Back in June, we wondered whether the introduction of Apple Music meant we no longer needed an iTunes Match subscription. We explained the differences between the two services (as known at the time), and offered this conclusion: If unlimited music streaming suits your fancy, and you’ll be subscribing to Apple Music, then yes, feel free to ditch iTunes Match.
Now that Apple Music has launched, Macworld senior contributor Kirk McElhearn has found a reason not to cancel your iTunes Match subscription: Digital Rights Management (DRM).
First, some background
The cornerstone of iTunes Match is the ability to load music from your CDs. Those tracks are automatically added to iCloud, or matched, for you to listen to them anytime, across all devices. Those songs not found on iTunes are uploaded from your device to iCloud for use on any of your other devices.
Furthermore, with iTunes Match Apple will match your older files that are 96 kbps or higher, and make them available in 256 kbit/s DRM-free AAC format. Songs containing DRM are not matched or uploaded to iCloud unless you authorize playback of that content on your computer.
When you no longer subscribe to iTunes Match, you’ll lose the ability to stream or download matched or uploaded songs to your devices. Those songs already downloaded remain in 256 kbit/s DRM-free AAC format.
Enter Apple Music
With Apple Music, music downloaded arrives as a DRM-locked version. Even for your own tracks. In other words, your own music will prove unplayable were you to cancel Apple Music and no longer have an iTunes Match subscription.
As McElhearn summarizes:
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.
So far, Apple isn’t commenting on this bait and switch. Some have suggested this change was a necessary compromise made between Cupertino and the record companies. A business decision, no more.
My beef with this change has less to do with the specifics. Apple isn’t planning on discontinuing iTunes Match. In fact, new subscribers are welcomed. The issue is that Apple makes it sound like Apple Music comes with iTunes Match, which we now know isn’t the case.
Online Cupertino says the following:
Does Apple Music work with iTunes Match?
Yes. Apple Music and iTunes Match are independent but complementary.
Clarification is key
Moving forward, Apple needs to clarify its position. The company could do so simply by better explaining the differences between the two services. Specifically, they should explain why it’s prudent for those folks with large music libraries to continue to keep their iTunes Match subscription. Better still, offer an iTunes Match add-on for Apple Music subscribers. For example, iTunes Match is priced at $24.99 per year. Make this add-on $2 per month.
Unless Apple better clarifies its position, there could be a lot of unhappy users who may elect to cancel their iTunes Match subscription, thinking that it ships with Apple Music. You heard it here: Don’t cancel that subscription.