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Have You Been Banned by iTunes Match?

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.