How to set up and use iTunes Match

How to set up and use iTunes Match

iTunes Match allows you to stream purchased music from iTunes along with any other music you have saved in your iTunes library to any of your registered iOS devices. That means you can listen to your tunes — any purchased music + up to 25,000 songs from your personal library — anywhere you have a data connection, without taking up tons of storage space. To get started, all you've got to do is subscribe and enable iTunes Match on all of the things!

iTunes Match limitations

There are a few limitations to iTunes Match that you should be aware of before subscribing.

  • iTunes Match isn't available everywhere in the world quite yet. Check your iTunes Match availability by country before attempting to subscribe.

  • iTunes Match supports uploading up to 25,000 songs from your personal library (purchased songs excluded). If your library is bigger than that, iTunes will flat-out refuse to match it. To get around this, you can create a new iTunes library on the same computer with a subset of your songs — no more than 25,000 — and use that library to set up iTunes Match, though it's a bit of a pain to do. (Just make sure you don't choose the option to copy your original library's music into new folders — leave it in its existing location or you'll waste a lot of disk space duplicating files.)

How to subscribe to iTunes Match on Mac or Windows

  1. Launch iTunes on your Mac or PC.
  2. Click on Store at the top and then Turn On iTunes Match.
  3. Click the Subscribe button.
  4. Enter your Apple ID when asked and confirm your purchase.

How to subscribe to iTunes Match on Mac and WindowsHow to subscribe to iTunes Match on Mac and Windows

iTune Match will now start scanning your music library to pair what it can with iTunes. This cuts down on storage and upload cost all around, as iTunes doesn't have to upload a song you own if it already exists on its central servers. If it can't find a version of your song on the iTunes Store, however, it will upload it to your iTunes Match repository.

If you have multiple computers that you'd like to use with iTunes Match, you can go to the Match tab under Music on additional instances of iTunes and click on Add This Computer like shown below. (This is a great way to unify a music library if you've been accidentally building separate collections on your personal and work machines, for instance.)

How to subscribe to iTunes Match on Mac and Windows

How to subscribe to iTunes Match on iPhone and iPad

  1. Launch the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Scroll down and tap on iTunes & App Store.
  3. Tap on Subscribe to iTunes Match. Note that you'll only see this option when you're signed into your iTunes account with your Apple ID. If you aren't, do that first.
  4. On the iTunes Match menu, tap on the Subscribe button that shows the price for your country.
  5. A popup will appear asking you to confirm your subscription. Tap on Subscribe.
  6. Type in your Apple ID password when asked.

This method automatically pulls in anything that you have purchased from iTunes; that said, you'll still want to enable iTunes Match on your computer via iTunes's Store > Turn On iTunes Match menu in order to pair and upload your iTunes library's non-purchased content.

Once you've subscribed either via your computer or iOS device, you can now enable it on all your other devices.

How to enable iTunes Match on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad

  1. Launch the Settings app on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.
  2. Tap on iTunes & App Store.
  3. Turn On the option for iTunes Match.

How to enable iTunes Match on iPhone and iPad

How to enable iTunes Match downloads over cellular

If you want to stream iTunes Match songs over your cellular data connection as well as over Wi-Fi, you can do so by following these steps.

  1. Launch the Settings app on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.
  2. Tap on iTunes & App Store.
  3. Turn on Use Cellular Data.

How to enable iTunes Match over cellular

Keep in mind that this option not only enables iTunes Match over LTE or 4G, but also turns on cellular data for automatic downloads and iTunes Radio. If you'd rather avoid that, you can disable automatic downloads on your devices, or only enable the Use Cellular Data switch when needed.

How to view and play all your iTunes Match music on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad

  1. Launch the Settings app on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.
  2. Tap Music.
  3. Turn On the option for Show All Music.

How to enable all music to show up in iTunes Match

This ensures that your Music app displays every song in your iTunes Match library, whether or not you've downloaded it to your device. If you turn this option Off, you'll only see music that is physically downloaded to your device.

