I Have Apple Music. Do I Need iTunes Match?

A pair of headphones with music notes pouring out of them

 Colin Anderson/Blend Images/Getty Images

The iTunes Match service is a cloud backup solution that stores all of your music in your iCloud account and then makes it available on any compatible device. It’s great for making sure all your devices have the same music and that the music collection you’ve spent years and hundreds (probably thousands!) of dollars building is safe.

Apple Music is a streaming music service that gives you access to virtually all the music available in the iTunes Store for a flat monthly price. With Apple Music, you never need to worry about losing music: if you delete something on your device, it’s still in the iTunes Store, so you can just download it again.

You Can Use Them Separately

While the two services can work together, you’re not required to use them together. You can use Apple Music without an iTunes Match subscription, and vice versa.

You Own Your Music with iTunes Match

Probably the biggest difference between the two services is that Apple Music subscribers don’t own the music they obtain through the service. Songs from Apple Music can only be accessed while you have an active subscription. When you cancel your subscription, the music goes away. With iTunes Match, even if you cancel your subscription, you keep all the music you had before signing up.

Apple Music Uses DRM, iTunes Match Doesn't

There can be long-term consequences for your music if you replace iTunes Match with Apple Music. The reason has to do with digital rights management.

Since the music in it are copies of your files, iTunes Match doesn’t use DRM. Apple Music, on the other hand, does employ DRM to prevent access to Apple Music songs when a subscription has ended.

So, if you have a DRM-free song on your hard drive or in iTunes Match, and cancel your subscription, you can still enjoy the song. If you replace it from Apple Music, the new version has DRM and only works while you have a subscription. That’s a big difference.

Always Make a Backup; iTunes Match Can Be One

It can’t be said often enough: back up your data! If you already back up to, say, Time Machine, you’re covered. We recommend a two-prong backup strategy, though: local backup and cloud backup — and iTunes Match can provide that cloud backup.

The iTunes Match service only backs up music, not your entire computer, so you may want a more complete backup service. But if you’ve got a ton of music, an extra $25/year is a small price to pay for peace of mind.

With a Small Music Library, Apple Music May Be Enough

If you haven’t spent that much time or money building your music library and owning music doesn’t matter much to you, paying an extra $25/year for iTunes Match may not make sense. In that case, just paying the annual price for Apple Music is probably smarter.