iTunes Match

What is iTunes Match, and why is iTunes Match not working are two questions we get a lot here at Macworld. Apple’s premium music service is a godsend for music fans with huge music libraries and multiple Macs and iOS devices: but it takes some explaining.

ITunes Match is also been a bit cranky sometimes, and like many cloud-based services it can be a bit baffling when it stops working. Sometimes there are problems with Apple’s iTunes Match server but more often than not a few quick fixes that you can do at home will ensure that iTunes Match works just fine.

See:  Macworld readers reporting iTunes Match problems

What is iTunes Match?

iTunes Match is an online service by Apple that enables users to match all the music on their computers with songs from the vast array on Apple’s iTunes Store. Once iTunes Match has determined you have a song in your library, it can then be downloaded, or streamed, from the iTunes Store to any other Mac computers and iOS devices.

And a song doesn’t even need to be in the iTunes Store. If you add a song to iTunes and it isn’t on the iTunes Store, then the music file is uploaded to Apple’s iTunes Match server so it can be played on other computers and iOS devices.

It’s a really neat service that does away with much of the syncing that takes place between a Mac and an iPhone (or iPad/iPod touch). Instead of syncing music from your Mac to the iPhone you simply add songs to iTunes on your computer and they’re wirelessly available on the iPhone. And because you can stream the tracks they don’t take up space on your iOS device, giving you more room for apps, photos and videos.

See: iTunes Match Review

How much does iTunes Match cost?

The full iTunes Match service costs £21.99 per year. Even with a few reported problems lately we still think it’s a great service. The amount you get from it depends on how many computers and iOS devices you use though: if you’ve got more than one Mac on the go and an iPhone you’ll find iTunes Match pretty invaluable. There is also a free service but this only matches music that you’ve purchased from iTunes, and while it’s handy it’s not as good as the full deal.

Click here for Apple information on iTunes Match 

How do you set it up on Mac OS X

Follow these steps to set up iTunes Match on a Mac:

1. Open iTunes
2. Choose Store > Turn on iTunes Match
3. Click Add This Computer
4. Enter your Apple ID and Password and click Add This Computer
5. Click Done

The first time you install iTunes Match on a Mac computer it can take a long while for your music and information to be sent to the iTunes Match server.

See: iTunes Match errors: how to get rid of long uploading delays

Set up iTunes Match

How do you set up iTunes Match on iOS

Once you have iTunes Match added to a Mac it’s time to connect the iOS devices. This ensures you can instantly view all your music from the Mac on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Follow these steps to setup iTunes Match in iOS:

1. Tap Settings
2. Tap iTunes & App Stores
3. Ensure that you are signed in using the same Apple ID as your Mac
4. Set  iTunes Match to On
5. A message appears saying iTunes Match will replace the music library on this device. Tap Enable.

It’s worth noting that iTunes Match will replace all of the music synced on the iPad with music from iTunes. But because the only way to add music to an iOS device is via iTunes or having purchased it from iTunes Store. In both cases the music should be already be in iTunes Match.

See: Macworld Masterclass: Setting up iTunes Match

Set up iTunes Match

Playing and downloading iTunes Match music

With iTunes Match set up all of the music from all of your libraries will appear across all devices. Tracks that are not physically present on the device, but are capable of playing will have an iCloud icon.

To play the track simply select it as normal. It make take slightly longer to start playing as it’ll have to stream via WiFi.

If you haven’t got a wireless connection the song will not play, in in this instance you can also download music from iTunes Match and store it locally. Tap the iTunes Match icon next to a track (or a whole album) to download all the music.

Downloading iTunes Match music

Quick fixes for iTunes Match

Sometimes when you use iTunes Match you might run into problems streaming music. Here are some tips to check:

Check the internet connection

iTunes Match requires an internet connection to work. When your Mac or iOS device does not have an internet connection then some iTunes Match music will fade out. 

It doesn’t stop completely because tracks that you have recently played (or downloaded) will still be present on the device. The number of tracks cached locally varies depending on how much space you have on the iOS device, but you should be able to play any tracks from the default Recently Played playlist.

If you frequently use iTunes Match on a device that doesn’t have a persistent data connection (like an iPod touch) then you should click the download button next to any tracks you want to have around.

Using iTunes Match with Cellular Data (or just Wi-Fi)

If you have an iPhone (or iPad with cellular) then you can stream music over the network. Because this uses a fair bit of data you should ensure that your data plan has enough space (it depends on your usage but expect to need at least an extra 1GB per month). It usually better to be on an unlimited data plan if you intend to do this.

Follow these steps to turn on iTunes Match with Cellular:

1. Turn on iTunes Match
2. Choose Settings > Cellular data
3. Ensure that Cellular Data is set to On
4. Tap iTunes next to “Use Cellular Data for...”

Tip! Turn off Show all music when you haven’t got internet

If you don’t want to use Cellular data to access iTunes Match (or are using an iPod touch) then you can turn off iTunes Match music on an iOS device. This only leaves the music that is downloaded or synced to your iOS device, so you can play this music without needing an internet connection. Follow these steps:

1. Tap Settings and Music
2. Set Show All Music to Off

Now only music that’s been downloaded or played recently will appear in your iTunes Match library. Simply turn the Show All Music setting to On when you next have a Wi-Fi or Internet connection.

Tip! Update iTunes Match to fix problems

One key tip that can help fix generic problems is to update the iTunes Match library on your Mac. This ensures that the latest information on your music is on the iTunes Match server. Choose Store > Update iTunes Match to update all of the information.

Fix! Turn iTunes Match off and on again

It’s an old computer adage but sometimes the best way to fix problems is to start again from scratch. Choose Store > Turn off iTunes Match on Mac OS X and tap Settings > iTunes Match > Off on all your iOS devices then go through the setup process outlined earlier.

This is a last resort but it’s quicker than you’d think to turn iTunes Match off and on again and the fresh setup can help iron out any kinks in the system.