Today, roughly two weeks behind schedule, iTunes Match Launched. From what I’ve seen online and from questions I’ve been asked, I can see some confusion with a lot of people as to what the service actually does, so I thought I’d try to explain and how you’d use it.
First off, the service is pretty much only for those who have a lot of ripped music or have downloaded from other sources besides iTunes. If you already buy the majority of your music from iTunes then the service really isn’t for you.
So what is the service and what does it do? The basic idea behind iTunes match is that it puts all of your music library in the cloud. Then you can access it from any iDevice or computer with iTunes. You pay $24.99 for the service, it scans your entire iTunes Library, matches the songs with the ones available in iTunes, and uploads the rest of those that it can’t match.
After that process is finished, you can now enable iTunes Match on say your iPhone and it will make all of your library available to download right from the phone. This is handy if you go for one of the lower capacity iPhones like the 16gb model. You can download the albums you want locally, when your finished delete them, but then still have access to them anytime you want to listen to them again. You’ll get a little cloud icon next to the album/song indicating that it isn’t on your device locally, but you can start playing just as if it was there.
The same thing can be done on a computer. So for example, my iTunes library is on my computer at home. In the past I would have had to bring all my files into work if I wanted them on my work computer. Now I just turn on iTunes match on my work computer and my entire library is there ready to listen to.
The benefit of this service compared to say Google or Amazon’s is that you don’t have to upload your entire library. The matched songs just link to the actual iTunes versions, so you only actually have to upload the ones it can’t match. I have roughly 2000 songs in my library. Some of them include now out of print Soundtrack or for whatever reasons aren’t in iTunes. So of that 2000 I still have 600 songs that it had to upload. Even 600 still takes some time to upload, but it sure beats having to do all 2000.
One last benefit of the service is that the matched versions of the Songs are 256kbps versions. You get those files even if you originally ripped at 128bps or other rates. This would have saved me a ton of time last year when I decided to re-rip all my music from 128kbps to 256kbps versions. I would have paid the price for this service alone for saving me all that time.
I’m still familiarizing myself with some of the service, but overall I’d say if you have a low capacity iPhone/iPod and a lot of music from other sources than iTunes, then the service is definitely worth it.