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Everything you need to know about iTunes Match

Wil Limoges ran the iTunes Match service on his setup of four home/work Macs and his iPhone. He describes his hands-on experience and and offers a few tips for those who want to try it.

I don’t know about you, but music gets me through my day and when iTunes Match was released I was elated. Not just because it’s an exciting service but because I now have the ability to synchronize my libraries between work and home. I’ve spent some time doing just that and now I have the opportunity to share my experiences with iTunes Match.

First off, I like Match. I haven’t experienced any difficulties migrating my four music libraries to iCloud. So allow me to jump right in. The set up I have consists of four Macs and an iPhone. I have one Mac Pro at work, an iMac, MacMini, a Macbook Air at home, and an iPhone that travels every where I do. My libraries all vary to some degree. I consider my iMac to be my primary library with approximately 24,000 songs and my Mac Pro at work mirrors most of what is in my primary library give or take 4000 tracks. My MacMini contains roughly 50 songs, and my Macbook Air has about 2, while my iPhone is synced with specific playlists from my iMac.

After signing up for Match, I promptly synced my Macbook Air considering I knew it would take only a few minutes. I did this to get a feel for the process, after which I started it on my iMac. My iMac took approximately 40 hours to complete the sync, which was not surprising since I knew that most of my collection is obscure and is unlikely to be matched by iTunes. After completing my first major matching session, I then started the process for a third time with the Mac Pro I use at work. Thankfully, this process just took a few hours as most of the music that was in my library had already been uploaded from my iMac. As for my MacMini, the goal wasn’t to match it, but to have access to what had been uploaded on an as-needed basis, which holds true for my iPhone and Macbook Air. Overall the process went well and my music is available on all of my Macs which was the end goal.

Everything you need to know

The first thing you’ll need to know is that Match only syncs music that is encoded in MP3 or AAC, is under 200MB in size, and is encoded at a higher bit rate than 96kbps. This prevents you from uploading videos; (Audio)books; pdfs; or Apple lossless, WAV, or AIFF formats. If your library of music exceeds 25,000 songs, iTunes will not even present the option to Match. Also, if your library contains any music that is not associated to your Apple ID or was purchased before iTunes Plus came about, Match will replace these files with 256kbps DRM-free files. This was a wonderful surprise as my library had contained both.

The next amazing feature I discovered is that all of my playlists with the exception of Smart Playlists that use any regular playlists to build from had synced as well. This gave me an opportunity to clean house. I took some time to manage all of my playlists on my iMac and found the next day that all my playlists on my Mac Pro at work had been mirrored. Updating track information synced as well; however, it is important to note that when songs are Matched, they retain the information that was originally associated to them within iTunes and are not updated using the information from the iTunes store, so don’t expect your artwork or genres to change.

iCloud Status

After I completed syncing, I wanted to know what had been matched and what had not. Apple was kind enough to supply a pretty good solution for this. When in iTunes, select View from the main menu and select View Options. Within the window you can now enable a sort column called iCloud Status. This will provide you with a description of the status of each of your tracks and make it easy to find whether your music has been matched or uploaded. Status displays the several states of your music on iCloud. Your music will either be Matched, Removed (meaning that you removed the file from the cloud on another computer), Error ( meaning that the file was not successfully uploaded), Ineligible, Duplicate, or Waiting. Apple even added the ability to create a smart playlist based on these states so that you can organize your library even further.

Removing tracks from iCloud

Since I was in an iTunes house-cleaning mood, I also decided to remove some of the old albums I hadn’t listened to and probably would never listen to again. The process was dead simple. Just as you would before, right click on any track or tracks that you would like to remove, and press delete. You’ll receive a dialogue box that asks you if you would like to remove the file with a new check box asking if you would also like to remove the file from iCloud. If checked, the file will be removed from the library of the computer you are accessing and iCloud, but not from any other machines that your library is now synced with. Instead, the status of the tracks will change to Removed leaving the song intact. This is great in the event you accidentally remove a track that you really had no intention of deleting.

Enabling Match on your iOS device

Within the Music settings of your iOS device is a switch to enable iTunes Match. I recommend waiting to enable your iOS device until the process is complete on all the other libraries that you’ve enabled. I say this because I’ve been hearing very mixed results as to what actually happens when you enable it. I waited until all my libraries had successfully synced up and then proceeded to enable my iOS device. After that, all the music and playlists that were previously on my iPhone remained. I can’t confirm, but I’ve heard that in some instances, the library is being wiped forcing you to re-download all of your music. My guess would be that it was related to the other libraries not being fully available.

Let me know what you experience.

About

Wil Limoges is a Louisville, KY freelance web designer and Digital Savant at the vimarc group. He has had the pleasure of working for Apple as a Genius, loves science, and aspires to make great things!

6 comments
WLaddR
WLaddR

"Why does the popularity of your individual tracks affect the synchronization speed? All other criteria being equal, why would synch'ing 'Purple Rain' be any faster or slower than 'The Best of Lobo'? What do you mean by "matched by iTunes"? " When you subscribe to the iTunes Match service your iTunes library is searched/analyzed. Any songs you have that are in the iTunes Store are loaded from the Store in 256Kbps DRM-free format so that you don't have to upload all your music from your computer; hense "Match". Songs in your library not in the Store are then up-loaded to iCloud. The more 'obscure' the song, and we have NO idea what Wil Limoges is listening to ;-) the more unlikely the iTunes Store will carry it and it will have to be manually up-loaded; which greatly increases the time needed to back up your music. Match is the major convenience that iCloud has over the Amazon and Google clouds that require you to manually up-load all your music. Depending on your Internet connection speed and Library size this could be quite an investment in time.

WLaddR
WLaddR

I'm glad to see how to access the status of my music becuse I have about 350 songs that didn't make it; by the numbers. Now I can see which songs they are. I have less than 5K songs so didn't take near as long to upload. Almost immeadiatly had all the music mirrored on my iPad and G4 iBook running Tiger. The laptop is missing about 30 albums' artwork though; but that won't take long to fix. I'm going to have and see what songs didn't match but I have a LOT more than that of Apple lossless ones so they obviously got matched with the 256Kbps iTunes files. I feel pretty happy so far.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"My iMac took approximately 40 hours to complete the sync, which was not surprising since I knew that most of my collection is obscure and is unlikely to be matched by iTunes." Why does the popularity of your individual tracks affect the synchronization speed? All other criteria being equal, why would synch'ing 'Purple Rain' be any faster or slower than 'The Best of Lobo'? What do you mean by "matched by iTunes"?

dominoscr
dominoscr

I have been helping a lot of friends and family with understanding the service and this is a perfect article to send them! Great stuff. 8)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I don't use this category of software, so I didn't originally understand Wil.

Wil Limoges
Wil Limoges

WLaddR explains it beautifully below! Take it away WLaddR.