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  • Some Offhand iTunes Match Observations

    November 16th, 2011

    I have anticipated the arrival of iTunes Match with somewhat mixed feelings. I’ve only purchased a modest number of tracks from iTunes over the years, and many of the gems in my aging CD collection date back to the earliest days of the classic rock era. I can already rip my songs and have them accessible by the Macs and iOS devices on my account. So where’s the gain?

    At the same time, there are undeniable advantages in matching all or most of your music with Apple’s online equivalent. If you captured (ripped) your music with a lower bit rate, you’ll get the 256K AAC version, with one major exception. Apple sets a floor of 96K or less, no doubt to stop people who are trying to match low resolution pirated music with a legal version. At the same time, it doesn’t appear that Apple otherwise looks for any internal data in an effort to verify legality, so that $24.99 annual fee you pay for the service may make you essentially legal. I don’t know if this encourages or discourages pirating. But the music industry, who shares in these subscription fees, may be happy to get something out of the deal rather than nothing.

    The other issue is whether Apple will match older masters of an album with the latest and greatest. As I wrote yesterday, my first test, using the classic “Revolver” album from The Beatles, had a positive result. I had purchased the original CD in the 1980s, but these tunes have since been digitally remastered, and I expect the version sold by iTunes is based on those remasters. To test this possibility, I ripped the CD, and had iCloud update. I was pleased to see the entire album was listed as “Matched.”

    However, I didn’t fare quite as well with “Abbey Road” or “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” In each case, one tune was labeled “Uploaded” instead, meaning that it couldn’t be reconciled with the online version. Oh well, no big catastrophe.

    Next, I tried “Magical Mystery Tour,” but this time I was afforded a message asking which version I wanted of the two offered. I choose the “2009 Stereo Remaster.” The same selection was made for “Let It Be.” I’m not a mono person by any means, though I realize the early Beatles albums were recorded that way (but not these). I’m sure the died-in-the-wool purists in our audience will complain about my lack of taste, but I don’t really care. The more channels the better. On the other hand, no such choices were offered for the “White Album” or “Help.” Oh well.

    When iTunes Match scanned these albums, it was the same mixed bag. Some tracks were “Matched,” but others “Uploaded,” with neither rhyme nor reason. It wasn’t a Beatles thing either, because I ran into the same situation with “Best of Blondie.” Album artwork was also unavailable for some of these albums. I would love to know the inscrutable logic the service uses to scour the databases to sort these things out. My only hope is that there will be a further opportunity to resync these songs, perhaps after some of the early bugs are worked out.

    I still have over 100 albums in my storage cabinet that have never been imported into iTunes, but I’ll be doing  a few each day until the process is complete. It’s going to make a load of a difference on a long trip, at least when I’d rather listen to something in my music library than a satellite radio feed.

    Aside from the early hiccups with the iCloud transition, the new service has worked all right, except in the key category of handling multiple Apple IDs. That’s where things get dicey.

    Now in my case, I followed a direct route, transitioning my MobileMe account to iCloud. That left me with the MobileMe username as an Apple ID used for that service. However, my iTunes content, and that includes my iOS App Store library, was acquired with yet another ID. Are you seeing the dilemma?

    Unfortunately, your Mac, PC, or iOS device expects to see one Apple ID at a time. It’s not that you can use both, nor has Apple devised a scheme to allow you to merge them. So I was put in a situation where, when trying to get new apps on my iPhone, it would ask me to login via my iCloud ID, not the standard Apple ID, which, however, worked for updating existing apps. You with me so far?

    I contacted Apple support to attempt to sort things out. The iTunes people responded via email, and they punted me to the iCloud section, where you can communicate with Apple via an online Express Lane chat.

    The solution: Log out of the iCloud accounts on all my gear, and delete these accounts. Login with your iTunes Apple ID. You then have to manually add your former MobileMe email account, which is easy enough on a Mac using Apple Mail, because all the settings are filled in for you once you enter your email address. But it’s not so easy on an iOS gadget. There you have to be counterintuitive, choosing “Other” among the choices for the email accounts you want to add, even though iCloud and MobileMe are offered. All the setup information has to be manually entered and rechecked.