Troubleshooting iTunes Match

If you're running into any iTunes Match problems, here are solutions to some of the most common problems. Still have a question? Let us know in the comments.

(Originally published 04/2012; updated 11/2014)

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Allyson Kazmucha

Senior editor for iMore. I can take apart an iPhone in less than 6 minutes. I also like coffee and Harry Potter more than anyone really should.

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Reader comments

How to set up and use iTunes Match


I'm happy to discover this web site. I wanted to say thank you for your time in providing this excellent read! I definitely enjoyed it and I have you book-marked to follow new stuff you post.

Do you know how (if possible) to get iTunes Match to stream to an iPhone? I've used it for years now, but whenever I stream a song, it gets downloaded to my phone in the process. I would love to be able to just stream the music like I do on my Apple TV or on my PC in iTunes without having to download it at the same time.

When I play a song at home (over wifi) it does not download to my phone. It is actually streaming. Not sure where the settings are for this.

What is the quality (bitrate) of the match stream? My iTunes collection is mostly lossless, which might not matter on my car music system, but I'd love to know what I would get!

Sent from the iMore App

Hi Hugh. iTunes Match streams at 256 Kbps AAC.
Because it uses the AAC codec it is equivalent in sound quality to 320 Kbps MP3.

Has the quality improved? I subscribed to this when it was first offered and it wouldn't match about half of my library. I have a huge music library of 20,000+ songs so it took about a week to go through everything. It was frustrating to wait all that time and have songs matched incorrectly or not matched at all. Has that improved?

Oh, so this isn't free? Looks like it's $25/year? I'll stick with Google Play Music. You can upload 20,000 songs for FREE, and listen on any device with the Play Music app. nice try by Apple though. I was excited for a second...

Yup 25 a year. I subscribe to both but google play comes up to 95 dollars per year at 7.99 per month. If you're on a budget iTunes match is a better choice but I like that I can just search any song and play/download it using google play music.

You Pay for Google Play? I use it for free. Did you go over the 20,000 song free limit, or something? I guess, in that case, iTunes Match would be a better choice. I haven't reached my 20,000 song limit in Google Play, so free is the best choice for me now. :)

Ah I guess we use it differently. I do pay but then I get to search and stream any music in its library. I don't use it to store songs(I use it sort of like netflix) so in that sense it is a better deal.

Google Play Music is free for the basic service but isn't a fair comparison to iTunes Match unless you subscribe to Google Play Music All Access. Not mentioned in the article above is ad-free iTunes Radio that comes with iTunes Match.

I have a question on that. I have used iTunes Match for a few years now (or at least when it started), I see all my music, even the stuff that iTunes did not have and was uploaded, how do I get it back?? I've since moved to new computers and love the space, but if I leave iTunes Match, do I just download all my stuff back to my computer?


If it was uploaded at less than 256kbps then it will benefit you when you DL them back because that is the bitrate in which Apple gives it back to you.

I've had iTunes Match for a year or so, and for the most part I do like it. But because of a couple of nagging issues, I've decided to discontinue using it:

1) I live in semi-rural area-- A smallish city that turns rural pretty fast once you leave the city. Signal just isn't reliable enough to be able to stream songs on the go. Culprits: AT&T and hilly topography.

2) Bugs. Bugs. Bugs. The one that gets me the most riled up is when songs are only partially downloaded. And it only seems to affect certain artists. You'll get 2/3 of the way into a song, and the next song will start playing even though the screen still indicates that it's playing the first song. I've found (ugly) ways of fixing this, but it's always temporary -- it seems to keep coming back.

Another bug is the proliferation of playlists -- for some reason whenever I've had iTunes Match turned on in iTunes, my playlists multiply whenever I sync with iTunes... For example, I'll start with a playlist called "Soundgarden". Tomorrow i'll see two of them. Then sometime later three, then four, etc etc. No idea why, but I've read it's an iTunes Match bug. If I purge the dupes and turn Match off, they're fine. But as soon as I turn it back on and sync, the dupes return.

