The Real Difference Between iTunes Match and iCloud Music Library: DRM

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.

Both match your iTunes library and store your purchases. Both allow you to access these files, and listen to them, on multiple devices. But with iTunes Match, when you download a matched or uploaded file, you get either the iTunes Store matched copy, or the copy that iTunes uploaded of your original file.

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.

So think carefully if you plan to use iCloud Music Library.

Update: iTunes Match wasn’t working for me earlier today. It has started working now, and it’s even more of a mess.

Here’s an album that I ripped, and that was in the cloud through iTunes Match.

Eno drop

Previously, all the tracks showed as Matched. Now, most of them show iCloud Status as Apple Music. If I download one of them, and look at the file, it is a protected file with DRM (FairPlay version 2 is the version of Apple’s DRM scheme):

Slip dip

Update 2: It’s gotten even worse for me. I’ve tried signing out of my account, and signing back in again, but I still see many of my tracks showing the iCloud Status as Apple Music. And this is now also affecting purchased tracks.

In response to a comment, I copied a download, which shows that it has FairPlay DRM, to another Mac, and here’s what I see when I try to play the file in iTunes:

Drmed file

124 thoughts on “The Real Difference Between iTunes Match and iCloud Music Library: DRM

  1. Interesting, and troubling. Though I just did a test by pulling down some old albums I had previously matched and they all came down just fine as DRM free M4A.

    So perhaps the key is making sure you don’t try to access stuff you already have from Apple Music and make sure you’re pulling from the “My Music” tab?

    Needless to say this whole iTunes Match vs Apple Music thing is very confusing. I like both services, but definitely don’t want to give up Match in favour of DRM’d files.

    • I think if you’ve previously matched them with iTunes Match, you won’t see this. But if you don’t have iTunes Match, then you get DRMed files.

      • There’s no “previously” here, just tried a brand new downloaded file and it came back DRM-free.

        The best one-line description I can come up with is: “iTunes Match is a $24.99 yearly subscription that lets you match tracks against the entire iTunes library, rather than the limited Apple Music library, and download DRM-free versions, instead of DRM versions.”

        So all the time you maintain your iTunes Match subscription, you will continue to always enjoy DRM-free matching.

        • Glad I found this info. I got a new Notebook, authorized the Notebook for itunes. Then, I synced to my ipod to get ALL my stuff on the new device & was told that some of my stuff wasn’t authorized. I’ved gone through many devices and have NEVER had a problem updating, authorizing or syncing my iTunes library. Thanks for some insight.♥

          • This is the part that’s vexing me. The Music streaming catalog is most certainly superseding my Store (via iTunes Match) catalog, every time a track I add to my library is already there via the other. It doesn’t matter which import
            came first; as soon as the same track(s) are added from both sources, the Music (DRM-ed) one is what’s linked to my library.

            I am going through genres I like, and “adding” playlists and albums from the Apple Music library. And I am seeing the “kind” of tracks I’d already owned, change from “Matched AAC audio file” to “Apple Music AAC audio file.” This is 100% reproducible (and somewhat irreversible.) Logging out and logging back in, and testing on a brand new user account on a new and different Mac, has no effect. The only way to “fix” it is to delete the track entirely, and start over by re-importing from your own backup. And trying to avoid adding anything from the Apple Music catalog that might include a track I already had. Very much a pain.

            With iTunes Match on its own, I used to be able to “Remove Download” (as well as sync to my other Mac) knowing I’d get a full 1:1 clone, sans DRM, of tracks I already owned. Now, with the addition of Apple Music, this is no longer the case.

  2. I’ve never used iTunes Match so definitely won’t miss it. But everything I’m reading about Apple Music screams at me, “STAY AWAY!! STAY VERY FAR AWAY!”

    • Agree. If I hadn’t already bought into Apple I’d not touch it with a barge pole. Match (despite cancelling each of the last three billing cycle) takes money from my account! It is, in my mind, a form of ransom. Try speaking to an Apple rep about cancelling and you are told all the music you thought you had bought will disappear.
      Rip off.

      • And of course that Apple rep is wrong (if in fact that’s what you were told.)

        Cancelling iTunes Match wouldn’t make any of your purchased music disappear. Download (and backup) your files locally. They’re yours to keep, forever.

  3. For all the talk about Apple’s passion for music, it seems that Apple Music is aimed at people who could afford to start over & reconstitute their library. It’s a shame, because its discovery & listening functionalities are brilliant- the best I’ve seen in any streaming service. But there are also big red flags for serious music fans who have lots of work invested in their existing music libraries.

