How iTunes Match hopes to stop you switching to Google Music

iTunes Match
Is cloud music is ready for prime time?

If you wanted to describe the online reaction to iTunes Match in one word, that word would be "yarrrrr".

By scanning your library and syncing legitimate AAC files when it finds a match, some said, iTunes was effectively offering money laundering for music: chuck your torrented, low bitrate tunes in one end and get your shiny legal 256Kbps AACs out of the other.

It's a pirate party mix!

I don't think that's how it's going to pan out.

First and foremost, if you're a huge torrenter then you're not going to suddenly start paying for a service that syncs all the stuff you weren't willing to pay money to acquire in the first place. iTunes Match isn't hugely expensive, but it's still cash.

Secondly, if you're a huge torrenter then you'll be thoroughly unimpressed by the prospects of 256Kbps AACs anyway. You need to be a pretty poor pirate to end up with low-bitrate rips when everything's a 320Kbps MP3 or a FLAC file - the quality upgrade's more relevant to those of us who were ripping our CDs in the days when MP3 player storage was still a problem and bitrates were a trade-off between good-enough quality and small-enough files.

And thirdly, Apple doesn't care anyway. It's got other digital fish to fry.

Your music matters

I don't doubt that some people will use iTunes Match to sync music they didn't buy, but it's not as if that represents a lost sale for anyone: they've had the songs before iTunes Match came along, and all iTunes Match is doing is helping to move them about a bit. It's hardly facilitating piracy.

What it is doing, though, is encouraging inertia. Inertia keeps everything Apple, and keeps you buying Apple hardware. Inertia is why Apple's announced iMessage, a chat system that bypasses SMS charges but only works with Apple kit, and it's why Apple's introduced iTunes Match.

Apps are an example of inertia. I've spent so much money on iOS apps, and come to rely on so many of them, that Apple would have to do something unspeakably evil such as shoot my dog before I'd jump ship to a rival OS.

Many of the apps I like aren't available on other OSes, but even if they were the sheer cost of buying them again and setting everything up just-so keeps me on iDevices.

It's the same with cloud music. When Google and Amazon announced their cloud lockers, I quickly checked my iTunes library size, did a few sums and honked with derision.

You want me to upload all of that? It simply isn't practical on a DSL line unless you've got weeks to spare and an understanding ISP.

I suspect that by offering to match what's in your library rather than upload it, Apple's prevented a lot of people dumping iTunes for Google or Amazon's cloud lockers. And once it's got you, the sheer size of your library and the thought of having to upload the lot of it will keep you loyal.

That's assuming, of course, that cloud music is ready for prime time. I'm not sure it is - especially over here where network coverage is crappy and unlimited mobile internet is nothing of the sort. iTunes Match may have a 25,000 song limit, but I can promise you that your fair usage allowance is much, much smaller.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.