Apple to reset iTunes Match libraries ahead of launch | iLounge News


Apple to reset iTunes Match libraries ahead of launch

Apple has sent out an email notice to registered iOS developers, informing them that the company will be deleting all iTunes Match libraries later today. “To continue to improve the overall quality and reliability of iTunes Match, we will be deleting all current iCloud libraries on Thursday, October 27,” the message reads. It also reminds users to turn off iTunes Match on all their computers and iOS devices ahead of the scheduled deletion. Announced in June at WWDC, iTunes Match is a $24.99/year service that matches tracks in a user’s iTunes library with tracks stored on the company’s iTunes Store servers, uploading any tracks it can’t match, and offering users full access to all their music — up to 25,000 tracks — from any of their devices. Apple said at its “Let’s talk iPhone” event that the service would be available at the “end of October.”

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Based on what info I can find online from people participating in the beta, I’m skeptical they’re going to make their “end of October” release AND have the release go smoothly. I hope they’ll take the PR hit from a later release and get it right instead of pushing it out the door only to have an even bigger support and PR nightmare.

I just with they’d publish the details of how this is going to work exactly since no amount of web searching answers much of anything definitively.

Questions that need answered:

1. If I’ve changed some “major” metadata information (e.g. lumping the one hit wonders into a single compilation called “One Hit Wonders”), will the service still be able to match the tracks? Some sources hint yes, some hint no.

2. Will there be true metadata support? I’ve spent years of my life getting everything “just so” with my music collection. I need to know that if I go to a new computer and download my library that *my* metadata is what iTunes will be using (including album art). I’ve seen a few reports from beta testers that their metadata was preserved, but that’s also downloading to the same computer it was matched from, i.e. the library file and pre-existing art cache was present locally. Without this stuff being maintained in the cloud, you’ll still be stuck at keeping local backups of everything unless you want to start over again organizing your library at some future date.

3. Will the service provide a true mirroring of a “master library”? Going forward, I want to know that there are settings that will let me, at the least, automatically hide cloud tracks that I delete from my library without having to separately go to the cloud and hide them like you do now with the iCloud music service. Going forward, I want to know if I change tags in my computer library that those changes will be automatically synced to the cloud.

4. Will I be able to see what isn’t matched *before* uploading it? One of the appealing things about this service is that, if it’s set up right, it would serve as an offsite backup for my iTunes music library with commercial grade digital files. However, I know that much of my library probably can’t be matched (foreign artists, soundboards, artists that refuse to work with iTunes, only partial albums licensed, etc.). For these tracks, I want the option to dig out my lossless archives and re-encode them with a current encoder instead of being stuck with whatever encode is currently in my library.

5. From the beta test, it appears if you have more than 25,000 non iTunes purchased tracks in your library that you can’t even sign up for the service. Assuming this is still the case when the service launches, what happens for those that later go over the 25K limit (i.e. just how much below 25K do I need to weed my library to)?


Waiting on the answers (not that I’ll be able to sign up any time soon due to needing to weed my library below 25K, but I want to know how much work I’m looking at prepping for the service).

Posted by Code Monkey on October 27, 2011 at 10:37 AM (CDT)


Wow, Code Monkey, those are great questions. I love the idea of iTunes Match, but I too have a huge library and am nowhere NEAR having it “how I want it,” but have updated A LOT of metadata. I guess for now, time capsule is still the best option.

Posted by ndurantz on October 27, 2011 at 12:10 PM (CDT)


Based on everything I know, don’t expect too much.  This is going to work sort of like genius. It will scan your library and find matches in iTunes. What it doesn’t match it will upload. 

In preparation, clean up your library as best as possible. Get it below 25k songs.  Here’s what I did: I uploaded it all to Amazon.  Now I have an exact backup there.  Then I went thru iTunes and I deleted tons that I really don’t care about anymore.  I also deleted duplicates, etc.  So at least I’ve done my part.  My library is now prepped for matching.  And worst case scenario I can always redownload something from amazon cloud if I need it.

When Match is ready we’ll just have to cross our fingers that it works well. It will match based on the sound on the file and metadata.  Again, cross your fingers.  Expect hiccups.