  4. Wow, the return of DRM. I also find all the nomenclature and functionality (e.g., Apple Music, iCloud Music Library, iTunes Match) confusing, and DRM is a show-stopper for me. I hope Apple receives a lot of criticism for this …

    • It is fair that they use DRM for tracks that you download for offline listening. But the problem is the difference between downloading Apple’s tracks and your own.

      • This. Especially after Steve Jobs struck a deal with most of the record labels to eliminate DRM from purchased songs. I will not pay a dime for copy-protected music, and I expect any music that I’ve uploaded to the cloud to remain DRM-free.

        This is not some subtle detail. If this story is correct this is deceptive and infuriating.

      • This is true, however Apple Music is not designed to upload *your own* song files to iCloud, and thus allow you to download them again DRM-free anywhere. That’s exactly what iTunes Match is for, not Apple Music. Apple Music should never allow anyone to download a *new* copy of a song without DRM. Check out my comment below.

        • Apple Music is designed to upload your own song files to iCloud.

          “When you first join Apple Music, we identify the songs in your personal music collection and compare them to the Apple Music catalog. If we have your songs in our catalog, we make them instantly available to access on all of your devices during your membership. Songs that we can’t identify can be uploaded with iTunes into iCloud for listening on all your devices.”

          • Yes, you’re right but read my entire statement about downloading them again, I couldn’t been clearer. It let’s you upload your songs to iCloud but won’t let you download them again. Yes it uploaded my DRM-free songs to iCloud and synched them to all my devices. But when I deleted my local copy, it didn’t let me download my file again. That’s what iTunes Match is for.

  5. I’m a iTunes Match subscriber and yesterday I’ve started the 3 month free Apple Music trial. I’ve made several experiments: right now I’ve ripped a CD (Bartók´s Cncerto for Orchestra / Reiner), and the match/icloud behavior looked normal: 4 files were transfered (icloud status “transfered”) and the rest was matched (icloud status “from iTunes Match”). How do I know for sure that these files are allready DRM’d?
    Probably – and I’m only guessing – you have to get both subscriptions (Match with Apple Music) to get your personal library files without DRM…
    PS – I’ve just played the downloaded files on VLC, and they were recognised and played correctly.

  6. So if you want DRM free downloads and want to stream music you need both iTunes Match subscription AND Apple Music subscription?

    • This was explicitly said in the announcement. The yearly Match charge is in addition to the monthly streaming service charge.

      • …and haven’t inadvertently added again via Apple Music, via a playlist or album. Because once you do that, your locally matched track gets superseded by the Apple Music one, DRM and all. This is 100% reproducible…

  7. Could you re-check? You’re not seeing what I am seeing.

    I’ve had Music Match since it was launched. I have 14k tracks in it.

    I own Stereolab’s Cobra and phases record, but it is not on my computer — it is in my Music Match library. I navigate to it in My Music. I click on the download cloud button and it downloads. Get Info allows me to edit the info. RIght Click gives me reveal in Finder. I do, I press spacebar and get a preview play. File type is Apple MPEG-4 Audio. It is in iTunes/Music

    I do not own Sonic Youth’s Smart Bar album. I add Hallowe’en (Live) to My Music. I navigate to it and press the download cloud and it downloads. Get info does not allow me to edit anything. RIght click does not allow me to view it in the Finder. I find it anyway in the iTunes/Apple Music folder (not just Music). File type is protected MPEG-4 Audio.

    Are you seeing the same thing?

    To me this makes sense. If you buy the music you own it and you can burn it to CD, make copies, use it outside of iTunes and play it after you cancel a subscription.

    If you were allowed to download unlimited unprotected audio from the streaming service, you would. Then the artist would not be compensated for a purchase and would not be compensated for streams if you played the audio elsewhere, gave it to others or quite your subscription.

    Functionally this is identical to how Spotify did things. They allowed you to download protect Ogg Vorbis files that only their player would play, and they would only play with a subscription or in limited offline play scenarios.

    So. If what you are saying is true, I’d be very interested. Perhaps I’m grandfathered out because I was a Music Match subscriber, or perhaps you must have a Match sub to get unprotected files, or…?

    • This has been my experience too. Anything that is matched/uploaded in my library I’m able to download as a non-DRM M4A (including a CD I just ripped and matched this morning that wasn’t previously in my library). However, anything from Apple Music that I add to my collection and make available offline downloads as a DRM M4P.

      I too was a previous Match subscriber, and wonder if that plays a part. Curious what other people’s experiences are.

  8. For offline downloads from a streaming service, one should expect DRM. There’s nothing wrong with it. Otherwise it would just be a giant giveaway.

