I’ve been waiting for iTunes Match since before the project had a name. Then I had to wait even longer because I’m Canadian. iTunes Match combined with iCloud was supposed to allow you to store your entire music collection online so you could access it anywhere. The early iPods had actual hard drives in them and could hold numerous songs. They didn’t have touch screens and iOS wasn’t what it is now. Now not only do iPods have color LCD screens and in many cases touch screens, they have WiFi, and they have lots and lots of apps competing for hard drive space. New iDevices don’t have hard drives, they have solid state memory and generally less capacity than the older iPods which have actual rotating hard drives. All the songs, apps, movies, and other data compete for less and less storage space, putting data into the cloud becomes something of a holy grail solution.
There are those who see everything going in the cloud, applications, data, music, pictures, your entire social life. Maybe eventually, but I still like to type on a keyboard, I own numerous hard drives, most of them far from full as I’m not a pirate, but rather someone who backs up and has had to do deal with hard drive failures now and then in his computer using life. I have some pictures online in Facebook, Flickr, or Muschamp.ca, but even I don’t want my entire life online. I don’t use Google Apps much, I prefer various desktop alternatives and am still regularly required to use Microsoft Office and nothing but Microsoft Office.
So after waiting and waiting I eagerly signed up for iTunes Match when it finally became available in Canada. I was worried that the fact I keep my music on an old PowerMac G4 which can’t run Lion would be an issue. It isn’t a deal breaker but at first I was unable to sign up due to servers being overloaded. Now it has been well over a week since I signed up and still my collection has not been entirely uploaded, servers may still be overloaded.
Over 1000 songs have been uploaded or were already part of the iTunes store, but the majority of songs I ripped from my CD collection are still not in the cloud and I’ve left the G4 running overnight and all day for several consecutive days. I’ve even tried restarting several times, but still iTunes Match is unfinished the uploading process. I suspect it is re-encoding the majority of my collection. I can play the songs it has managed to upload on my iPhone or my MacBook Pro. My custom playlists have been even less successfully transferred to the cloud. They are all missing tracks and some of my smart playlists are incompatible with iTunes Match. Apparently playlists that rely on other playlists are incompatible with iTunes Match, maybe they fear circular references.
I’ve also noticed other inconsistencies in iTunes and especially with my iPod Shuffle 2. I created an official support thread discussion, but that hasn’t resulted in any help being forthcoming. I’ve continued to experiment and test, but my iPod Shuffle 2 is no longer updating play count or last played date. My other iPod still does update metadata successfully. iTunes Match is supposed to update meta data as well. Tracks downloaded from my laptop have shown up on my desktop, but I’m not convinced the metadata is updating correctly through iTunes Match. There are currently different play counts for Kathleen Edwards new single which I got free off of iTunes the other day. Hopefully this works itself out eventually.
So far iTunes Match is definitely not working as advertised. I am allowed 25,000 songs sourced from anywhere plus all the tracks I want to buy from the iTunes Music Store in my personal iCloud. I’ve paid my money and after 100s of hours I still don’t even have half my collection in iCloud let alone 25,000 tracks. My smart playlists rely on other playlists and various piece of metadata to function. Something has happened in iTunesland particularly with my iPod Shuffle 2 updating metadata, making my workouts at the gym less enjoyable. I use the smart playlists and last played date to ensure fresh music to listen to while working out. A lot of my more elaborate playlists, plus playlists I was working on are incompatible with iTunes Match which is annoying. I can use WiFi and iTunes Match to listen to music on my iPhone without having to store any of it on my device, but there is a noticeable pause between songs and without my playlists working…
It was previously possible to listen to music on one Mac through sharing over WiFi, but metadata didn’t update. Now that I’m paying to share my music between devices I want metadata to update properly.
In conclusion iTunes Match has been a disappointed. I still hope they fulfill their promises and let me upload my entire collection of tracks and all my playlists. I also need iTunes Match and all my iDevices to update metadata such as play count and last played date so I can enjoy my music away from my PowerMac G4 the way I enjoy it at home. I’ve scaled back my smart playlist ambitions after Tangerine did a disappointing job of estimating beats per minute. And just like Apple repeated attempts to get support for a product/service I paid for have gone unanswered. So I’ve written this, hopefully non-whiney blog post in the hopes that others experience difficulty with iTunes Match, iPod Shuffle 2’s, metadata, and smart playlists can point me in the direction of solutions or at least answers.
Sorry if this post is even more disjointed and rambling than usual, but I was distracted by movies, lunch, dogs that wanted walking in the rain, etc. etc.
Update February 2015
I’m in Shanghai now and before I left I tried to download more music both to my Mac and to my iPhone. The latter requires a good WiFi network, both require a good WiFi network which is hard to find in China. I’m not sure what the issue is but iTunes Match has not been working well in China. I just rebooted my computer and in time I will debug this issue further, see if turning on the VPN helps. Regardless iTunes Match promised to let me take my entire music collection anywhere, but it seldom works perfectly.
At my old gym in Canada we had either a Shaw or Bell hotspot and I could get all my music on my iPhone. My gym in China has WiFi but it is so large that coverage gym-wide is spotty, so just the music I have downloaded to my iPhone is available to me. I am removing more and more and more apps to try and make room for more and more music. This is opposite of what iTunes promised, I’m just not rich enough to let iTunes run over the cellular network.