When finished, our music will be available in iTunes Match which we can download or just leave our iTunes library as is. But beware, If you enable Match for your iOS device it will resync all music on your device with the matched versions.

Dont expect to be able to tweak files, especially on your device.  It is basically going to be you get what you get. 

If you want the power user experience with ultimate control, keep doing what your doing in iTunes now.

Depending on how well Match works will determine if it is a true library replacement or merely just a backup in case we need it.

Posted by Spaceways on October 27, 2011 at 7:54 PM (CDT)


@3: While I suspect you may be largely on the money,if so, ultimately this is going to wind up just being a service people sign up for, upgrade their files, and let expire.

If things as common place and trivial as updating a spelling error, or removing tracks, or changing the genre, or fixing a compilation flag isn’t handled well after you’ve matched the library then everyone, from power user to average soccer mom, is going to watch their cloud library inherently degrade in usability over time.

Which is why I hope you’re more incorrect than correct. Who in their right mind would pay for a “back up” service that effectively only backed up files once and froze them permanently in that state?

Posted by Code Monkey on October 28, 2011 at 8:09 AM (CDT)


I agree.  Strictly a back-up service is not that desirable.  But this will give people the ability to upgrade their libraries (for example if they previously ripped at 128kbps) and it also means that people will be able to do OTA updates and cut the cord with their computers.  In thinking this through I really think that is the purpose of Match.  The ability to untether the devices.

Posted by Spaceways on October 28, 2011 at 7:15 PM (CDT)


I have to agree with #5 there.

I don’t think iTunes Match is meant to be a backup service (it will be nice to have that handy backup in the cloud though), but instead provide an easy way for people to access their libraries from pretty much anywhere they can get an internet connection.  For example, would be sweet to be able to listen to my music collection with my iPhone at work without having to drag my iPod Classic in as well, or even those times when I don’t even have my Classic with me.  I used to do that with LaLa before Apple unceremoniously killed that service off.

As far as backups, I do full automatic system back-ups of my server, in addition to syncing it all to my Classic and even to my MacBook Pro (using that nifty home sharing thing in iTunes, plus being backed-up to yet another external drive via Time Machine).  Thus, if anything goes south, (and it has), I have a ready backup on hand to restore it.  I just don’t trust “the cloud” enough to rely on it as my sole backup (what if something happens to the service or Apple just decided it needed to nuke everybody’s libraries due to needing a service upgrade or in response to a security compromise).

Posted by SkiBumMSP on October 28, 2011 at 9:20 PM (CDT)


“I don’t think iTunes Match is meant to be a backup service”

Except that is EXACTLY what it is billed as even if they’re not calling it that. Go to a new computer and instantly have all your music, get a new iPad and instantly have access to all your music. That IS a back up, but if that back up is constantly getting more and more out of sync, it is actually constantly getting less and less useful any application, e.g. your library access at work (which ONLY downloads, so you better have the space on your iPhone anyhow, and once you turn it on it deletes all the music off your iPhone and ONLY uses the cloud for putting music on the iPhone).

Without cloud support for podcast subscriptions, movies, personal videos, photos, and audiobooks, the idea it untethers anything is fairly silly. Until Apple addresses a lot of other cloud features, everyone who expects to have all the options on their shiny iPhone 4S will be using a computer based library and iTunes. And who in their right mind is going to wait for their music to ONLY sync at their ISP’s data speed when they still have to sync with their computer to get everything except music?

Posted by Code Monkey on October 29, 2011 at 12:19 PM (CDT)


While I agree that this will be a backup service, I cannot see Apple going the route of just that.  With the way that they have built hardware then software, this seems like the basis of a streaming iPod.  Maybe along the lines of Kindle’s services. Your stuff is out there, now you can get it anywhere.  The iPhone already does this in many ways.  Getting the music to sync is really a matter of recognizing song length and names in combination.  Your personal meta-data will not be lost, just personalized in your account.

