iTunes Match-maker..

I was quite excited by iTunes Match.  A kind gift of iTunes vouchers from Cat’s parents and I invested – the idea of being able to ‘upgrade’ music matched with the iTunes database to 256kbps versions was appealing – as well as having a centralised store of my music in ‘The Cloud’ so to speak.

It’s not been exactly the kind of easy experience it might’ve been.  I expected some complications.  The legacy of me being eager to save space on devices in the past (including my old laptop) before I centralised my iTunes library was that most of my music, whilst quite well tagged, was encoded to a low bit-rate of just 112kbps.  This is fine for my non-audiophile ears and means I get more music on my iDevices – but the matching process had some issues with it.

Ostensibly the process occurs in three steps – although these steps can take literally days depending on the size of your library (and speed of Internet connection of course).  The first step analyses your music, the second attempts to match with music available in the iTunes store, the third will upload anything not present in the store along with artwork etc.  Given the amount of bootlegs and reasonably obscure music I have there was quite a lot of uploading to do.

After the first attempt around 20% of my library was match or uploaded – the rest was ‘waiting’ or ‘error’ – these seem to be interchangeable at times depending on the mood iTunes is in.  I tested a couple of albums by re-encoding them, using iTunes, to 256kbps AAC files and re-sending them to iTunes Match – it worked.  These examples matched where they’d failed before.  Leaving me with about 12,000 more songs I needed to ‘increase’ the bit-rate for to allow iTunes Match to consider playing with them.  That’s a lot of tracks.

I decided to get a bit brutal with my library – as I suspected, there’s a lot of stuff in there downloaded on a whim that I’ve not really listened to – so I managed to have a good prune.  Then selected all the unmatched/unuploaded songs in my Library and hit the ‘convert to AAC’ option in the menu.  Then waited.  A long time.  It took a little over a full day of churning through for my poor Macbook to get through this process, I decided to leave it to it and switch to my iPad for my computer needs for the duration – that way upon completion I could just tap delete. I checked the ‘remove from iCloud’ box, clicked delete files and then was left with a Library either matched, uploaded or 256kbps.

Then I contemplated how broken my playlists were now! Argh!

Anyway, now I selected all my new tracks and selected the option to add to iCloud, then from the Store option in the menu selected ‘Update iTunes Match’ – and now we wait.  This took ages too.  Proper ages.  Eventually it had matched a further 6,000 or so songs, and dutifully uploaded the remaining 4,000 without issue – so now my whole library is available in iTunes match.  After many hours of faffing, waiting and eventually rebuilding my playlists.

So, if you have low bit-rate files that won’t play with iTunes Match there’s a fairly simple process to go through:

  • Convert them to 256kbps AAC files in iTunes (I deleted the originals, whether you do this is up to you!)
  • Add them to iCloud in iTunes (cmd click whilst they’re selected in iTunes)
  • Store Menu – Update iTunes Match

Such a simple list – such a long time it will take if your library is a fairly hefty size.  Upon picking up my iPad having been at the City Ground enduring Forest’s latest pathetic offering, it seems to be working how it should be – the tracks already on there are supplemented by things it could have on it at the push of a button.  I don’t like the music player app on the iPad as it is, and so far it doesn’t seem to happy with me just selecting ‘download all’ for a particular playlist.

My iPhone meanwhile, which has been out and about with me today of course, seems mightily confused about what it can and can’t do – I’ve decided to, having wiped the music from it before starting for a ‘clean start’ decided to disable Match on the device, sync the music back as it was before and then enable Match.  I think that’s for the best.

All in all, I’d say the process has mostly been a complete and utter ballache – however, my music is now either ‘matched’ with iTunes or backed up to their servers for those tracks that it couldn’t match – and future music I add to my library will undergo this process to, and that’s a good thing for sure, and for £21 a year – pretty bargainous really.  Once they iron out the niggles with iOS devices (I’m most perturbed about the album artwork situation for example!) then it will be excellent.  As is the norm for early adoption of such things though, there is teething trouble.

Hopefully amongst my waffle there’s been some useful nuggets for someone out there trying to get to grips with iTunes Match.

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Categories: blog, iPhone / iPad / Mac | Leave a comment

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