  9. It’s worse than that. Quite a few users are reporting that even when they are subscribed to both iTunes Match and apple music, files that they already own are re-downloading with DRM. I suspect this is a bug rather than intentional.

  10. Why does ANYONE install v.0 of any new software application and expect it to be bug-free?! YOU are the beta testers! OF COURSE there be bugs. If you could just wait 60-90 days, you could avoid all these headaches .

  11. This issue (and many others) could be solved if people could selectively tell Apple to not use the matched version.

    I’ve never been an iTunes Match user, so I had the benefit of starting “fresh” with Apple Music – any file that I uploaded and could not be matched will be downloaded as-is (e.g. non-DRM mp3). If your track has been matched with an iTunes equivalent, downloading it will result in a DRM-ed M4A.

    This matching process will also mess up a lot of other things (e.g. switching out your curated album art with whatever it can find, e.g. crappy compilations that just happen to contain your track) – so if I could just tell Apple Music to not use its match but upload and use my file instead, it would solve so many issues..

  12. I was running perfectly but everything just froze an hour ago. I can stream but can’t add or revise music library.

  13. Thanks for the heads-up, Kirk – I tested this with an Apple lossless album I ripped from a CD – removed the download, redownloaded it from iTunes, and yes, it magically turned into a 256 kBit Apple Music album, with my original files simply gone. Obviously, I don’z have Match.

    Now I guess you can usually avoid this for your library on your computer if you simply don’t “remove downloads”, but what I find desastrous is that you get no warning whatsoever – click “remove download”, and the track or album is immediately gone from your folder, without your original files even being placed in the wastebasket or a popup window warning you that you’re about to lose your files – as opposed to “delete”, where you do get a warning popup although the files are placed in your wastebasket.

    Not good at all.

  14. Like you, I have a lot of Live Dead from the archives that don’t exist anywhere in Apple’s Music libraries. Are you saying that if it gets uploaded to Apple Music, Apple will actually apply DRM to it? Much of this is already uploaded from iTunes Match, but was thinking of dropping that for Apple Music. Not sure now…

  15. I’m not using either service so I can’t check, but is the DRM claim in the post based solely on the fact that the track info window shows a FairPlay version number? Because the presence of a FairPlay container doesn’t necessarily mean the file is DRM’d in a meaningful sense– it could be “null” DRM that won’t prevent playback on other computers.

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable that Apple chooses the file format, or that you can’t force the service to use your own copies of files, because the whole economics of locker services is based on not storing 6 million slightly different copies of the same track. That won’t work for everyone (it doesn’t work for me), but as long as I don’t have to use it, that’s OK.

    If they ARE locking people out of their own files once the subscription lapses, then that’s a serious problem, but I find it hard to believe they’re doing that without telling anyone.

    • The point of the Apple Music files (with DRM) is so you can’t download tons of files from Apple Music and then play them after your subscription has lapsed. The problem here is that the same files are provided to both matched/uploaded files, and “offline listening” files.

      • OK, I tested this deleting some files from Cornell 1977 which I know Apple does not have in it’s library as well as Dick’s Picks Vol3 which Apple does have. In both situations after deleting the original file, the new one downloaded was not DRM. While I did expect this with the Cornell songs, I didn’t with Dick’s Picks as the files were newly ripped from CD and still show up as Matched in my iTunes. So I think that the DRM stuff is actually Selective dependent on the record-label who owns the music.

        • Then why are “Uploaded” songs DRMed (both with and without iTunes Match)? It’s a bug. AFAIK everything should be DRM with Apple Music and everything uploaded / match DRM free with iTunes Match.

          • Right. I’m seeing this on tracks that were uploaded long before Apple Music came out. It’s clearly a bug, as far as existing tracks, and iTunes Match subscribers. But it’s The Way it Is for Apple Music only subscribers.

        • I don’t think so. The examples I show above are from two different labels. The first, the Brian Eno, is on his Opal records; a tiny label. The second, the Dylan, is on Sony.

          • “Uploaded” songs are not found on iTunes and they have no knowledge who owns them. You can even delete the tags on “Uploaded” songs and they will still have DRM.

  16. I’m not seeing this on my account. I tested a song I listened to via Apple Music yesterday — a song that I own and Matched via iCloud prior to Apple Music. Just downloaded the file, moved it over to my Windows machine and played with no problems using Windows Media Player.

    It’s concerning to see people not have this experience, so I hope it’s only a glitch!

    • Just checked a few Uploaded songs too and they come down exactly how I sent them up. For example, just downloaded a Le Tigre song in MP3 format from my iCloud Music Library.

