iTunes Match is a $25 per year service from Apple which was announced in November 2011, but this weekend I finally got around to paying up and giving the service a try. Wow am I ever enthused about this! It took a LONG time for my entire iTunes Library to “match” and upload (for those songs not matched by Apple) but now all 4500+ tracks are available to me from my iPhone or iPad as long as I have Internet access.

iTunes Match: 4575 Songs are now available in iCloud

Here are some of the main things I’ve learned about iTunes Match so far.

  1. iTunes Match will upload most songs which meet their requirements (I don’t think they can be extremely low bit rate or extremely large, uncompressed files) but these file uploads do NOT “count against” your file size quota on iCloud. I haven’t and don’t plan to upgrade my iCloud account for more storage, so this is good news. I can match up to 25,000 songs (which is far more than I own) using the service, and I don’t have to pay anything extra when iTunes Match uploads songs not in its library.
  2. On an iPhone you need to enable “Cellular Data” in your Settings – General – Network menu (for iOS 5.0) if you want to be able to download iTunes Match songs from iCloud over a 3G or other cellular connection.
  3. Be prepared to leave your computer connected a LONG time for your initial iTunes Match sync process. I ended up leaving mine on two nights overnight, because at points it got locked up for some reason and stalled. Quitting iTunes and re-opening the application fixed it in both cases and iTunes Match resumed its syncing process. Fortunately it didn’t have to start over, it seemed to just pick up where it had left off. I searched and didn’t find any rules of thumb for how long this iTunes Matching initial sync process should take, probably because there are so many variables. The biggest ones are how many songs you have that are NOT in iTunes and therefore need to be uploaded from your computer, and secondly how fast your upstream Internet bandwidth is at your location. This was definitely something I’m glad I did over a weekend since it took so long.
  4. iOS 5 is required for iTunes Match, so older iPhones my kids are using (and inherited) which are running variants of iOS 4.x can’t use the service.
  5. Apple doesn’t call iTunes Match a “streaming” service, I think because you actually download a local copy of a song when you choose to play it from iCloud. I’m curious to see how my space management is going to work on my iPhone if I’m playing and downloading many more songs than “normal.”
  6. I don’t see any disadvantages to iTunes Match at this point. It is possible to change iOS settings so you can see ONLY the locally available music files on your device, but I’m leaving mine set to show both iCloud-available and locally downloaded files. One of the best things about this is I’m able to see, download, and access a few, isolated music albums which I purchased on an iPhone in the past and for some reason didn’t sync to my home iTunes library. Access to all my musical content “in the cloud” looks like a GREAT upgrade for our family iOS 5.0 and newer devices.
  7. I’m loving how ALL my iTunes playlists are now synced and available on my iOS devices. This includes some “smart playlists” I setup quite a while back, which track which songs in a certain genre that I haven’t listed to in a long time. This provides a way to “turn over” my iTunes library and listen to music I haven’t heard in a long time. I love this kind of feature, because it enables “transformational music listening experiences:” Ones which would not be possible without this technology. See my April 2008 post, “Options for shuffling songs and podcasts on an iPod or in iTunes,” for more about creating and using “smart playlists” in iTunes. Now that all playlists can be available for ALL iTunes library music thanks to iTunes Match, there are even more possibilities available to use which do NOT require buying a new or larger iPhone / iPad!
  8. The only strange thing I’ve noticed about iTunes Match is that many of my songs don’t seem to have their album art when I play them off iCloud, but they do when I play them locally on my laptop in iTunes. This isn’t a huge deal, but I am thinking it’s a glitch of some kind that will be resolved down the road.
  9. The fact that iTunes Match enables song playback via AppleTV has hugely beneficial implications for music listening at our house. Rather than connect an iOS device directly to speakers or a stereo system and play songs, we can now play them directly from our AppleTV. This is a GREAT feature.

Have you been using iTunes Match? If so, what have your experiences been? Is it a service you’re recommending to others?

All Album Audio Available via iTunes Match

Hat tip to Adam Zodrow for sharing his enthusiasm for iTunes Match with me last week and encouraging me to give it a try.

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