Posted by Sylr87 on October 30, 2011 at 5:56 PM (CDT)


@8: Apple has said repeatedly there is to be no streaming. It will sort of emulate streaming because playback can begin almost immediately after the download starts, but it is intended only as a download service.

Will it change down the road? Maybe, but don’t hold your breath.

Posted by Code Monkey on October 30, 2011 at 10:23 PM (CDT)


The streaming vs non-streaming is a mostly semantic issue in this case, however. For most online music services, “streaming” implies a web interface and the ability to stream music down to any browser or even mobile device through various technologies.  However, since iTunes Match will provide no access to your content outside of Apple’s own software applications (the iOS “Music” app and iTunes on your PC or Mac), it really doesn’t matter to most users whether it’s downloading it in the background or not as long as it starts playing right away and the user gets the effect of streaming.

Also, FWIW iTunes on the Mac/PC side does stream tracks unless you specifically ask to download them. In reality, the tracks are probably still cached somewhere, but they’re not added to the local iTunes library.

The upside of background downloading on iOS is also reduced bandwidth since you most users will only need to stream/download a given track once, after which it’s semi-permanently cached on the device. Next time you play the same track, it just plays the downloaded copy.

Of course, the transparent downloading will eventually start to consume more space on an iOS device, and it remains to be seen how intelligently iOS 5 will manage this. 

Ultimately, however, the metadata will be the biggest x-factor in the whole equation—not just the storing of it, but also the syncing of it (what happens when you change the properties for a track that’s already downloaded to one or more devices, for example).  Everything I’ve seen and heard thus far indicates that tracking metadata will propagate through the system (e.g. ratings, play counts, last played dates, etc), and both playlists and Smart Playlists are supported—and actually appear to live update via the cloud (perhaps one reason Apple couldn’t be bothered getting it right on the iOS side itself).

However, last time I checked, other metadata seemed to be coming from the iTunes Store side for any tracks that were actually matched.  The conflicting reports come from the fact that most users’ libraries consist of both matched and uploaded tracks, the latter of which will of course include whatever metadata is actually in the file since it’s actually your file being uploaded. Apparently—at least in the early stages—a LOT of tracks didn’t match and had to be uploaded, even if they were available on the iTunes Store and should have matched.

From everything reported thus far, iTunes Match will be an “all-or-nothing” service—you won’t be able to selectively exclude tracks without removing them later, and right now you can’t even delete tracks from the “cloud” once they’ve been uploaded. That may change for final release, of course, but I’m not holding my breath.

The good news, however, is that there have been no reports of iTunes Match actually losing music since it never actually deletes anything.  The same thing seems to apply to metadata (and probably for the same reasons).  Playlists, however, are another story and I would strongly recommend a backup of those (exporting them to XML via the File, Library, Export Playlist option is the best way to do this.

Posted by Jesse Hollington on October 31, 2011 at 10:19 AM (CDT)


Aside from iOS’ ability to clean up after itself, and how well metadata and playlists are preserved, the other potential deal-breaker that I can see is this difference between downloading vs. streaming (I think its more than semantics).

For example, if I want to play an album that is not currently on my iPhone due to limited capacity, I have no room to download it so I’d want to be able to stream it (assuming iOS would reserve enough of a buffer). If iCloud can’t do that for me then forget it, I have my own backup system.

Posted by rockmyplimsoul on October 31, 2011 at 2:15 PM (CDT)


Agreed, the downloading vs streaming is not semantics at all. The majority of people I see confused on this matter believe the match service is going to give them 100GB libraries on their 8GB iPhone and, nope.

You can sort of gain the benefits of true streaming by constantly going through and deleting music while on the go to free up more room, but that’s more than a semantical difference.

Anyhow, unless it turns out that my metadata is respected I won’t be using the service at all (*thousands* of live tracks meticulously tagged in the title with the date of the performance instead of just (live)). And unless it turns out that we can update both tags and the actual files for the non-matched songs with better versions, I’ll use this as a one shot to avoid re-encoding whatever is matched to a current encoder, and drop the service until Apple feels like giving us a real iTunes in the cloud.

Posted by Code Monkey on November 1, 2011 at 7:53 AM (CDT)

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