once your iTunes library is in the iCloud you can set up your iDevices.
1. Tap into Settings
2. Tap into Music and turn iTunes Match ON and confirm your selection. If you want to see all of your music turn Show All Music ON otherwise just leave it off.
3. Return to the Settings menu and tap into Store. You have a choice here. If you want to play your music outside of WiFi networks you’ll need to turn Use Cellular Data ON. WARNING! This could get costly seeing how iTunes Match downloads each song to play it. If you plan on listening to the same music over and again I would advise downloading your tunes over WiFi before hitting the road. See below for instructions.
You’re all set. Just open up the Music app to access your songs and playlists from your desktop computer.
Set up iTunes Match on your Apple TV
I don’t have one, but the guys over at iDownloadBlog made a pretty good video on how to enable iTunes Match on your Apple TV.
Problems & Troubleshooting
During and after the setup process I came across some things that you might find helpful.
Upload time. My music library had 19,000+ songs. iTunes Match and its catalog of 20 million songs was able to match 16,000 of mine. That means my computer had to upload 3,000 songs as is. Since my ISP’s upload speed is pathetic, my computer was uploading music for almost two days. #timewarnercableFail
Set up one library at a time. As I set up my main computer I wanted to get the others going. When I tried, iTunes flipped me the bird. And if you try you’ll see the image below. Just wait, and set up your other computers one at a time.
Some songs don’t upload. After my seemingly never-ending iCloud upload experience I was still missing 1,182 songs. To get things in order I had to decipher the iCloud status icons, sort my songs by those icons, and update iTunes Match (Store –> Update iTunes Match) three times. Once I did my list decreased to a manageable 49 songs. FYI, you can also add iCloud Status to the sort bar in iTunes (right click bar –> iCloud Status)
iTunes Match requires songs be at least 96 kbps. This was the problem with my remaining 49. The fix is simple. Convert the problem song/s to an acceptable AAC version (right click –> Create AAC version) and add the new version/s to iCloud (right click –> Add to iCloud). Worked for me.
If this solution doesn’t work for you, check out Apple’s Understanding iCloud Status Icons support page to get your problem tunes to the cloud.
Playback data usage. Some argue that iTunes Match is a download service, NOT a streaming service. What that means is that when you play a song on your device the song must be downloaded before it can be played (which is what streaming is sort of, but playback will beging more quickly.) Regardless of download vs. streaming, if you listen to your music on a cellular network you will be burning $$.
Take, for example, Eye of the Tiger by Survivor. If the 3:48 song is recorded at a bitrate of 256 kbps it will be ~7MB. For the sake of argument let’s say you listened to 15 songs of similar length and size over your carrier’s cellular network. Over the course of 1 hour you would have to download 105MB (1/10 of a GB). Granted once a song is downloaded it is cached (temporarily saved) to your iDevice, but still. That’s about 20 hours of music on the 2GB data plan and twice that on the 4GB plan (provided you aren’t using any other data hogs via cellular networks like Skype or Netflix).
Taken to the extreme, if I were to attempt to listen to my entire 95GB library (forget the fact that my phone only holds 32GB) nonstop on my iPhone outside of a WiFi network it would take me 53.8 days and cost me almost $1000.
Playback quality. When I traveled outside my WiFi network I was left with my carrier’s cellular network and some rare, but significant delays in playback. To eliminate the issues I can either A) tap the button to get all of the songs in a playlist or album, or B) tap the cloud icon to snag individual songs.
Album art is missing. If you’re as obsessive-compulsive about album art as I am then you’ll be pissed to know that iTunes Match screws this the eff up (even songs that are purchased from iTunes). Seriously, WTF? Some say that eventually iTunes Match will catch up and get things in order. I haven’t seen this happen yet. Others offer a quasi-solution, but it is ridiculously tedious and time-consuming. I’m hoping it’s just a bug. Like when you press play in portrait mode then toggle to landscape view (cover flow) and back to portrait you’ll get your album art back. Or when I download songs and album art disappear for those songs and appears for others. WTF?
iTunes Match error requires sign out/in. When I was converting files to AAC, iTunes threw an error telling me to sign out and back in. When I did iTunes Match acted as though it had never seen my computer before and I had to go through the whole setup process again. Thankfully, I didn’t have to upload the 3,000+ songs again. A minor nuisance, but a pain nonetheless.
Still have questions? Check out Macworld’s comprehension article on iTunes Match.
Once iTunes Match was set up it ran like a charm. In spite of the fact that iTunes Match gobbles the data, it is 1 million times easier than trying to trick my computers into thinking they are the same and reaches more of my devices than streaming alternatives like Audiogalaxy. Of course, after I have time to play with it (and see my data usage over the next few months) my opinion of the service may change. If it does, I’ll let you know. For now, I’m giving iTunes Match ★★★★☆
Are you using or considering iTunes Match? Got thoughts? Questions? Share ‘em below or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.