Have You Been Banned by iTunes Match?

November 25th, 2011

So iTunes Match debuted earlier this month to mixed reviews. The concept, having your music library matched to one of the millions in Apple’s stockpile via iCloud, seems laudable. Potentially, it should be far more convenient than the cloud-based services offered by the likes of Amazon and Google, where all you get is a place to put your stuff, but uploading thousands of musical tracks can be a chore and a half, particularly if your broadband bandwidth is challenged.

Among the problems with iTunes Match is that 25,000 limit for your $24.99 annual fee. If you have a larger music library, as some do, particularly those who have been collecting music for several decades, Apple will not just offer you a better package at a higher price. You can’t just pick and choose which songs in your iTunes library will be matched to keep under that limit. You’ll just be shut out.

This is a curious move, since it shouldn’t be so difficult from a programming standpoint to establish a hard-coded limit to the number of matched tunes, so those with larger music libraries can join up and make their own decisions which songs to exclude. Of course, the music companies, who had to approve this grand scheme, might have decreed that there shall be a 25,000 song limit, and take it or leave it. So Apple took it, but that’s simply a guess.

The music industry’s demands may also be the reason why some customers saddled with multiple Apple IDs are being forced to wait 90 days to switch to the right one for iTunes Match to work on a Mac, PC or iOS device. It seems if you happen to associate any of these devices with a different ID after subscribing to iTunes Match, one other than the one you used to set up the service, there’s a hard-coded 90-day limit to change things back.

This seems a stupid move on the surface and below the surface, but it appears to be the result of music industry fears of piracy being caused by constant ID switching. If you happen to make that switch once and only once, by mistake, you may be out of luck.

I say “may be,” because I complained to iTunes support over a period of 10 days after I encountered this problem with my iPhone 4. Now I didn’t deliberately switch to the wrong ID. That appeared to happen while working with Apple’s Express Lane chat support over an iCloud setup mismatch. I followed their directions, which did not include making any changes on the iPhone, and suddenly that iPhone was evidently registered with Apple under the wrong ID. I’d get the warning when trying to activate iTunes Match or turning on music and other downloads in the Store settings. Sometimes I’d see it checking email. Each day, the number of days would appropriately increment.

I happened to check my two other Apple IDs, including the one to which the iPhone had supposedly been inadvertently linked, and it wasn’t listed as an registered device, but it apparently showed up that way in Apple’s network.

Fortunately, I learned that being stubborn was a good thing. I didn’t insult them, I didn’t use inappropriate language, I just insisted on a resolution, and I got one. On Thanksgiving Day, I got several letters from Apple indicating that they had removed that inscrutable hard-coded device link that I could not find, and that my iPhone could thus be associated with the same ID that was used for iTunes and iTunes Match.

Sure enough, when I checked the iPhone, I found that it was, at last, perfectly integrated with iTunes Match. So if you find yourself confronting the same dilemma, just patiently explain your situation to iTunes support — which only delivers help by email — and you should get a satisfactory resolution — eventually. As I said, be insistent, and don’t take no for an answer. I’m also sure this will be a one-time exception, and that if it happens a second time, you’ll have to entire a full 90-day waiting period before the ID can be changed yet again.

There’s yet another annoying issue with iTunes Match, and it has everything to do with the ability to sync the songs you import into your iTunes library with comparable tracks in Apple’s database. For some reason, the process remains imperfect. Assuming the album is part of the iTunes online catalog,  most of the tracks may be listed in iTunes as “Matched,” while others, for no discernible reason, will be listed as “Uploaded,” meaning that they had to be uploaded to iCloud. And, yes, I found a few where everything matched.

The first example came with “Abbey Road” from The Beatles. I had the original 1980s CD issue, rather than the 2009 remaster. All the songs were matched except for “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window.” It wasn’t a question of having the older CD version, because this oddity seems to happen with the remastered album too.

For most albums, I have found that from 10% to 20% of the tracks won’t be matched. But some albums fare worse. With The Beatles “Past Masters Vol. One,” for example, seven out of the 18 track total weren’t matched. With “Past Masters Vol. Two,” seven songs out of 15 failed to make the grade.

Now I’ll be charitable and suggest the database just needs some more work, and that Apple will revise and rework things and provide a fix one of these days, a fix that will merely require choosing the “Update iTunes Match” function in iTunes to activate. And I hope I’m not being a little too optimistic here.

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19 Responses to “Have You Been Banned by iTunes Match?”

  1. Darwin says:

    There are ways around the 25k limit. Google it.

    • @Darwin, How about just providing a direct link to an article that you find useful?

      But you should bear in mind that songs purchase from iTunes don’t count against the limit. You could, I suppose, also set up two accounts on two different Macs or PCs with different musical content and share the libraries over your network.

      But we’re entering the theater of the absurd. It’s up to Apple and the music companies to devise a simple solution.