      • It’s random. Every few hours I’m able to upload new songs that get iTunes Matched instead of Apple Musiced. These download DRM free. A few minutes later, anything I upload starts going to Apple Music with DRM.

      • It’s obvious when it’s happening. The iCloud Status column briefly flashes “Apple Music” and then turns into “Matched” or “Uploaded’. Whenever this happens, the song always downloads with DRM.

        • Strange. I uploaded three albums yesterday and all remained Uploaded and DRM-free. All of my existing iTunes Match era music seems to be DRM free too, from my tests.

          Hopefully these are launch glitches and not changes in policy. Either way, not good publicity for Apple Music or building any confidence in one of the main features of the service.

  17. Something is definitely wrong here with the DRM. I have a test that I think proves it.

    I have never used Match and have about 200 ripped (or purchased from Amazon) albums on my iPhone. I have been enjoying Apple Music quite a bit these last few days. I had to turn on iCloud Music Library in order to download an Apple Music album. When I try to play a streaming Apple Music track on my phone and at the same time another streaming Music track on my iMac in iTunes, it won’t let me, stating “It looks like you’re listening on another device” and that I can only play one thing at once. That makes sense, as I have a single Apple Music subscription and they’re smart enough to ensure I’m not using it twice at the same time.

    The problem is that when I try to play one of the 200 non-Apple albums I have on the phone, it now won’t let me do it at the same time I’m playing Apple Music out of iTunes, stating I can only have one device playing at a time. This is nuts as I own the (previously DRM free) song I am trying to play! There should be no conflict between me playing non-Apple songs that reside on my phone and streaming Apple Music on my iMac.

    They really need to fix this.

  18. Kirk,

    Before today, I am not an iTunes Match subscriber and am currently not a iTunes Match subscriber.

    I decided to try out Apple Music. I downloaded the update across my iOS devices and then iTunes 12.2. It asked me to enable iCloud Music Library which I did. It scanned through my library and then it was done. I checked back on my devices and my music was there for all devices.

    I want clarity on some things.

    For one, is it true that once you match your existing music with iCloud Music Library, the files themselves on the PC or Mac become DRM-locked? Or is it true that when you download content from the Apple Music that you have matched in the first place come back as DRM?

    For example, let’s say I upload Abbey Road by The Beatles which is DRM free. It’s now on the iCloud Music library. Let’s say I want to download Abbey Road onto my PC, Mac, or iOS device, can you confirm that Abbey Road will be fully DRM locked or will it stay DRM free because it’s not part of the Apple Music service?

    Would it be different if I uploaded “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift which is on the service. The track is DRM free. It’s uploaded on the iCloud Music library. If I wanted to download “Shake It Off” the track will come back DRM locked because it’s part of the Apple Music catalog? Correct or mistaken?

    Do all these problems only happen with iTunes Match subscribers?

    A major reason that I noticed the album art to be completely different might have to (I’m guessing) with the method of service.

    When music begins to get matched:

    1) Music information is gathered from your library.
    2) Music is matched through the iTunes, not through the Apple Music catalog. Which means the methods might be crossing themselves and confusing the service altogether.
    3) When its completed, it’s in your iCloud Music library. Here, the music match information and any uploaded songs are sent from iTunes where in the software and activity bar it clears states it’s match tracks from iTunes and are being sent to the iCloud Music library. In other words, it’s sent from iTunes to Apple Music. Once it lands at Apple Music, album art is messed up in part in my opinion, it’s a stretch, because of the Apple Music catalog and iTunes catalog being different, they’ve crossed differently.

    Other explanations as well happen to lay with how badly matching isn’t being done with iTunes and Apple Music. Think about having to match hundreds of tracks one by one. The process can go too fast or fail to read files correctly. That’s where the problem seems to lay.


  19. Hey Kirk – Thanks for bringing all this to our attention.

    Just to be clear, the iTunes Library corruption problem takes place when you use iCloud Library, even if you Do Not use iTunes Match? Is that right?

    Bill J.

    • In my case, I have iTunes Match, but I’ve heard from many people who don’t; it’s simply the iCloud Music Library that contacts the iTunes Store and gets tags and artwork.

  20. This is the nail in Apple Music’s coffin for me. Glad I never went there or never used iTunes Match. I am still on iTunes 11.4 and will not upgrade. I back up my digital files the old fashioned way… onto another hard drive. I also appreciate the fact that I kept all of my CDs and old vinyl records. Never have to worry about DRM with those.

