How to Set Up And Use iTunes Match on iPhone

Use Apple's service to sync your music across your devices

Laptop computer with cable forming musical notes

 Atomic Imagery / Getty Images

For an annual fee, iTunes Match keeps your music synced across all your Apple devices and provides a web-based backup in case you lose any files. The service creates a single library that you share between your Mac, iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, and if you add a song in one place, it will automatically appear on the others.

Here's how to turn on iTunes Match and use the service.

These instructions apply to iTunes 10.5.2 and later and devices running iOS 5 and newer.

How to Set Up iTunes Match In iTunes

To set up iTunes Match on your computer, you'll use the iTunes Store.

While it's possible to subscribe to iTunes Match from your iPhone or iPod touch, you can only upload and match songs from the desktop iTunes program.

  1. Open iTunes.

    A Mac desktop with the iTunes icon in the Dock highlighted
  2. Click the Store menu.

    iTunes on a Mac with the Store heading highlighted
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the screen and click iTunes Match.

    iTunes on a Mac with the iTunes Match item highlighted
  4. On the next screen, click Subscribe.

    To subscribe, you need an iTunes account with a valid credit card.

    The iTunes Match screen with the Subscribe button highlighted
  5. Sign in to the iTunes account that you want to add your music to.

  6. iTunes Match will scan your library, send the information to Apple, and then syncs your library with the iTunes Store. Any songs that are in both your iTunes library and the store will "match" to your account.

  7. Once iTunes has analyzed your library, it will start uploading your library to the cloud, along with album artwork.

  8. Once all your songs are uploaded, a screen lets you know the process is complete. Click Done, and you'll be able to share your music across all the devices that have access to your Apple ID.

Using iTunes Match on iPhone and iPod Touch

Managing music on your iOS device used to require you to sync with your desktop computer. With iTunes Match, you can add the songs you want to your iPhone or iPod touch without ever connecting your iOS device to your computer because your library will sync from the cloud.

Linking your iPhone or iPod touch to iTunes Match deletes all the music on your device to replace it with your online library. You don't lose the music permanently—it's still in your computer's iTunes library and your iTunes Match account—but your device is wiped. If you've carefully curated the music on your device, you'll have to start from scratch. You also can't use syncing to manage your music unless you turn off iTunes Match.

Enable iTunes Match on iPhone and iPod touch

Follow these steps to enable iTunes Match on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch:

  1. Open the Settings app.

    The iPad Settings app
  2. Tap Music.

    Settings app on an iPad with the Music heading highlighted
  3. Move the iTunes Match slider to On/green.

  4. If a warning pops up, tap Enable.

  5. Your device will delete all of the music and replace it with a list of the library you're storing in the cloud.

Downloading iTunes Match Songs to an iOS Device

You can add music from iTunes Match to your devices in two ways: downloading them or listening to them:

  • To download a song from iTunes Match, go to the Music app and tap the cloud icon next to the song. To download an album, tap the cloud icon at the top of the album screen.
  • When you tap a song to listen to, it automatically downloads. While the song plays just like it's on your device, it's actually downloading and playing as it goes. Next time you won't have to download; it will already be in your storage.

What the Cloud Icon Means in iTunes Match

With iTunes Match enabled, a cloud icon appears next to each artist or song. This icon means that that song/album/etc. is available from iTunes Match but isn't downloaded to your device. The cloud icon disappears when you download songs.

An iTunes library with the cloud icon highlighted

How to Conserve Data When Using iTunes Match

If you're planning to download a lot of songs to your iPhone, connect to a Wi-Fi network instead of using your cellular data. Wi-Fi is faster and doesn't count against your monthly data limit. Most iPhone users have some limit on their monthly data use and most music libraries are pretty big. If you use cellular to download songs, you'll probably exceed the monthly limit and have to pay overage fees.

Avoid using cellular data by following these steps:

  1. Open Settings.

  2. Tap iTunes & App Store.

  3. Move the Use Cellular Data slider to off/white.

    Settings, iTunes & App Store, and Use Cellular Data settings on an iPhone
  4. Now, unless your phone is connected to Wi-Fi, it won't download anything.

Adding Songs to iTunes Match

Once you've set up your iTunes Match, you only have to add a song on one device to access it on your other ones. Whether you rip a CD to iTunes or buy a track from the Music app on your iPhone, iTunes Match will automatically update the library. When your devices resync, the changes will transfer to them.

Deleting a Song From iTunes Match

Deleting a song from iTunes used to be enough to remove it from all of the devices you synced to your computer. But with iTunes Match, you have a decision to make every time you take a song out of your library.

  1. Find the song you want to delete and right-click on it to open a menu.

    iTunes on a Mac with the right-click menu of a song in the library open
  2. Click Remove Download to keep the song in your library but remove the file from your computer. You'll still be able to stream the song, but it won't take up space on your hard drive.

    iTunes song menu with Remove Download option highlighted
  3. Select Delete from Library to not only remove the track from your computer but iTunes Match itself. It will no longer appear in iTunes or on any of your other devices.

    Song menu in iTunes with Delete from Library highlighted
  4. If you select a song and use the Delete key on your keyboard instead of the on-screen menu, that deletes the song both from your library and iCloud.

Upgrade Matched Songs to 256K AAC Files

One of the best features of iTunes Match is that it gives you a free upgrade on all matched music. When iTunes Match matches your music library to the iTunes database, it uses songs from Apple's master iTunes library. When it does this, it adds the songs as 256 kbps AAC files (the standard used at the iTunes Store)—even if the song on your computer is lower quality.

To upgrade a song to 256 kbps, right-click it in iTunes and select Remove Download to clear the existing track from your computer. When you click the cloud icon to download it again, the new version will be the higher quality song from the master library.

If you subscribed to iTunes Match before Apple Music was released, you may be wondering whether you still need both. We've got the info to help you decide in I Have Apple Music. Do I Need iTunes Match?