  2. David says:

    I have a large library of mostly 70’s, 80’s and 90’s mainstream rock/pop/blues that I ripped from CD. I tried to get iTunes to automatically download album art for me. Over 95% of my albums came back with no match. Of the few that returned anything a significant percentage was just plain wrong. Not a different version of the art, but the completely wrong album, artist and sometimes even the wrong genre.

    Obviously I won’t be signing up for iTunes Match.

    As for jumping through hoops to get software to just work, that’s the kind of thing that drives people to obtain their content from “alternative” sources.

    • @David, It might be worth your while to just search iTunes and see how much of your music library is duplicated there. In may particular case, it’s most of it, but I still run into individual tunes that simply do not match. I suppose I should be more proactive in demanding an explanation from Apple, but maybe I’ll try support rather than the PR people. Perhaps I can get closer to a response as a paying customer.


  3. Mark Strait says:

    Why do people write crap like this. Its brand new technology, called cutting edge. In time, like everything Apple does it will get better and better. So far it works just fine for me. $25

    • @Mark Strait, Take a closer look. Everything I’ve written here is true. I understand there are bugs, but you can’t call the accurate listing of those bugs as “crap.” That’s absurd!

      If it works for you, great. Does that mean that 100% of your non-iTunes music is matched?


      • Jeff Garner says:

        @Gene Steinberg,

        So trying to follow here…is your real issue that your some of your music wasn’t matched?

        Why are you once again being a “glass is half empty” kinda guy here?

        I had, I think, about 10-12 songs out of 24,000 that didn’t match. Which made no sense to me since the rest the album was there etc. Annoying to be sure!

        But I really didn’t care enough to nail down why. I mean was it a misspelling, was it a bug, was it some strange metadata tag that messes things up? No idea. But that minor annoyance is nothing when compared to the many benefits of the system.

        You know…if I were to connect the dots here, while I have no reason to doubt you, it sure sounds like you had issues from day one with the iTunes number of songs allowed and tried to get around it using multiple ID’s, found out Apple already thought of that little game. Now I’m not saying you did that, but some people might read your post and take that away from it. Maybe you should just come out and deny categorically that you tried to get around the rules using two Apple IDs. Not that I think you should have to! But some people may wonder why you won’t just come out and say that.

        You’re a smart guy Gene, over my years of reading you I know you’re WAY smarter than me, and I don’t know how anyone from iCloud support could have gotten you, of all people, enter an incorrect ID causing “an iCloud setup mismatch”. What ever that is. Either you have two $24 iTunes Match accounts or you don’t….so why don’t you just come out and say you don’t! Personally I don’t think you should have to do that but people will wonder why you won’t just do that.

        • @Jeff Garner, I realize you just want to throw a few flames, so let me nip this in the bud: I ordered one iTunes Match subscription, and I was charged for one iTunes Match subscription.

          The issue is not using multiple Apple IDs with iCloud, but whether you can change Apple IDs with your iTunes Match subscription, which clearly you can’t without paying a penalty. That’s why Apple has that hard-wired 90 day limit on doing so. In my case, it was a consequence of changing them on my desktop Mac and the iPhone somehow inheriting the change. That’s a problem that may have occurred on Apple’s iCloud servers. I don’t pretend to have a final answer, but once they realized what was going on (and it took about 10 days and a bunch of emails before they got the message), they fixed it.

          I expect Apple will be willing to grant exceptions when it’s appropriate.

          As to whether you should care about how many tunes fail to match: In my case, it has been roughly 15-20% of the total, and sometimes a lot more on certain albums. Apple promises a match if the track is in their library, but the system needs a little work.


          • Jeff Garner says:

            @Gene Steinberg,

            Apparently someone either doesn’t have a sense of humor, or has never read about how Glen Beck killed a girl in 1992, but that’s not my concern.

            I do think, as is your usual, you’re a ‘glass is half full’ reviewer, which is why I stopped reading you unless you came up on MacSurfer.

            Why I got a handful of issues out of 24,000+ songs and you got 15-20%, I can’t say. And while I agree the service has some issues to work through once again, and we’ve been down this road before, your experience doesn’t match (no pun intended) mine.

            • @Jeff Garner, My experiences are backed up by the experiences of lots of people. I have also talked about them on my weekly radio show, where fellow members of the tech media told me they had encountered or investigated similar matters.

              It is the job of a reviewer to discuss both the positives and negatives of a product or service. In the case of iTunes Match, the failure to match a song on a mainstream album, which is available via iTunes, ought to be a rare occurrence. It’s not. If it hasn’t happened to you, consider yourself lucky.


              • Jeff Garner says:

                @Gene Steinberg,

                I’m not the one putting my opinion out there on a daily basis and asking people to trust me to make purchase decisions or telling them not to do something based upon my personal experience. It’s frustrating to read people reply to you claiming that they will not bother with the service based upon your experience when mine has been VERY different. I’m sure there are others that have had issues, that’s just what happens when millions of people try something new.

                Anyway, since I am not holding myself up as any sort of authority on all things Mac I think my name is unimportant and I would rather my comments be judged on the content and not some cult of personality.

