Choosing between Apple Music and iTunes Match

Anthony Caruana
3 July, 2015
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The arrival of Apple Music, with its 24/7 Beats 1 station and the ability to stream music from Apple’s massive library has been the big Apple News of the week.

But another less heralded change also came. iTunes Match, the service that allows you to upload your own, non-iTunes music to Apple’s iCloud service was given a massive boost. You can now upload as many as 100,000 tracks to the service, up from 20,000.

So, what’s the point of an Apple Music subscription at $11.99 per month when you can have your own tracks available for $34.99 per year?

There are two things you’ll need to consider in order to answer that question. And, at the end, you might this isn’t an either/or equation but both services may be of value to you.

A brief tour of Apple Music

Apple Music is a streaming music service that gives you access to a massive collection of music available from Apple’s library that has come together over many years of negotiation with music companies and independent artists. With Apple Music, you don’t own the music – your monthly subscription gives you access to listen to that music.

The service uses a number of tools to hone its selections. In effect, it learns what you like and provides more music that is in keeping with your musical tastes.

The upside is you’re constantly exposed to new artists that you might like.

The downside is once you stop paying your $11.99 each month, you lose access to that music.

A brief tour of iTunes Match

Back when iTunes was simply a tool for loading music to an iPod and the iTunes Store was just an idea in the Apple mothership at Cupertino, the only way to load music from your library was to put a CD into your computer’s drive and extract the music. In those days, the music industry was so far behind the game that Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Ballmer, said the most common music format on iPods was “stolen”.

A lot has changed since then with format shifting from CDs to hard drives now legal. And we can by music digitally from the iTunes Store, thus cutting out the need for CDs and the tedious task of ripping music.

iTunes Match lets you take that non-purchased music and sync it up to Apple’s cloud services so you can access your iTunes library from just about any device. The cost is $34.99 per year and you can sync up to 100,000 tracks to iCloud.

How do you choose?

Here’s the thing. You don’t need to choose.

If you have a large iTunes library of music that is not available through iTunes that you have legally ripped from CDs then iTunes Match will make that music available to you from all your iTunes-capable devices.

Although iTunes now covers a vast array of musical genres and artists there’s a lot of music it doesn’t have. Aficionados of classical or jazz, for example, might have specific arrangements or versions of music that they really like that they can’t access through the iTunes Store but want to easily access from all their iTunes-enabled devices.

In those cases, iTunes match, makes a lot of sense.

Apple Music is more like a radio station that plays the type of music you like rather than specific pieces. Say you like classical music and want to broaden your horizons, Apple Music can be a great way to expand your listening without committing to buying a bunch of different albums of collections.

Given that many complete albums cost in excess of $12, the monthly Apple Music subscription is good value if you’re into buying lots of music. And you can listen to tracks you like over again for that free.

However, if you like to have your own versions of the tracks that you’ve only been able to access outside iTunes then iTunes Match may be a better choice.

The things is, while there may be groups of music lovers that prefer one service over the other, the two can be complementary if your budget and download allowances allow.

One Comment

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  1. jforge says:

    Anthony, Surely you’re a bit premature with the update from 20,000 to 100,000 tracks you can upload with iTunes Match. I heard an update alluded to but not until IOS9 arrives, but I don’t believe it occurred.

    In fact the cap that I still have to deal with is 25,000 tracks. For me it’s been a little lame and with the update to Apple Music I can no longer access my 25,000 from my iCloud Library. On the Mac I have only the tracks that exist on my hard drive and most of my playlists are empty but on the iPhone I can see everything as before.

    Anyone else suffered these problems?

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