How to Subscribe to and Use iTunes Match

Use iTunes Match to store your digital music in Apple's iCloud service

iTunes Match and iCloud
iTunes Match and iCloud. Image Courtesy of Apple, Inc.

If you're not sure what Apple's iTunes Match actually is, then simply put, it's a subscription service that enables you to upload and store all your digital music files in the Cloud -- that's iCloud of course! Normally the only digital products that get stored in Apple's iCloud storage service are those that you purchase from the iTunes Store. However, by subscribing to the iTunes Match service, you can upload songs that have come from other sources, like: ripped audio CDs, digitized recordings (e.g. - analog tape), or downloaded from other online music services and websites.

The most impressive aspect of iTunes Match however is how it gets your music library up into the cloud. Rather than uploading every file as with most online storage solutions, the scan and match algorithm in iTunes Match first analyzes the contents of your music library. If Apple already have your songs in its huge online music catalog then it instantly populates your iCloud music locker. This can save a serious amount of time especially if you have a a large music collection.

For a more in-depth look at this subscription service, read our iTunes Match primer article for more details.

To set up iTunes Match, follow the steps in this tutorial:

1. Before Subscribing to iTunes Match
The first thing you'll need to make sure of is that you're iTunes software is up-to-date. Apple's software usually updates automatically, but you can force iTunes to check for updates manually if you want to be uber sure. In order to access iTunes Match on a Mac or PC, you'll need at least version 10.5.1 of the iTunes software. If you've got an Apple device, then you'll also need to check that you meet the following minimum specifications:

  • iPhone (minimum 3GS)
  • iPod Touch ( 3rd generation or higher)
  • iPad or iPad 2

You'll also need at least version 5.0.1 of the iOS firmware installed on the above Apple hardware.

If you haven't got iTunes installed on your Mac or PC yet, then you can download it for free from the iTunes website.

2. Signing up
As previously mentioned, you'll need the right version of the iTunes software to be able to subscribe to iTunes Match. You'll also need an Apple ID in order to sign into your iTunes account. If you haven't got one of these and want to find out how, then our tutorial on creating an iTunes account shows you in six easy steps.

Make sure the iTunes software is running and do the following:

  • In the left pane of iTunes, click the iTunes Match menu option (underneath the STORE section).
  • A screen should now appear with a description of the service and a subscribe button near the bottom. If you don't get this screen, then click the Store menu tab followed by Turn on iTunes Match. If you decide that you don't want to sign up after all, simply click the No Thanks button to quit the subscription process. If you do want to proceed and sign up for a year, click the blue Subscribe button to proceed.
  • On the next screen, type in your iTunes account security credentials (Apple ID and password) and then click the Subscribe button. The credit card that is associated with your iTunes account will then be billed as usual.

3. The Scan and Match Process
iTunes Match should now start its scan and match wizard which is a 3-step process. The three stages are:

  • Gathering information about your iTunes library
  • Matching your music in the iTunes Store
  • Uploading artwork and remaining songs

The above steps are done automatically in the background and so you can use iTunes as normal if you want to. If you've got a large library that contains a lot of tracks that are unlikely to be matched, then this could take quite a long time -- you might want to leave your computer on overnight in this case.

When the scan and match 3-step process is complete, click Done to finish. Now that your music library is in iCloud, you will see a nice fluffy cloud icon next to Music in the left pane of iTunes!