Apple's iTunes Match is a $25 per year service that allows you to store up to 25,000 tracks in the cloud, meaning on Apple's servers. It serves a couple of purposes. First, it lets you access your cloud-based music library wherever you have an Internet connection, and unlike with iTunes in the cloud, it lets you access all of your music -- well, up to 25,000 tracks -- even if you didn't purchase at all from Apple. It works like this. Now I'll go to Store, and I'll turn on iTunes Match. When I do, the iTunes Match window appears, and I have the option to subscribe for $25 per year.
If I choose to do that, $25 will be charged to my iTunes account. iTunes then scans the tracks in the library, and sends a list of them to Apple. Any tracks that already exist in Apple's iTunes catalog will be matched, meaning you can stream and download these tracks without having to upload the versions that you have. If you have tracks that aren't in Apple's catalog, they will be uploaded. Tracks that you've purchased from Apple will be matched, and they don't count against that 25,000 track limit. Now, I haven't set up iTunes Match on this account, but I have another account where I do have iTunes Match, so let's take a look at that.
So under this account, I have paid for iTunes Match, but I haven't yet added this computer, and to do that, I just click on Add This Computer, and then enter my Password. iTunes Match then gathers information about my library to see if there are some tracks on this computer that aren't yet on iTunes Match. In this case, there aren't. Everything I have on here has already been matched on another computer, and as you can see, I have 19,360 tracks available to me. So how is this reflected in iTunes? Well, I'll go to my Music library, and I see a list of all my tracks.
Notice that next to them is a little cloud icon. If I were to click on that, that track would download from iCloud, and you can see the Downloads area appears, you can see the name of your track, and you can see that it's downloading. Now, you don't have to download a track to listen to it. You can simply select a track, and then click on Play, and it will stream to iTunes without actually downloading the track. Now let's select that downloaded track, and I'm going to pull up the info window, and I will look at this area here, where we talk about kind, and the bit rate.
Downloaded tracks are always delivered to you in the AAC format at 256 kilobits per second, so what does this mean? It means that you are getting a file in a compressed format; AAC and MP3 are both compressed formats. The bit rate matters in that the higher the bit rate, the better quality the sound. This is the same format that Apple uses for the tracks you purchase. Now, one cool thing about all of this is that if you've matched songs in a lesser format and bit rate, meaning MP3 files encoded at 128 kilobits per second, for example, there's a good chance that your downloaded files are going to sound better.
Plus, you get to keep any tracks you download, even if you stop subscribing to iTunes Match. So how is this useful? Well, suppose that you have a load of tracks that are MP3 files at 128 kilobits per second, and their sound quality isn't all that great. Once you match them with iTunes Match, you can download the better quality versions, and you can keep them forever. If you attempt to upload uncompressed tracks, and these would be AIFF, or WAV files, for example, those files will also be converted to AAC 256 kilobits per second.
So you lose a measure of audio quality for these files, though the vast majority of people can't really tell the difference. So let's close this out, and see how this all works on an iOS device. And here we are back on the old iPad. So let's take a look in Music, and here's the music that's currently on this iPad. Now, I'll go back to the home screen, tap on Settings, tap on Music, and we'll switch on iTunes Match. I'm asked if I would like to enable it; indeed I do. I'll tap Enable.
Go back to the home screen, and now we'll go back to the Music app. What this cloud indicates is that my iPad is now going up to iTunes Match to get a list of all the tracks that I have in iTunes Match. It will then download that list, and place it on my iPad. The tracks will still be in the cloud, but I will have a list, so that I can then access those tracks. Now, depending on how big your library is in iTunes Match, this can take a minute, or it can take several minutes. If you are like a lot of us, when that content finally becomes available, you're going to see a lot of missing artwork, as we can see here.
Eventually the page will populate with artwork, but it can take a long time for it to all appear. Because I don't want to wait for that to happen, let's take a look and see how this works. So I'm going to tap on Adrian Belew, and you can see a list of tracks. If you'd like to stream some of that music to your device, all you have to do is tap on the track. When you do that, a little speaker icon appears to the right, and the music will stream, and play. Now, note that under iOS 6, you cannot download individual tracks, at least not on an iOS device. What you have to do instead is download everything by a particular artist, or on that artist's album.
In this case, I tap the Download button next to Adrian Belew's name, and as you can see by the indicator on the right, it's starting to download those tracks. Now let's go back to Artists. Now, if you don't want to download everything by a particular artist, you can go to Albums. Let's tap on this Ramones album, and I can download just that album by tapping on the Download button that appears under the album artwork. Now let's go back to Settings, and Music, and I want to show you something. Here's our Music settings. You notice the option that says Show All Music, underneath the iTunes Match option. What does that mean? Well, when it's on, it means that the Music app will show all the music that is currently stored on your device, as well as the music that's available from iTunes Match.
Now, if I turn that off, tap Home, tap Music, I see only the music that's stored on the device. Go back to the home screen, back to Settings, Show All Music is now On again. Home screen, Music, and here I have the contents of my iTunes Match library. And that's the gist of iTunes Match on your iOS device.
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