There are other issues, but those are the biggies.

tumnus, I agree with you on the bugginess. As a long-grumbling iTunes Match user, I can attest that it's just as buggy as everything else Apple does that's connected to iCloud. In my case it manifests in my iPhone not being quite sure whether it has downloaded songs or not. I've spent hours letting it download my most played tracks (to avoid the streaming problems you mention). It will appear to work, and then it will decide that all of those songs aren't on there after all.

The cure that has worked best for me so far is the same cure that seems to be required for all iCloud-related services: log out of iCloud, wipe things out completely, and start fresh. It's annoying that Apple can't make this stuff "just work."

I had iTunes match when it first came out and it's not a bad service
The only real problem was that on certain songs match uploaded an edited version of them
It was frustrating enough for me not to use it again

That was an issue when it first started, bothered the heck out of me.
That issue is almost non-existent now.

Yeah it drove me insane
I gave it a try last year and if was the still there but not to the extent that it was prior
I wound up getting the my cloud external drive from Western digital and I couldn't be happier

I really wanted to love this and tried it for a couple of years but finally had enough. It will really get screwed up if you exceed the 25K limit on songs. It doesn't just stop uploading new stuff, it will often not connect/recognize that you have an account. It will often spin endlessly trying to "match" your music upon startup, which slows everything down only later to inform you that you've have exceeded the limit, or it stops iTunes from working (restart required). Streaming/downloading is hit and miss with reliability. As others have noted it will get stuck or skip tunes. Once you hit the limit there is no reasonable way to clear the current uploaded content or manage the primary content. It can be done, but it is a major PITA. The multiple iTunes library solutions assume that you have a sufficient amount of music that you never want to be available to Match, and locally requires to to switch libraries when you do want to access that banished music. It also requires that you memorize which library holds the tunes you are looking for.

I wrestled with various limit management hacks for the past year and ultimately found Match to just be too frustrating at most every turn. I and others have suggested what could be very easy fixes for the issues surrounding the25k limit but I don't think Apple will be adding any new support to this functionality considering that music sales are declining and streaming services revenue is increasing.

If you have a smallish collection of music then iTunes Match might just work and you might just enjoy it. But then if you have a small collection you might just as easily download everything to each device and put the $20/year toward a streaming service.

I like iTunes Match and have been using it for a while. It has a mind of its own with album cover artwork though. Especially if you have been amending the artwork, when you first switch on iTunes Match, it all goes back to what it used to be before the song was uploaded to iTunes Match. This took me an extra 3-4 days to correct but once you've done that it should all be ok. Apple says when you re-download songs they're upgraded to 320 kbps but I don't think that's happening.
I'd still recommend the service overall.

Sent from the iMore App

I have a 64GB devices and no need for match however my boy has a 16 GB touch and that's a must have so he doesn't waste his space with music and can just stream them.

I also find me using Google play a lot more there

Sent from the iMore App

Can anyone help me? Every time I stream a song on my iPhone 6 plus, It stores on my phone. I checked my settings after I streamed 26 songs - it now says I have 26 songs on my device (in settings > about) my storage on my device is .1 GB less now. Just wondering how I can fix this? I am not clicking on the cloud when I play - I just click on the song title and stream. Thanks! :-)

I have a small playlist locally stored on my iPhone for offline playing and use Google Play Music app to stream my owned music when I'm on Wifi (which is pretty often). This also justifies me only having the 16GB iPhone... I don't need tons of storage for music.... I don't pay for Google's All Access, I just downloaded the Music Manager on my Mac. I still use iTunes for all my purchases and Google Music Manager will automatically upload all my iTunes music purchases to Google Play music. It's seamless. I can also listen to all the uploaded music on any computer with a web connected browser by signing in to Google Play Music. It's really convenient and I wish Apple would offer something similar with the similar price (free) of course... I spend enough in iTunes in my opinion to feel that's deserved...

If you have a lower bit rate of the song then the one on the server you can delete the song and then redownload it off the server. I thought this was done automatically but it wasn't last time I chcked (granted that was 2 years ago). Is that still not the case? If so, then you should have instructions on this "ultimate guide" for that.