What's the Difference Between Apple Music and iTunes Match?

With the introduction of Apple Music, there seems to be a bit of confusion regarding iTunes Match and the new features of Apple Music. Apple describes the two services as independent but complementary.

What is iTunes Match?

iTunes Match has been available for the past few years. It uploads your entire music library to iCloud, allowing you to access songs on the go. First, it scans your library and finds songs that are already in the iTunes catalog and then uploads the ones that aren’t. For matched songs, it lets you download a CD-quality file of the song, even if your original copy was of lower quality.

At just $25/year, it’s reasonably priced and allows you to have your entire music library available on every device without syncing. You can store up to 25,000 songs, but it sounds like Apple will be upping that limit to 100,000 in the near future.

I Just Got Apple Music. Do I Need iTunes Match Too?

Probably not. Apple Music has all the functionality of iTunes Match built-in. Here’s how Apple describes it:

“With an Apple Music membership, your entire library lives in iCloud. We compare every track in your collection to the Apple Music library to see if we have a copy. If we do, you can automatically listen to it straight from the cloud. If you have music that’s not in our catalog, we upload those songs from iTunes on your Mac or PC. It’s all in iCloud, so it won’t take up any space on your devices.”

Is There a Difference Between the Two?

Yes. The difference between the two involves the restrictions placed on the matched song files. iTunes Match gives you a DRM-free file that can be used anywhere, while Apple Music gives you a DRM file that can only be played within iTunes and Apple Music.

DRM stands for Digital Rights Management. Music providers use it to combat piracy by restricting where you can play the song file.


With iTunes Match

You can take a matched 128kbps song in your library, delete the song file, click the iCloud download button and it’ll be replaced with a high-quality 256kbps version. You can do whatever you want with the file and it can be played in other media players, including importing to Garageband to make a ringtone, using it in a DJ application, etc.

With Apple Music

If you take the same matched 128kbps song and delete the file or redownloadit, it’ll still be replaced with a high-quality 256kbps version, but it will be a restricted Apple Music file. This means you cannot use it in other applications or even preview it in Finder. Playback is only possible from within iTunes or the Apple Music app on your devices.

If you want to upgrade your lesser-quality songs to a higher quality version without DRM-restrictions, iTunes Match is a great choice, even if you have Apple Music. If you don’t plan on listening to the song outside of iTunes or using it for other purposes, Apple Music is perfect by itself.

Should I Delete my Song Files now that I have Apple Music?

No. Should you ever decide to cancel your Apple Music subscription, there’s no way to download the songs you’ve saved to My Music. If you ever choose to use another music service for some reason, you’ll want to have those original files so you can subscribe to iTunes Match to get them on all your devices.

I used iTunes Match to save songs directly on my phone. Can I do the same with Apple Music?

Yes. Apple Music allows you to save songs from Apple’s Music Library, along with songs from your personal collection directly to your devices for offline playback.

Will I lose my upgraded songs if I remove my iTunes Match subscription?

No. From Apple’s website:

“Any songs you’ve upgraded or downloaded again are completely safe. The only thing you lose is the central storage — iCloud will no longer stream or download matched or uploaded songs to your devices.”

Of course, if you have Apple Music, you still have the iCloud Music Library for central storage.

To recap, iTunes Match is built-in to Apple Music, but Apple Music will only give you matched DRM-restricted files, while iTunes Match gives you a file you can use outside of iTunes.