Mobile Cellphone Info has posted a new item, 'iTunes Match: another neglected
As the iTunes Guy for Macworld, I get many emails about problems with iTunes
Match. With iTunes Match nearly 18 months old, it surprises me that such
problems are still so widespread. When Apple expanded iTunes Match in January
2013 to 112 countries, I was surprised it did so without fixing any of the bugs
associated with the service. iTunes Match remains a source of consternation for
How it should work
The iTunes Match premise is pretty simple. As Apple says, iTunes determines
which songs in your collection are available in the iTunes Store. Any music with
a match is automatically added to iCloud for you to listen to anytime, on any
device. And, since there are more than 26 million songs in the iTunes Store,
chances are your music is already in iCloud.
But this is not the case. As Macworlds Lex Friedman uncovered in The She Came In
Through the Bathroom Window Incident, right after the launch of iTunes Match,
many songs that should match simple dont. And this is one of the biggest gripes
of many users. Their computers spend a lot of time uploading songs that should
match, because those songs are in the iTunes Store. With many albums, one or two
tracks dont match, while the others do. In some cases, this even happens with
You can see here that iTunes shows some tracks in a purchased album as matched,
not purchased. In some cases, even purchased tracks get uploaded rather than
While iTunes Match is designed to store tracks that dont match, the problem is
that these tracks have to be uploaded, and when people with large music
libraries (though smaller than Apples maximum eligible library size of 25,000
tracks, of course) try to set up iTunes Match, the time to upload unmatched
files can be substantial. If you dont have a very fast Internet connection, it
can take days or weeks to upload thousands of files. And when you add new tracks
to your iTunes library, you can wait a long time while iTunes scans your tunes,
matches them, and then uploads the new unmatched ones.
I recently emptied my iTunes Match library and rematched several thousand songs.
But Im still seeing unmatched songs, even among purchased albums, showing that
Apple hasnt fixed or tweaked the matching algorithm. This seems especially odd
for music I purchased from iTunes, because Apple has my purchase history; all
these tracks should be easily identified.
Heres one Bob Dylan album where some tracks, at the bottom, are in my library,
and the ones at the top are purchased tracks, and iTunes sees them as different
from the local copies.
One of the features of iTunes Match is to take low bit-rate songssay 128 kbps
MP3s that you downloaded years agoand upgrade them to better-quality 256 kbps
AAC files. But since many songs dont match, even though theyre in the iTunes
Store, users are unable to get these upgrades. Ive even seen some purchased
tracksbought before Apple removed DRM and upped the bit rate of filesnot match,
even though they are still in the iTunes Store.
Apple should offer a way to force a new match for older files so users can try
to get better quality versions, or simply so they can get all the files of an
album to match, rather than having to upload some of them. Another great feature
would be a way to tell Apple about the specific files that arent matching, so
the company can fine-tune its matching algorithms. This could be as simple as a
menu item in iTunes, under Store: Report Unmatched File.
Why we want iTunes Match
When iTunes Match works as it should, its a practical tool for anyone who works
with multiple computers, such as one at home and one at work, or with a Mac and
an iOS device or Apple TV. Since you can stream and download music from the
cloud to your iPhone, you dont need to sync music to it.
But if youre an iTunes power user, youll find that iTunes Match still irks. If
you use smart playlists with conditions such as Last Played, youll find that
this metadatathe last time you played a song, or the number of times youve
played itdoesnt always update. In addition, smart playlists dont display in the
same order on an iOS device as they do on the computer containing the iTunes
Match library. If youve created a smart playlist, and decided to sort it in a
specific waysay chronologically, or by the order in which youve last listened to
songsyoull find this to be frustrating.
iTunes Match should update quickly enough so that, at least once a day, it can
get information about what youve played on different computers or devices, and
then sync it to the main library. But this process, for many users, is time
consuming, and several readers have written to me saying it sometimes simply
iTunes Match is no Genius
Another irksome feature is Genius. If you activate iTunes Match, then iTunes
turns on Genius, which does two things. It allows you to create Genius
playlists, which are based on a selected start song, which is an interesting
feature. But it also creates a dozen of Genius Mixes, based on different genres.
Many people dont want these Genius Mixes, especially because they show up on iOS
devices, and you cant turn Genius off if you use iTunes Match. And the Genius
Mixes on my iPad are not even the same as the ones I see on my Mac. (And how did
they determine that "The Who, Yes, Genesis, & others" should be in a
Techno/House Mix?) And when you look at playlists on your iPad, youll see all
the Genius Mixes are listed first, before the playlists you created yourselfthe
ones youre genuinely interested in.
Whos the genius who created this mix?iTunes Match annoyances
Finally, there are a number of iTunes Match annoyances that still persist, and
should have been fixed a long time ago. People matching explicit songs often get
clean versions, or vocal versions of songs matching instrumental versions. Some
tracks are truncated; they stop playing after a few seconds or a few minutes.
Some users have also received defective tracks from iTunes Match; they have
noise or other glitches, even though the original files on their computers are
fine. (In other words, the tracks with glitches are the ones from the iTunes
Store.) And, if you change tags or album art on your computer, that metadata
doesnt update consistently to iTunes Match.
I think most of the frustration users feel about iTunes Match is the fact that
it's opaque, and there's no way to flag or fix errors. Apple is generally mum
about such things, and Apples support forum for iTunes Match is filled with
thousands of questions and gripes.
For a service that should just work, iTunes Match has disappointed many who
hoped that their music would be transparently matched and synced. iTunes Match
seems like another neglected Apple service. While its only $25 a year, iTunes
Match should work a lot better than it does.
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