Using iTunes Match to convert protected tracks from other iTunes accounts

Q: My girlfriend has purchased a lot of music from the iTunes Store. using two different Apple IDs. She has quite a few protected, pre-iTunes Plus tracks which are incompatible with her Sonos music player – of course these are related to the older Apple ID that she no longer uses. If I use the procedure you described to use iTunes Match to upgrade protected/low-bitrate iTunes Store tracks, will it only apply to the tracks bought under the Apple ID that the user is currently logged into for purchases and Home Sharing, or all tracks in the iTunes library regardless of Apple ID they were purchased with?

– Trevor

A: The first point to keep in mind is that to use iTunes Match, you must actually be logged into the iTunes Store with the user account that you have used to subscribe to iTunes Match. This will therefore be the Apple ID that you should also use for future purchases and features like Home Sharing; although this is not specifically required, it will make things easier in the long term.

iTunes Match will try to match every track it can, regardless of whether it is DRM protected and which account it was purchased with. In order to handle DRM protected tracks, your computer must simply be authorized for the account that was used to purchase those tracks. There are three types of tracks that can exist in the world of iTunes Match:

Purchased: These are tracks that are made accessible directly from the purchase history of the iTunes Store account that you are using for iTunes Match. The initial iTunes Match setup process actually doesn’t try to do anything with these tracks—when you sign up to iTunes Match, it’s just all immediately made available in your account based on your purchase history, and it’s also worth noting that they do not count against the 25,000 track limit for iTunes Match. These will be unprotected 256kbps AAC versions regardless of what format they were originally purchased in.

Matched: These are tracks in your library from other sources that have been matched with corresponding tracks on the iTunes Store and made available through iTunes Match. These will also be made available as unprotected, 256kbps AAC versions regardless of the format and bit-rate of the original item in your iTunes library.

Uploaded: These are tracks that could not be matched to anything on the iTunes Store, for whatever reason, and have therefore been directly uploaded to the iTunes Match servers. As these are just direct copies of what’s in your library to begin with,  the versions available from iTunes Match will be identical to the original format.

DRM protected content that was purchased with your primary account—that is, the one that you’re using for iTunes Match—will normally simply be made available as Purchased content, directly from your purchase history. However, this is only the case if the item is actually still available for sale on the iTunes Store. If not, that DRM protected content is Uploaded instead. In that case, since you’re just uploading an exact copy of the track, it remains DRM protected on the iTunes Match service.

Content in your library that was purchased using other iTunes Store accounts will not appear as Purchased content. Instead, iTunes will try to match it with available content on the iTunes Store in the same manner as content from any other source. This matching process occurs even if the original tracks are DRM protected, as long as your computer is authorized for those other iTunes Store accounts. If the DRM protected tracks can be matched to the iTunes Store, they will appear as Matched tracks and be available as non-DRM protected 256kbps AAC files; if not, they’re uploaded as-is, and remain DRM protected.

So, the bottom line is that what can be matched becomes available in an unprotected 256kbps AAC format, regardless of what account it was purchased with, however the matching process can be somewhat hit and miss since it depends on whether the protected content is still being sold on the iTunes Store and whether iTunes can successfully identify it with the corresponding content on the store.

Keep in mind as well that the iTunes Match process will not actually replace anything that’s already in your iTunes library. To “convert” tracks you’ll either need to download them to a new library, or delete the tracks from your current library in order to re-download them.

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