Sunday, July 12, 2015

Apple Music: iTunes Match and DRM

Kirk McElhearn:

Eddy Cue also informed a user that Apple Music will start with a match limit of 25,000 tracks, but that this will increase to 100,000 tracks with the launch of iOS 9.

It’s not clear whether this number will also be applied to iTunes Match, but one can hope that it will. Like many iTunes users, I have been clamoring for an increase in the iTunes Match limit from 25,000 tracks to something allowing me to use my music library with iTunes Match.

Kirk McElhearn:

Apple Music files cannot be copied to an iPod nano.

I guess it makes sense, that these files only play on iOS devices, but I hadn’t actually considered this before. Since the DRM on the files links to a time-limited account, you can’t copy them to a device that can’t check if your subscription is still active.

Kirk McElhearn:

The whole iTunes Match and Apple Music thing is confusing. Apple says they are “independent but complementary,” and, on first glance, they look quite similar. But when you look closely, they are very different.


When you match and download files from iCloud Music Library (without having an iTunes Match subscription), however, you get files with DRM; the same kind of files you get when you download files from Apple Music for offline listening. (These files should have DRM, so you can’t just download and keep all the music you want for $10 a month.) But if you’re using Apple Music, and not iTunes Match, Apple doesn’t make a distinction between which files were originally yours, and which you downloaded for offline listening from Apple Music.

This means that if you’ve matched your library with Apple Music and iCloud Music Library, you need to keep backups of your original files. If not, you’ll end up with files that you can’t play without an Apple Music subscription.

Serenity Caldwell:

Yes, Apple Music has a DRM component. Yes, it sucks, but it’s similar to every other streaming service. No, it does not overwrite the files on your Mac to make all your music DRM-laden.


If you use both Apple Music and iTunes Match, the Store catalog supercedes the Music streaming catalog; you should always be getting DRM-free files if you subscribe to Match. If for some reason you’re getting Apple Music files, don’t panic: it’s a bug. Try logging out and logging back in again, or deleting and redownloading the file.


So Kirk’s post is getting misinterpreted by a bunch of people—he’s a buddy, and we talked on Twitter about this with a few other folks. Here’s the deal there: He doesn’t have a hard copy of his tracks on that computer, so when he upgraded, he downloaded matched tracks and they came down as Apple Music tracks. That’s a bug, and can be fixed by deleting the track and redownloading, and worst-case logging out and logging back in again.

Nick Heer:

iTunes lacks DRM; Apple Music has DRM. That’s the difference: it’s subtle, and it’s poorly-explained. iCloud Music Library is a completely different pitch to that of iTunes Match and iCloud Photo Library, despite sounding similar, if not identical.


Apple Music and iCloud Music Library are pitched so closely, and the nuanced differences are not explained very well. Yet, these differences are incredibly important to know, because a normal person could reasonably consider their library to be safely off their computer, readily accessible when it’s needed, and largely recoverable if they were to switch to a different service.

This is an article that Serenity Caldwell should not have had to write. Not because of some of the FUDdier articles around, but because Apple should be more clear about the difference between Apple Music and iTunes. I would bet actual money that Apple wanted to — in essence — add these features onto the existing iTunes library, but were prohibited from doing so by record labels.

Serenity Caldwell:

iTunes Match isn’t the same as Apple Music. With Apple Music, for $9.99 a month, you can stream Apple’s song catalog. With iTunes Match, for $24.99 a year, you can upload up to 25,000 songs from your iTunes music library to iCloud, where you can then stream and download them—DRM-free—to up to ten other registered devices in your possession. Here’s how it works, how you can subscribe, and how you can get the most out of it!

Marco Arment (via Nick Heer):

I bet iTunes Match gets Google Readered within a year. Don’t get too attached…

Update (2015-07-14): Kirk McElhearn:

Apple has released iTunes 12.2.1, which claims to fix the problems with iTunes Match tracks being DRMed.

I installed the update, and it hasn’t fixed anything for me. Here’s an example of some albums that still show as Apple Music, and still have the incorrect artwork[…]

Nick Heer:

Let me get this straight: the bug could taint portions of a local library with DRM, and the removal procedure requires exact steps that are counter to what you may be expecting, and that following the steps you may expect instead will nuke the track almost entirely unless you use another workaround explained by Horwitz in his post? This isn’t acceptable at all.

Update (2015-07-20): Kirk McElhearn:

As you can see above, the problem was not iCloud Music Library in general, but the way it added tracks from my iPhone. I was not alone in having this problem, and, since so many other tech journalists also had these issues, I speculate that many of them are in situations similar to mine. They have multiple devices, and even, perhaps, test libraries, and iCloud Music Library did what it was supposed to do, but that behavior, designed for the “average user,” caused problems for people whose music libraries are complex.

A DJ site reported these problems, a long MacRumors forum thread discusses them, and a musician reported that Apple Music “screwed up [his] entire discography”.

Comments RSS · Twitter

Leave a Comment