Two nights ago, I finally decided to take the plunge and give iTunes Match a try.
I’ve held off for this long mostly because it didn’t seem to offer much value to me. I’m not much of an audiophile, so the upgrade to 256-bit wasn’t very tempting. My iOS devices have plenty of memory and my music library isn’t all that large, so having my music in the cloud hasn’t been compelling.
The features that ended up luring me were cloud-syncing of playlists, star ratings and newly ripped CDs. The feature that *should* have been compelling but that I hadn’t even considered was syncing between multiple computers. Pre-iTunes Match, syncing new music between my iMac and my MBP has been fairly easy via Home Sharing. (Music not bought via iTunes that is — iTunes purchases were automatically downloaded.) Syncing meta data changes, on the other hand, was nigh impossible. Finally, syncing to my computer at work — on which I just installed iTunes today — is what really makes it all worthwhile.
So, how did my iTunes Match migration go?
Pretty well, I’d say, mostly because I was prepared.
I did quite a bit of research ahead of time so that I wouldn’t be surprised. This is key as there are certainly things about the process that might be very disconcerting if they were unexpected. In particular, it seems that a lot of people expect that after a track is matched it will have its meta data normalized with the iTunes Store data. That is not the case. I can understand that many people may not want their custom metadata overwritten, but it seems like there should be some method of updating to Apple’s curated data.
Years ago, I ripped a bunch of CDs in Linux and ended up with track_names_like_this, often including the album and/or artist in the name of the track. I’ve cleaned up most of these in the intervening years, but had a handful of CDs, mostly my wife’s, that still have this. I was concerned that this might affect matching, though I don’t think that’s actually true. Even so, I preferred to clean this up beforehand. I manually fixed one or two CD’s worth and then decided to simply re-rip the rest. In the end, I’m not sure if this was the best decision. I ended up editing the names of many of the re-ripped tracks anyway as iTunes added prefixes that I didn’t like to those tracks.
Also worth noting, I had recently verified that all of my tracks had album artwork.
With my preparations done, I took the plunge. Of 2546 tracks, 347 (14%) were purchased from iTunes and thus already in the cloud and 1855 (73%) were successfully matched. Combined, that’s a bit over 86% success. All of the remaining 344 were uploaded, so arguably that’s 100% success, depending on how you measure success. Of those 344, 143 are Beatles songs, most of which are from the Mono box set that is not available in iTunes. I wouldn’t have wanted these to match the stereo versions, so that’s fine. Another 34 are from narrow distribution albums that I’m not surprised are not available in the iTunes store. Also, 4 tracks are custom recordings and 1 is a 4-second CD intro.
Living with iTunes Match
Having fully populated iCloud with my music, the next step was to enable it on my iOS devices. Also, I knew I was going to need some new playlists as my previous go-to playlists are not supported by iTunes Match. Specifically, smart playlists that reference other playlists don’t work. While iTunes was processing my library, I worked on creating new playlists and I’m actually happier with my new playlists than my old ones.
With tracks and new playlists in iCloud and devices synced with “all music” to have all of the newest metadata (and re-ripped tracks) pre-loaded to avoid needless download, I flipped the switch on my iPhone to enable iTunes Match. As expected, my list playlists changed but my tracks were available. What I hadn’t expected was that most of my album artwork vanished. Worse, two days later and it’s still mostly missing with no obvious sign of progress. Hmm.
Perhaps ten hours later, I also flipped the switch on my iPad. Oddly, while the album artwork did appear to disappear briefly, it very obviously started repopulating and seemed to finish pretty quickly. Certainly it wasn’t missing any artwork when I more thoroughly checked it hours later.
I’ve tried turning iTunes Match off and back on on my iPhone, but that didn’t help.
I have yet to replace my matched tracks with their higher quality versions from iTunes. I feel like I need to do some level of verification that the songs are the same.
I may delete all of the tracks from my iPhone and then let them download from iTunes to see if that fixes the artwork issue. I expect it will.
Will I re-up my subscription in a year? It’s too early to tell. If I stick with listening to music at work via my computer, rather than my iPad as I’ve been doing (or my iPhone before that), then having the automatic sync between disparate devices is probably worth $2.09 per month.