iTunes Match & iCloud Music Tips

by Bob Plankers on November 14, 2011 · 16 comments

in Best Practices

I’ve been using iTunes Match since the developer releases, and these are a few things I’ve learned so far about the service. I’m excited by it, mainly because I’ve longed for a proper multi-iTunes sync for a long time between my work, home, and laptop computers, and I think Apple is doing this right for iOS users.

1. There are new “iCloud Status” and “iCloud Download” information columns in iTunes. If you right-click on the iTunes column header you can turn them on to see what iCloud thinks of your music. Statuses include:

  • Purchased: You bought this track from the iTunes Store, and regardless of the original format if you (re)download it you’ll get a 256 kbps AAC file.
  • Matched: This track was matched to a song in Apple’s database, and regardless of the original format if you (re)download it you’ll get a 256 kbps AAC file.
  • Uploaded: This track wasn’t matched to anything Apple knows about, but a copy of what you had was uploaded to iCloud for you.
  • Waiting: It’s in your library (or one of your libraries) and is awaiting processing.
  • Not Eligible: Songs that are larger than 200 MB or have a bitrate less than 96 Kbps, or things that aren’t songs (PDFs, etc.).
  • Duplicate: You have two of these in your library. By the way, this isn’t the stupid “find duplicates” that’s been in iTunes forever, this is a real duplicate finder.
  • Error: The song is corrupt or there was a problem uploading it.
  • Removed: You removed this song from iCloud, usually from a device or another computer, but it’s still in your library. You can re-add it to iCloud by right-clicking on it and “Add to iCloud…”

You can sort your music & build playlists based on some of these statuses (purchased, matched, uploaded, not eligible). Unfortunately you can’t act on the statuses that really matter, like “Error” or “Duplicate.” If you try to create a playlist that has everything that isn’t purchased, matched, uploaded, or not eligible (through a “all of these rules” group of iCloud status is not… rules) you can get close, but you still get all the ones that are “waiting.”

2. If you have music that has a status of “ineligible” or “error” try right-clicking it and pick “Create an MP3 version…” You’ll end up with a duplicate, but in all of my cases that duplicate was accepted by iCloud for upload and/or matching.

I’ve noticed that a number of my VBR CD rips have tracks that run afoul of the “ineligible” criteria (low bit rate), and creating a new version seems to fix the problem (I have my import settings set to generate 320 kbps MP3s).

For the “errors” I’ve found that just selecting them, then re-adding them to iCloud often solves that problem. In most cases it takes a little while for the status to update. Give it time. I think a lot of this is due to Apple’s servers being slammed.

3. iTunes Match also syncs your playlists & play/skip counts, which is nice. You can choose to download just a playlist at a time if you want.

4. View->Hide Music Not On This Computer. I wish there was another possible view in the library category list of “everything,” so I could keep the library set to local and quickly switch to the iCloud view of the world.

5. If you want to upgrade to 256 kbps AAC files make sure the status is “purchased” or “matched” and delete the file locally, but not from iCloud (make sure the box is unchecked). Then, if you have iTunes set to “show music not on this computer” it’ll immediately show you an entry with a cloud download button. Press that and you have the upgraded file, complete with your preserved play & skip counts. You can also multi-select and select Download from the right-click menu.

This is a godsend for me for a few of my CDs that are really, really scratched from years of use and didn’t import well.

6. Downloading a matched song doesn’t fix the tags on it. So if you are unhappy with the Gracenote CDDB information that was assigned to your music when you ripped it from CD you’ll still have to fix it yourself.

7. iTunes Match is a multiple-master database, meaning that all the copies of iTunes logged in as the same Apple ID can upload, match, and alter the iCloud view of your music library. In my case that means that I can run Match against my laptop iTunes library, my home desktop iTunes library, and my work desktop iTunes library to make sure I have a copy of what’s in all of them. It also maintains a lock so only one copy of iTunes can be matching at any given time. This also seems to affect my devices’ ability to sync, too.

8. As of this posting the interaction between iPhones/iPods/iPads and iCloud music has some rough edges. For starters, it’s a choice between iTunes Match and your iTunes library. If your device is set to iTunes Match you can only delete songs on the device from iTunes (which, frankly, is way better than trying to delete them one by one by swiping them on the device). You can’t copy music to it from iTunes. Your playlists will sync from iCloud, so that’s okay, and you’ll still be able to download purchased music through the iTunes app.

If your library is larger than your device you may be pretty unhappy with the level of screwing around you need to do to manage the music on the device, or how long it takes to download everything. When it comes right down to it, USB connections are still way faster and don’t eat your bandwidth cap.

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