If you have a very large music collection and a small amount of storage available on your iPhone you may be wondering if there is a way to have all your music with you all of the time. Well if that is the case you have come to the right place.

Currently it is possible for any user to download anything they have already purchased from the iTunes Music Store, delete it, then download it again without paying a penny. That's great if you buy all your music from iTunes, but what if you have a loft full of CDs, each RIPed on your your Mac. How can you get these tracks to be at your beck and call without storing 128GB of music on your iPhone? There is a way to be able to listen to any album when you need it, rather than suffer the frustration of knowing it’s locked in the belly of your home computer or laptop.

In 2012 Apple launched a feature called iTunes Match and this makes it possible to store the whole of your music collection in the cloud so that you can download the tracks at any time you fancy listening to them.

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What is iTunes Match?

iTunes Match is a yearly subscription service from Apple that scans your music library on all of your devices (Macs, iPhones and iPads) and creates a copy of all your music in the cloud. You can then easily access this from your iPhone and download a track to play at any time.

iTunes Match doesn’t actually upload every album - as that could be tediously prolonged if you have a large collection - but instead it matches your music to existing copies on Apple’s servers.

In the case of a rare groove, iTunes will automatically upload and add that one to the catalogue so you can still access it via the cloud.

Another advantage is that the tracks you download will be in 256Kbps quality, no matter how muffled or old the original one was. Read: How to get best quality audio on an iPhone.

How much does iTunes Match cost?

You can have all your tunes in your pocket for a reasonable £21.99 per year (that's about £1.80 a month). If you decide not to renew your subscription at the end of a 12 month period, then any albums that have been downloaded on your Mac or PC at the upgraded 256Kbps quality will remain there forever. You won’t of course be able to download any that aren't on your iPhone or iPad without the iTunes Match service, but you could do that before closing your subscription, and transform your whole music library into a higher bit-rate one than it originally was. Read next: How to play high-res audio on iPhone

How to set up iTunes Match on your Mac or PC

Step 1: The first thing to do is to open up the iTunes app itself, then click on the Match option found at the upper centre of the screen. In this section there are a few details about the service, and beneath them you’ll see the blue button offering you to ‘Subscribe for £21.99 per Year’. Click this and you’ll be prompted to enter your iTunes password, which will confirm the payment.

Step 2: iTunes will now begin to gather information about your music library. This is quite a long process, so best to do it before you go to bed and leave it running overnight as your Mac/PC will be busy for a while.

As a guide we synced a 50GB music collection and the whole process took around 12-14 hours.

Step 3: When iTunes has finished matching your library you’ll see a screen telling you that the upload has completed, and also how many songs are now available from the cloud. Now you just need to set up your other devices to take advantage of the service.

Step 4: To make the songs available to another Mac or PC simply open iTunes and click on the Store option in the menu at the top of the screen, then select ‘Turn on iTunes Match’.

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Setting up iTunes Match for iOS

With your library now in the cloud you’ll need to let your iPhone or iPad know that it can use the iTunes Match service. This is very easy to do. Simply go to Settings>Music and scroll down until you see the iTunes Match option. Slide the button to the on position and you’re ready to go.


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Quick fixes for iTunes Match

Sometimes when you use iTunes Match you might run into problems streaming music. Here are some tips from Lou Hattersley:
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.  

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