                Look, I’m just stating that my experience, with a library about the same size as yours, wasn’t as you’ve described at all. While I was at it I also pointed out the many benefits of the service so people can decide for themselves what’s best for them.

                To be honest, I tend to think, that while you’re a dedicated Mac user, you all too often, TO ME, come off as a curmudgeon that is all too ready to point out what they don’t like and I just prefer something a little more balanced. AGAIN, I agree the system has some things to work out, but when compared to everything else out there, it’s pretty damn good and I don’t think your comments reflected that so I replied.

                I think that when you look at everything the service gives you, keeping in mind it’s been live for less than a month, you get a lot for your $24 and it’s a no-brainer to sign-up even if you have more than 24,000 songs and have to use the methods outlined by others in greater detail.

                You obviously think otherwise and we can agree to disagree!

                • @Jeff Garner, Jeff, I’m not asking anyone to trust me when making their purchase decisions. I just present a point of view, which you can follow or ignore at your leisure. The same was true when I was writing for USA Today and other large publications. I never presented anything I wrote as something that should engender anything more than a little thought from time to time.

                  As to the size of your music library, well I never told you the size of mine. My reports of matching problems are confirmed by many others; you are one of the very few people who claim to have encountered little or no problems.

                  Just today, I ripped three more CDs. Two of them were perfect, one, “The Memphis Record,” from Elvis Presley, had a mere five matches over 23 tracks. Even the artwork couldn’t be found.

                  This is the standard CD available everywhere, and Apple has to do better.


        • Rick Montgomery says:

          @Jeff Garner, Gene’s article was very helpful to me. Since I have over 30,000 songs in iTunes, mostly ripped from CDs I own but a significant portion ripped from vinyl, there are two aspects of iTunes Match that make it a non-starter for me. First, I’d have to cull over 5,000 tracks from my iTunes library; second, I’d likely wind up having to upload a huge amount of music.

          As for why and how Gene changed the AppleID on his computer, it’s really immaterial. There are plenty of legitimate reasons one might change a particular Mac from one ID to another. The fact that this causes problems is something that users deserve to be warned about.

          • Jeff Garner says:

            @Rick Montgomery,

            I think you should read other reviews, and my counter experience below, before you decide not to use such a valuable service on the experience of one disgruntled user no matter who that person is.

            Remember, you only need to delete the songs for the match and replace and upload process. There are a number of really good detailed articles about how to deal with more than 24,000 songs and the process itself.

            There are far more benefits TO ME that Gene doesn’t discuss. In MY CASE my library has a thousands of low quality tracks, some as low as 96bit, MOST with no album art. Using a few tips I found I was easily able to get even my 96bit tracks to match and get replaced. My now having access to all that music on my devices is awesome. I saved more than the $24 cost when I realized I only really needed a 32GB iPhone 4s rather than a 64GB model as if there is one song, one night, I wish I had I can now get it.

            Sorry Apple!

            Lastly, if you have what, 90-100 days worth of music and you REALLY can’t get it down to 24,000, for the process, well…you have more time for music and a FAR greater range of musical tastes than I do! It surprised me now many “B” side songs I had that I had never played and didn’t care for anyway.

            Either way libraries of our size are not the norm.

  4. Brian says:

    People are actually that stupid to subscribe to this service for $24.99. Come on, as if they don’t have enough ways to invade our lives this just another one and for a price to pad Apples bottom line that is already closing in on 100 billion dollars.

    No, I’ll save my money and look after my own music collection with out Apples help.

  5. […] basada en un artículo de TechNightOwl. Archivado en: Apple, iCloud Tags: biblioteca, Fallos, iTunes Match, límites, […]

  6. Jeff Garner says:

    I had a 28,000 songs (83 days worth of music), over the the 25,000 limit. I ran my songs through iTunes duplicate function and then through a product called Rinse. I found that I had more than 4500 duplicate songs.

    Many of these were identical just one from the album and one from a compilation or greatest hits album. Still more of these I ripped from my CD’s back in the old days when space was a premium (aka 128bit).

    Now I have a 160GB iPod and a 32 GB iPhone and space isn’t the issue it once was. I don’t know about you but I am no mood to break open old moving boxes and rip all those tens of thousands of songs again.

    Apple to the rescue!

    For $24, not much more than any number of iTunes utilities, Apple just allowed me to easily obtain all that music at a perfectly done high quality 256kbps DRM free AAC. Better yet it allows me to have local copies of the songs I want on all my devices yet now I have access to any song I like as long as I have an internet connection.

    I think, especially when compared to other services, it’s a fantastic deal and it unlike all the others makes the best use of internet bandwidth as ONLY unmatched songs are uploaded. For me that was about 4600 out of my remaining 24,267 songs.

    Now to be fair, it took about 28 hours to download the 256 bit replacements of my old music but that was hands off and I was able to pause when needed but otherwise let it run while I slept or was at work. I can’t imagine how much time it would have taken to update my music by hand.

    Thanks Apple!

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