With iTunes Match, you can listen to your music from any iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Apple TV. All of your music gets stored in iCloud, including those songs you ripped from your CD’s. Once you upload your music, it’s available on all your devices using the cloud. So let’s get started on how to setup iTunes Match.

how to setup iTunes Match

Why iTunes Match Rocks
Using this service, you won’t have copy your media across all of your devices. In my case, all of my music resides on my Mac Pro. My laptop has zero music on it. While my iPhone and iPad have my entire music collection, it won’t be a requirement now that I’ve subscribed to iTunes Match, since I’ll always have access to my music. This of course taking into account that I have a connection. The service allows you to stream or download music to these devices. The streaming option is great for the Apple TV, which doesn’t have storage. I can play music from my computer, but that requires my computer be powered on. That can be a hassle, one that’s avoided if your music is in iCloud. You are allowed up to 10 devices, which is plenty by any standard.

How to subscribe to iTunes Match

Before we get started, this service is not free. Apple charges $24.99 per year to use iTunes Match. If for some reason you leave the service, any songs you upgraded or downloaded are yours to keep. We’ll get into that feature later in the article, as this is one of the major benefits of iTunes Match. Once you are ready to take the leap of faith, here are the steps to subscribe to iTunes Match.

Open iTunes. Select iTunes Match> Enter your Apple ID > Agree to charge.

Setting up iTunes Match

Step 1: As you soon as the service is enabled, it will start to gather information about your iTunes library. This can take quite a bit of time depending upon the size of your library and the contents. Most of my current music is purchased through iTunes or Amazon, but I had a number of tracks that I had imported over the years. There were also tracks from artists not currently in iTunes. My iTunes is also littered with miscellaneous movie quotes. I don’t expect iTunes to be able to match my Stiffler quotes from American Pie.

Music iTunes

Step 2: Nothing is required of you as iTunes Match proceeds to step 2 where it matches your music with songs in the iTunes Store. By matching songs, you won’t have to upload them to iCloud. Apple simply notes that you have a particular song and makes it available for download or streaming from iCloud (iTunes Store).

iTunes Match library

Step 3: Once you get past that step, the heavy lifting is over for now. Songs that were matched successfully are now available in iCloud. Step 3 uploads your artwork and remaining songs.


Tip: Songs under a certain bit rate are not eligible for uploading to iCloud. These include voice memos and other lower quality songs.

Bonus Tip: Unless you are recording an hour long walkthrough of setting up iTunes Match, you can go about your business using iTunes or other programs on your computer. The set up process doesn’t need anything on your end once it starts.

Music Available in iCloud
When iTunes Match finishes, you’ll see the number of songs that are now available in iCloud. All of that music is now accessible on up to 10 devices.

iTunes Match iCloud

Understanding iTunes Match Status
Within iTunes, control-click (right-click on PC) in the information bar where you see the various columns that include song name, track #, etc. Check the boxes next to iCloud Status and iCloud Download. These are helpful to understanding the status of your music library in iCloud. They essentially do the same thing, but iCloud Status is more comprehensive.

iCloud Status icons

Duplicate: There are multiple copies of the same song within your library. This is actually a good tool to hunt them down and scale down your library.

Ineligible: Audio tracks need to be above a certain quality level to qualify for iTunes Match. In my testing, tracks with a bit rate 80 kbps or under will be deemed ineligible. Apple support documents list the number at 96 kbps.

Waiting: Once you complete the initial set-up, it continues with the matching process. This icon lets you know the song is still in the process of being matched.

Removed: If you ever remove a song from iCloud, it will be automatically deleted from your iOS devices. It will however appear on your computer and that file will not be deleted automatically. You can however manually delete the file.

Error: If iTunes finds a file that is corrupt, you’ll get an error icon. You can attempt to reinitiate the Match. If it does find the match, it might be a good idea to download it from iCloud and replace the file.

Uploaded: iTunes hasn’t matched your music, but it’s been uploaded and accessible through iCloud.

Purchased: Purchased music from iTunes.

Matched: Music that iTunes has successfully matched. These are tracks that were not originally purchased from iTunes.

Upgrading the quality of your iTunes Music Library

If you’ve been amassing your collection of music for a number of years, there is a good chance that some of the songs are not of the highest quality. Hard drives are inexpensive, so cost and space are no longer a reason to suffer listening to lower quality music. Jason Snell of Macworld provides us with an excellent way to upgrade your old music to iTunes Plus quality through the use of Smartlists.

Although this works, I’d recommend that before you proceed, you have a backup of your music files. I am not responsible if you are unable to recover your 1988 Milli Vanilli album.

In iTunes, select File > New Smart Playlist.

Smart Playlist

Create the following rules:

  • Bit Rate is less than 256 kbps
  • Media Kind is music
  • (option-click on ‘+’) to select Any
  • iCloud Status is Matched
  • iCloud Status is Purchased

I’ve titled my list “Qualty Smartlist”. When you browse this list, you’ll see that the bit rate is indeed lower then 256 kpbs and status is either purchased or matched. If you are concerned about your backup, you can drag these to a folder on your desktop right from iTunes. Again, just check to see the files are properly backed up before proceeding.

Quality smartlist

Start with one song to get familiar with the process.

Select the song. Hold down the option key and press delete. iTunes will ask you if you’d like to delete the select song. IMPORTANT: Make sure the option Also delete this song from iCloud is unchecked. Click on Delete Song. You’ll be prompted to move the file to the trash. Go for it.

Delete songs

The track will now be available in glorious 256 kbps iTunes Plus quality via iTunes Match. Click on the iCloud download icon to start downloading back to your computer.

Download song iTunes Match
Tip: Even if you decide to leave iTunes Match at the conclusion of your subscription, all of your new iTunes Plus music stays with you.

How to enable iTunes Match on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch
Go to Settings > Music > Turn iTunes Match to On
You’ll be advised that music on your device will be replaced by music in iCloud, so feel free to select ok.

iTunes Match enable iPhone

How to enable iTunes Match on Apple TV
Go to Settings > iTunes Store > iTunes Match ‘On’

iTunes Match AppleTV

The move to iTunes Match and iCloud is not an easy one unless your library is filled with songs purchased through iTunes. The matching process still leaves a lot to be desired and there is no way to help iTunes correctly identify songs. It would be great if in a future version, you could show iTunes the matching album in the store, but I’m guessing that could result in piracy concerns. All in all, the benefits of iTunes Match certainly outweigh any of the negatives. This is a new service and it will only get better with time. Having access to my music from any of my computers, iOS devices or Apple TV is well worth the $25 per year. Not only can I stream music, but in many cases this acts as a backup service for your music, since you can always download songs from iCloud. Using clever Smart Playlists, this also serves as a method to upgrade the audio quality of older music in your library. It feels like a fresh start for my music collection and iTunes Match allows me to enjoy it across all of my devices.

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