    When all is said and done, this kluge was only partly successful. Although the same Apple ID is entered on my iPhone 4’s iCloud, Music and Store settings, I’m not able to play music. Instead, I see a message warning me that “This Device Is Already Associated With an Apple ID.” I’m also reminded that you can only change IDs once every 90 days, but clearly that wasn’t the intent of this screwy arrangement, so I’m awaiting an email response from iTunes support to sort this out. And I do hope Apple CEO Tim Cook keeps his early promise to allow you to combine your Apple IDs. The arrival of iTunes Match only increases the need for a final solution.



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    5 Responses to “Some Offhand iTunes Match Observations”

    1. Ted Wise says:

      I seem to be one of those people who lucked into the “right” usage of Apple id’s. I got my first Apple id before I had Mobile Me so the original id was tied to a gmail address. My wife didn’t have an Apple id and wanted to share music with me so she just used my id. The result is that everything we own is under one, single id.

      Since I transitioned away from using the original gmail account for all but random web-site registrations, sharing the id hasn’t been a problem. Now with iCloud we each have a unique iCloud id but all of the devices are setup to use the shared Apple id for music and purchases. Now that the kids are getting older they’re starting to use the shared id as well. It’s worked seamlessly and perfectly to share music and apps across the entire family.

    2. E-bike says:

      … [Trackback]…

      […] Read More: technightowl.com/2011/11/some-offhand-itunes-match-observations/ […]…

    3. Darwin says:

      There are a bunch of articles on how to get the 256k AAC for almost all your music. Check out MacWorlds article for one.

    4. Don Sherman says:

      In this post and in recent interviews with Daniel Erin Dilger and Kirk McElhearn you brought up the issue of selection of song versions by iTunes Match. Using the Beatles as an example, you pointed out that the iTunes store offers several versions of many song titles of the band.

      This is even more dramatically the case with earlier rock bands, pop vocalists, and the big bands of the swing era. It is not unusual, for example to find versions of a song by Frank Sinatra, recorded first on Columbia during the 40’s, again in a different arrangement on Capitol in the 50s, and a third for Reprise in the 70s. There may be more, such as movie soundtracks or radio airchecks … all the same song title and artist, all different.

      Another example would be Benny Goodman who re-recorded titles strongly associated with his career at different times for different labels, with big bands, trios, and quartets, in studio sessions and live concerts.

      I am a collector who for decades has stridden to save, in good condition, the most authentic, highly charted, versions of popular recordings, using personal knowledge and extensive research to avoid the corrupted phonies by tribute groups, substitute talent, later rearrangers, live air checks misrepresented as records, etc.

      At the same time, legitimate authorized restorations of genuine originals by qualified labs are welcome, so, you see, the picture can be quite muddy. Personal expertise and good memory come into play.

      Does Apple recognize this issue and have they said how they are dealing with it?

      As matters stand, with a library collected over 60 years, and countless hours dedicated to research and digitizing with expensive audiophile equipment, I’m inclined to think I have only one way to be comfortable with MM: create a separate library to upload, thus reserving the preserving my originals for after-Match replacement.

      However, I don’t know if even this would work, for two reasons: One, would I be merely creating an infinite loop of replacement and re-replacement? And,Two, how long would it take me to physically listen to and compare thousands of Apple replacements?

      It seems this Match, at least for serious collectors, may have been made somewhere other than in heaven. (Feel free to carry this pun as far as you like, beyond the “cloud.”

      • @Don Sherman, That’s just an amazing collection. I grew up during the rock era, but my late brother, Wallace, had a fair amount of stuff from the 1940s and the pre-rock material from the 1950s. I expect that Apple’s libraries are deficient in many of these early gems. The responsibility, in the end, lies with the music companies. It’s up to them to release product to Apple, and, if multiple versions are available, to decide whether to provide some of them too.

        Peace,
        Gene

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