Apple expanded their iTunes Match service to international markets last month, finally allowing Canadians to subscribe to the service for a $27.99 annual fee. iTunes Match is a different beast from music streaming services like Rdio and Spotify and instead acts as an online storage locker for your music so you can instantly access your iTunes library over the Internet from all of your iDevices.
After subscribing to iTunes Match, Apple will scan your iTunes library and match your songs against tracks they have available in the iTunes Store so that only the songs they could not match are uploaded to the cloud. iTunes was able to match about 80% of my library so it only took an hour or two to upload my unmatched songs to the service.
Once the initial setup process is complete you can simply enable iTunes Match on any additional Mac/PC computers and on your iPhones and iPads and now your entire music library is instantly available to those devices. No more need to sync your music!
The biggest selling feature that drove me to purchase iTunes Match is Apple’s claim that they will upgrade your poorly ripped, low quality MP3s to high quality DRM-free AAC tracks — the actual files that Apple sells on the iTunes Store. This claim is true, however it does not happen automatically and requires a little trickery if you want to upgrade your original library. I nervously deleted my original files and let iTunes download higher quality versions, which took the better part of a day.
With my iTunes library upgraded and sounding better than ever, I spent some time looking at the files that iTunes was unable to match with the hope of upgrading even more tracks. I was able to match up more by correcting track names and by re-encoding low quality tracks, however on many occasions iTunes was unable to match just one track of an album and no amount of techno sorcery could fix it. Grr!
So is iTunes Match worth $27.99/year? If you’re happy with the current way you download music and just want an easy way to stream your library to your other computers and Apple devices, than sure, the price isn’t too bad for that. When compared to streaming music services like Rdio or Spotify, iTunes Match is a big disappointment. I’d rather pay more and have full access to stream everything the iTunes Store has to offer. Unless Apple really enhances the service over the next year I will be cancelling my subscription and sticking with Rdio. At least $27.99 was a fair price to pay to upgrade 10 gigs of songs to higher quality tracks (which you get to keep after cancelling)!