    • Your original music on your hard drive is not DRMed… Only music that you re download from the cloud is… There is nothing wrong with this… You will anyways only have this facility to download while you are subscribed…

      Keep your originals as they are after files are uploaded and you’re safe… Apple music lets you access the files everywhere… That’s a great facility… Don’t think of it as a backup

  21. Great post Kirk, thanks for bringing this to people’s attention.

    There seems to be so much inconsistency with what is happening to people’s files. I too am an iTunes Match user (~13,000 songs) and have been trying out Apple Music this week (now with many reservations after what you have posted). After reading your post, I wanted to look to see if I have any oddities…

    I have aded 3 albums to my library via Apple Music, but these are not local files. All three albums have songs with an iCloud Status of ‘Apple Music’, but only 1 album has ‘Kind = Apple Music AAC Audio file’ (which seems to correlate with FairPlay DRM), the other 2 albums have ‘Kind = AAC Audio file’.

    Seems crazy that different albums added via Apple Music are not consistent with their ‘Kind’ status.

    Aside from this, I have just 34 out of ~13,000 songs from my existing library which now have an iCloud Status of ‘Apple Music’ but only 6 of these have FairPlay DRM added.

  22. What i am finding really confusing is the line between which music is ‘mine’, and which music is ‘Apple Music’. I am not a huge Apple buff but i have spent years (best part of 10) maintaining my music library, rating my tracks, creating playlists and so on. Now after taking out the free trial for Apple music i am finding it hard to differentiate which are tracks i have purchased/uploaded into my library and which ‘Apple Music’ tracks i have added to my music or made available for Offline use. At the moment i have only added a handful of albums but if i kept up my subscription i would eventually have tens or even hundreds of albums that i have added from Apple music (and therefore not purchased) but wouldn’t have an idea which are actually ‘mine’ if i cancelled my subscription.

    What makes it worse from what i have read up so far, is that they are DRM’ing your tracks if you redownload them from Apple. Now i have a local copy of all my music so i’m OK if my subscription got cancelled, but its sounding to me like i’m going to have to do alot of work to sort my library out unless Apple release a patch to fix this.

    How hard would it be to have a clear divide between “Local Music”, “Purchased Music” and “Apple Music” so i knew exactly what tracks I wouldn’t be able to listen to after my trial ends.

    Sort it out!>>>:/

      • I know its not a backup service – I don’t want it to be a backup service. I want to have ‘My Music’ that i have always had, and music that i stream (or add to my library) from Apple Music separated or at least labelled clearly so i know.

        I don’t mind if iTunes matches my music with Apple music but I don’t want it to start labeling it as ‘Apple Music’ because it isn’t apples music, its my music that i’ve Ripped off CDs, purchased from Google Store, Amazon Store etc.

  23. @Locutus – thats a bit of an issue then, hopefully Apple can patch that to cure it. I don’t mind Apple matching up my tracks and making it where I’ve potentially got a better quality version of the song – but I would like it clearly outlined which are tracks that are part of their streaming service. Thats why i’ve liked Deezer and Spotify in the last year, because i’ve used them just for streaming. If i like an album that i’ve streamed then i’ll go and purchase it for my iTunes and bang its there – 2 completely seperate entities that don’t conflict with each other.

    Obviously, i’ve got all my local music downloaded so i’ll never lose that – but whats to say that because the matched files have been overwritten in my Library, that apple can’t add DRM to them so technically unless you keep your subscription going – you lose years and years of music that you’ve built up? That may not be the case but what happens if it actually did.

    I’ve maybe going off on a tangent….

    • There is no confirmation when you click the “Remove Download” option so it’s quite possible to accidentally delete your local files and get stuck with DRM versions.

      • Exactly it isn’t clear – Its lucky I took a backup of all my music a month back, but think i might take a separate copy tonight as well as all my XML data incase anything goes belly up. Also think i need a good couple of hours to really get my head round it all.

        On a side note – i love the functionality on the iPad, the fact you can have your whole library on your iPad when in view of a WiFi – as well as downloading offline versions of Apple Music tracks. Going to be really handy when i go on Holiday – Its just the iTunes part that is frustrating me atm.

  24. Why is this considered a short-coming of Apple Music? If you think about it, this is exactly how it should work. When you are subscribed to iCloud Music Library, and your DRM-free songs that you own are uploaded to iCloud, the only time you need to download a new copy is if you deleted the local song file, or if you want it on a new computer. Apple Music should NEVER give you a DRM-free song if you deleted it locally. It’s intentionally NOT Apple Music’s job to back up your song files, that’s what iTunes Match is for (and basically the point of your article).

    Think of it this way, for a user that is not subscribed to any service… If they delete a DRM-free song from their local library, it’s gone forever. Tough luck. If the user subscribed to Apple Music, then this service will allow them to *rent* the song again by downloading it, the basic idea for all songs downloaded from Apple Music. If the user is subscribed iTunes Match however, then Match would have backed up their original song file which can be downloaded again DRM-free.

