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

Apple Music and iTunes Match both put your music in the cloud and make it available on many devices. Given that they’re so similar, iTunes Match subscribers may be wondering if they still need to pay the $25/year for the service if they also subscribe to Apple Music.

iTunes Match Is Cloud Backup, Apple Music Is a Streaming Service

In order to determine whether you need both services, it’s important to understand what each does. Broadly speaking, iTunes Match is a cloud backup service 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 (as we’ll see below), you’re not required to use them together. You can use Apple Music without an iTunes Match subscription, and vice versa.

iTunes Match Lets You Own Your Music

Probably the biggest difference between the two services is that Apple Music users don’t own the music they get 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

Here’s a related issue that’s important to understand: 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, aka DRM.

Since the music in it are copies of your files, iTunes Match doesn’t use DRM. Apple Music, on the other hand, does have DRM (presumably 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! There are few feelings worse than losing important data and not having a backup. 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 (in case the local fails or is destroyed; if your house burns down with both your computer and Time Machine in it, having a cloud backup is crucial).

ITunes Match can provide that cloud backup. Apple Music can’t do that because, as noted above, it’s not really your music.

Of course, iTunes Match 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

I'm mostly in favor of using both Apple Music and iTunes Match, but there’s a scenario in which you might only want Apple Music: if your music library is very small. 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.

The Bottom Line: Do What You’re Already Doing

So, based on all of this information, what should you do? Whatever you’re already doing.

If you’re already an iTunes Match subscriber, you should probably maintain that subscription, since it will allow you to continue to own DRM-free versions of your music. If you don’t have iTunes Match, you may not need it (unless you’re not currently backing up your music; in that case, consider it). 

If you want to add Apple Music to iTunes Match, go for it. If you never had iTunes Match and want to sign up for Apple Music, go for that, too.

Either way, make sure you’ve considered the implications of your choices for how your music library works for now and how you want it to work in the future.