Confused about what you get with Apple Music versus what you get with iTunes Match?
With the arrival of Apple Music—and its broad claim to make your library's songs streamable alongside its primary streaming collection—those with iTunes Match accounts might be a wee bit confused as to whether they still need the service. Here's what you need to know!
What Apple Music offers
For $9.99/month (or $14.99/month, for a family plan), Apple Music gives you access to its streaming catalog and a whole other host of cool music features. In addition, Apple Music subscribers can stream any song in the Apple Music catalog, whether they own it or not; they can also upload up to 25,000 songs from their Mac's iTunes library. (Purchased iTunes content doesn't count toward that 25,000 song limit.) That limit will be raised to 100,000 songs with the release of iOS 9 later this year, according to Apple senior vice president Eddy Cue.
Apple Music scans those 25,000 songs to see which, if any, can be matched with the Apple Music catalog. If they can, when you re-download that song on another device, you'll get a 256kbps Apple Music AAC file—which also happens to have DRM on it. Any songs not matched with the Apple Music catalog are uploaded as-is, where they can be redownloaded in their original format.
All of these tunes sit alongside any streamed Apple Music catalog tracks you add in your iCloud Music Library; you can stream or download tracks for offline listening from that at any time from any of your devices (up to 10). (Your iCloud Music Library doesn't count toward your iCloud storage, as your Photo Library does; it's only based on number of songs, rather than gigabytes.) Unlike Match, any offerings from Apple Music's catalog that match up with your library truly are streaming—no local cache issues to be found here. Non-matched music will still have to be downloaded locally to your device before streaming.
All tracks from Apple Music's catalog—including tracks that the service has matched from your Mac's iTunes library—that you download on another device (i.e. your iPhone or iPad) are DRM-encrypted. This means that if you cancel your Apple Music subscription, they'll disappear.
Any tracks you've uploaded to iCloud Music Library from your Macs will stay where they are on their original device, in their original format—your source tracks won't be DRM-encoded.
For more info on Apple Music and DRM, check out these articles:
- No, Apple is not adding DRM to songs on your Mac you already own
- How to check if your Mac's songs are uploaded, matched, purchased, or Apple Music DRM-laden
What iTunes Match offers
For $25/year, Apple will let you stream up to 25,000 songs from your iTunes Music library to your devices connected with your Apple ID. If you purchased any of these tracks from Apple's iTunes Store, they won't be used toward your 25,000 limit, nor do they need to be uploaded because Apple has the track on its servers already; only songs Apple uploads from your iTunes Library count. i.e.: Owning Taylor Swift's 1989 will let you access it from any device it with no uploading separately; your demo recordings will need to be uploaded to Apple's servers first before you can play them.
iTunes Match scans those 25,000 songs to see which, if any, can be matched with the iTunes Store catalog. If they can, when you re-download that song on another device, you'll get a 256kbps Matched DRM-free AAC file. Any songs not matched with the iTunes Store catalog are uploaded as-is, where they can be redownloaded in their original format. You can then stream or download these tracks for offline listening from that at any time from any of your devices (up to 10).
Match's "streaming" is entirely downloading-based: As such, when you "stream" a song from iTunes Match, you're downloading a cache to your device and filling its space. You can also, of course, download songs locally.
All iTunes Match tracks you download on another device (i.e. your iPhone or iPad) are DRM-free: If you cancel your Match subscription, they'll stay on your device if they've been downloaded, but you won't be able to stream anything further. (Any tracks you've uploaded to iTunes Match from your Macs will stay where they are.)
Do you need both?
If you care about DRM-free matched music on your other devices, yes, you need both. Otherwise, nope. If you have Apple Music, you don't need iTunes Match.
One note on that: If you ever decide to cancel Apple Music and want to keep your purchased and uploaded content available on other devices, you'll want to re-activate your iTunes Match subscription. (You won't carry over any songs you've added from the Apple Music streaming library, of course.)
When you first open iTunes on your Mac, you'll have the option to sign in to either Apple Music or Match from the Account menu; once you choose Apple Music, the iTunes Match option disappears—Apple Music supersedes it. If you're subscribed to both, you'll be able to turn off or cancel your Match subscription by going to Account > View Account > Settings > Subscriptions > Manage, but otherwise, Apple Music and iCloud Music Library are the primary option for controlling your cloud library.
If Apple Music duplicates iTunes Match's feature-set, why is Apple keeping Match as an option?
If you don't want DRM-locked streaming music, iTunes Match makes sense as a complementary option to Apple Music. And if you don't want Apple Music streaming at all, iTunes Match gives you access to your purchased and uploaded music on all your devices.
Why would you choose iTunes Match rather than just subscribe to Apple Music? Math and DRM, my friends: iTunes Match is just $24.99/year, while an Apple Music subscription runs you $119.88/year. If streaming all of Apple's music collection doesn't appeal to you, but having on-the-go DRM-free access to your full music library does, iTunes Match appears to be a good alternate option.
What happens when you cancel?
Here's where there's a difference: When you cancel an Apple Music subscription, you lose access to your iCloud Music Library along with any streaming songs you may have added to it that you didn't own, and redownloaded matched songs from your Mac's library. They all get deleted. You can manually add tunes to your devices' libraries again via iTunes or re-download your purchased content, but that's it.
When you cancel an iTunes Match subscription, however, you'll keep any matched or uploaded songs that you've downloaded locally to your device—but you won't be able to download any new songs from the cloud. Your iTunes Match library continues to be stored for 30 days; if you activate Apple Music or re-activate Match, you'll regain access to it. Otherwise, after 30 days, it gets removed from Apple's servers.
If you activate Match before canceling Apple Music, your iCloud library should transfer over (save for any songs from the Apple Music you saved but don't own), but we haven't been able to test that in full quite yet. More testing coming soon.
Unfortunately, based on user reports it doesn't sound like you'll be able to get a refund for your Match subscription if you already paid up for this year and want to cancel it in favor of Apple Music.
Any other questions about iTunes Match vs Apple Music? Sound off in the comments.
Updated on 6/1 to correct miswordings about matched vs uploaded content and an error about cancelled subscriptions, along with a note about streamed content.