    I think everything you point out in this article is a true fact, and I agree with it all and thank you for pointing it out. It helped me understand the difference. However I disagree with the expectations and complaints against Apple Music, and the fear it will destroy everyones music library. You do NOT need to backup your music collection now just because of Apple Music which is out to destroy your collection (you should do it anyway if you care about it).

    Just don’t delete songs that you still want to own, which was always the case :)

    • I agree…

      Apple Music is not a backup service… It’s a rental facility…It will not mess up your existing files (they will remain DRM free)… The internet blows up everything out of proportion…

      iTunes Match is a backup service and hence it still exists… I would still keep my original files locally backed up as well… It’s just common sense…

      • There definitely appears to be a bug which is affecting iTunes Match users and bringing back incorrect files with DRM. I was discussing the points in the article before the updates about the bug. There seems to be misconception regarding Apple Music, and to be honest Apple is to blame. They haven’t done a great job explaining the detailed difference between the two services, even on their own FAQ/support pages.

  25. There is definitely a bug though, which *can* add DRM, and logging out and logging back in is NOT solving it. I am an iTunes Match subscriber, and I’ve retained most of the local copies of tracks on the laptop where I am experiencing this bug.

    Here’s what happens:

    If I have a local track in my library that is “Matched,” and then I subscribe to an Apple Music playlist that happens to include that same track… iTunes changes the “iCloud Status” of that track to “Apple Music.” That’s a problem. It should leave it as “Matched.”

    This happens consistently. even though the track’s entry in iTunes is linked to, and references, an .M4A (AAC) or .MP3 file I have in the Finder. And then if I delete that file from iTunes, and re-download it from the cloud, it is replaced by an (Apple Music) .M4P file.

    Simply subscribing to an Apple Music playlist that happens to overlap content with a track (or tracks) I already own, is changing their iCloud Status to “Apple Music” and removing my ownership. Even if I later unsubscribe from/delete that Apple Music playlist, the track in question remains in my library now labelled as an “Apple Music” file. Later syncs/downloads aren’t coming from iTunes Match or the Store — they are coming from Apple Music.

    If you have subscribed to a bunch of Apple Music Playlists (as I have,) here’s an easy way to determine if any of your local/owned/Matched tracks have been replaced inappropriately by Apple Music tracks:

    • To fofur – are you using a Mac? I assume so as this is a mac site? I am using Windows ITunes and I just tested what you wrote above and for me it’s ok. I added an Apple Music playlist which contained a couple of songs that I already owned and are “Matched”. After adding the playlist, they still show as “Matched” – they have not changed to “Apple Music”.

      Therefore it sounds like this might be a specific bug on the Mac ITunes client?

      (I am also finding that I some of the tracks on that playlist which I do own, it has not detected this and added them as a duplicate with Apple Music, but that’s probably a different bug).

      • @Patrick Warner

        If you were tap tap the “delete” key on one of those tracks, and then clicked “Remove Download,” then control-clicked on the track name and chose “Make available offline,” you would be left with a DRM’ed (.m4p) Apple Music file. All because you happened to add a track you already had.

        With iTunes Match on its own, we used to be able to “Remove Download” (as well as sync to other iTunes on other computers) knowing we’d get a full 1:1 clone, sans DRM, of tracks we already owned. Now, with the addition of Apple Music, this is no longer the case.

    • Thanks for the above. This has highlighted 18 uploaded / matched tracks I owned before 30 June are now labelled as Apple Music files. I have checked and they are all tracks which are on Apple Music playlists I’ve subscribed to. All my other music is OK. On another note, I’ve lost all reference and menus to iTunes Match which I subscribe to.

  26. I’ve made a discovery. Newly Uploaded / Matched songs from my PC, are downloading without DRM on my Mac! They only have DRM when downloaded on my PC.

  27. Thank you for a thought provoking article though there is one part with which I must take issue. Digital Restrictions Management is never right or proper or, in any way, justified. It takes away the moral and well justified rights of consumers and, as such, ought to be illegal. Just because it suits the interests of copyright holders, and others, to take such action doesn’t make it right or moral. Consumer rights have to be protected and we should never give them up just for the sake of access to some shiny new service.

    • I disagree. With a subscription service it is entirely justified. But it shouldn’t be added to tracks one owns.

      • I’m with David DRM is not justified even in a subscription service. It is a sort of enclosure that makes it so that the things you ‘own’ you do not own. They did it with the commons in the past so that land everyone shared became private property and now they are doing it with private digital property so that things that you think you own you only have Digitally restricted use of. DRM pedallers want to make this seem normal and “fair” so that they can impose rent as a matter of course and prevent you from using your stuff as you see fit with paying a tax.

      • The companies are very efficient mechanisms to make restrictions but to provide freedom. DRM is never good because it restricts, prohibits freedom of users.

    • Anyone who is against DRM, isn’t a musician and thinks all music should be free. If you haven’t purchased the song, or album, you don’t own it, and even with a “subscription service” of $10 does not, nor should you even think you are “entitled” to others work and artistry to do with what you like. Just imagine 5 years ago if someone said, hey for $10, you can listen to, download for your devices and play anytime you like, over 10 million songs.

      Oh wait, you probably already did for free from Napster. Consumer rights are laughable in this instance. If you believe you have a “right” to “own” music not created by you, please let me know what you do for a living, because I for one, what you to give me something for free, IF, it is something I want.

  28. I’ve finally found the exact workaround! Just import & upload your songs, delete them from both iCloud and iTunes (choosing “Keep Files”), then re-import and re-upload them. They will upload / match instantly since they are already cached by the server and the downloads will now be DRM free.

  29. I understand that running a streaming service without DRM may be a more difficult business model. However, that does not make imposing DRM on the users right. I think that no one should have the right to exercise that kind of power over other people — spying on the user and restricting the use of their computer by technological means is never right. If that means that streaming services cannot be profitable, then maybe businesses should not run streaming services. I don’t think it has to be unprofitable to run a DRM free streaming service, though. Maybe it a DRM free streaming service would need to be a bit more expensive to be profitable or maybe it would need to negotiate different contracts with the record companies. Or maybe there is another solution I cannot think of right now — in any case, DRM is an unjust restriction that users ought to avoid.

  30. Update, as of today, 7/13/15:

    Thankfully, iTunes 12.2.1 is out now, and the first listed note is that it “fixes an issue for iTunes Match users where iTunes incorrectly changes some songs from Matched to Apple Music.”

    In my brief testing and checking out my library, I do see that affected tracks have now reverted back to their previously “Matched” state. Hurrah! I can use Apple Music now without crippling fear that my owned/Matches tracks getting replaced with Apple Music DRM!

    Hopefully the *other* (less serious IMO) bugs will get fixes soon, too.

  31. I have had iTunes Match for years, then added Apple Music on day-one. The next 6 weeks it worked perfectly, then I suddenly had many problems described above (I also had a problem with duplicated playlists and edited Tags that reverted to the original metadata). Oddly, about 80% of the 1400 Apple Music songs I downloaded were labeled as “Matched.” If I deleted the download, then re-downloaded the song, it was DRM free (and should have had DRM protection)! I spent hours talking to senior Apple advisors and they were stumped. I finally asked them to completely erase my Cloud library and cancel my Apple Music subscription. I opened another iTunes account where I re-subscribed to another Apple Music subscription and only use iTunes Match on my main library (I completed this on two separate Mac login accounts, but used the same iCloud ID). It will be a long while (if ever) before I use iTunes Match and Apple Music on the same account. The current setup seems to work OK so far. btw… I suggested that they offer me some sort of compensation for my trouble and they responded positively.

    • “Compensation?” As in, actual money?

      Sorry you had that experience. After a couple of weeks of hiccups, my iTunes (Match + Apple Music) appear to be working satisfactorily and predictably.

  32. The title of the piece and the content don’t actually reflect each other. What you’re talking about is iTunes Match vs. Apple Music. iCloud music library is a different thing.

  33. The precise issue here is not iTunes Match or Apple Music in themselves. While each is admittedly still buggy, each by itself provides a valid service within a coherent technical and legal framework. The problem is the lack of clear differentiation between them, and Apple is not doing its clientele any service by promoting the idea that they work together. They are like two circles in a Venn diagram, and it is confusion (for which Apple itself is largely responsible) over the areas of overlap and distinctness that lies at the heart of most problems people are having. I have used both services in the past, and would use either of them again if they suited my needs at the time, but I would never again use them together. Rather, I would think carefully about which one was the best fit with my needs: on the one side, access to a vastly wider portfolio of music; on the other side, respect for the integrity and long-term security of my existing music collection. But it would be an either/or choice, and I would never again try to get the best of both.

    • Just picking myself up on my own earlier post. Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh. Contrary to what I said earlier, I guess I would use Apple Music and iTunes Match together if I need them. But then, I have a clear understanding now of the differences between them – in particular where DRM protection can find its way into my library, and which downloads I would lose access to if I ever cancelled my subscription. I still think that Apple have scared potential subscribers away by launching two parallel services with so many apparent similarities and a few such crucial differences.

  34. Thanks for clarifying that iCloud is another beast entirely. I just thought it was Apple’s latest implementation for allowing me to download past purchases. Instead, the iCloud seems to be eyeing more and more of my previously purchased content and I swear in some cases that content is being yanked (e.g. a disappearing act for the local files that correspond to the iCloud icon).

    I didn’t update my legacy OS to iTunes 11.4 until about three months ago. I didn’t make any point to distinguish various encoding types until I decided that it was time to ditch the old iPod Photo (20GB, circa 2006), with my smartphone. I soon found that 200 tracts were DRM protected and couldn’t copy over to my smartphone for playback there.

    It’s all been terribly confusing for me even though I’ve been using Macs for more than 25 years, exclusively.

    There are instructions out on the web, which may have been aimed at users of earlier versions of iTunes, that suggest that you can sort your music library by “kind” to reveal which files are Protected vs. Purchased. Some of the instructions say you will need iTunes Match but others do not make any mention of it, and instead state that it is only necessary to confirm the tract availability on the iTunes Store after which it is safe to delete the Protected original and download a fresh “Purchased” copy. I did just that but rather than run into the DRM issue again, iTunes 11 simply states that the originals for my seemingly successful iCloud downloads cannot be located.

    Apparently some users have reported that iCloud downloads will revert to DRM status even though that particular form of DRM was ditched in ~2009 or thereabouts. That isn’t my problem though. My list of what was formerly “Protected” now reads as “Purchased” — just as the instructions on various websites promised it would. But when I go to play it back I realize that even though it looks like the download succeeded there is no LOCAL copy. So far I know of no workaround for this short of taking my Protected originals out of the trash and moving them back into iTunes, where they will no doubt become duplicates.

    Apple has been my sole source of digital music. They have my entire purchase history, under the same ID, dating back many moons. I really think as a matter of ethics Apple should have EMAILED notices to DRM-purchasing customers as far back as 2009 that there existed an option to upgrade to non-DRM versions for 30¢ (or so I’ve read). That boat already sailed and now, if I’m not mistaken, the only workaround is paying up for iTunes Match? (Honestly, I’m afraid that if I use the iTunes Match service Apple will have the means to remand my purchases back to the Cloud — without leaving my local copy intact — “at will”, and that I may not catch on to what has taken place in my library for the simple fact that Apple has allowed iTunes 11 to list tracts that no longer reside locally as if they are *still accounted for*.)

    Based on my experience with the iCloud “download” route vs. the menu-driven “Check for Available Downloads”, I thought Apple merely had LINKED my purchase history on a track-by-track basis and that there is no way I could effectively “lose” access to previously-downloaded music. But the iCloud download option is only a temporary solution. In the immediate aftermath the tract can be played but if I relaunch iTunes later the tract exists in the library in NAME ONLY and has, apparently, reverted to the Cloud. (Attempts to play it will launch the “original tract could not be found” error.)

    In my view, Apple has over-complicated iTunes 11+. (In addition to the focus on minimalist design aesthetics, the whole Apple model was originally founded on the KISS principal: Keep It Simple, Stupid — a computer for the rest of us!)

    There was a time in the pre-Apple Store days when I avidly read Mac magazines and ran on the upgrade treadmill like a good little Mac addict. But after many years I’m now of the opinion that if it’s “not broke, don’t fix it”. I’m still happy using Adobe CS6 pre-Creative Cloud software and until I can’t make use of those programs anymore I will also run as old of a Mac as it takes to continue using that software. I’ve gotta deal with older hardware/software because I’m not going to adopt Adobe’s Cloud anymore than I want anything to do with Apple’s Cloud.

    Even though the DRM issue is hardly new, I’ve wasted a lot of time reading and/or posting in forums in the hope of obtaining assistance from those more in the know than I. Two weeks into my iTunes iCloud download mess, however, nobody can offer me a straightforward solution to my original DRM woes.

    Is it really true that I have to subscribe to iTunes Match and that there is absolutely no other method for accessing what I’ve already purchased on non-Apple products? If Apple isn’t using the same type of DRM that was in use prior to 2009, why wasn’t there a courtesy notification that went to the email accounts of customers that had an Apple ID and a purchase history suggesting that they obtained DRM content? And why wasn’t the “upgrade” from Protected to Purchased complementary in the first place?

    • “I really think as a matter of ethics Apple should have EMAILED notices to DRM-purchasing customers as far back as 2009 that there existed an option to upgrade to non-DRM versions for 30¢ (or so I’ve read). That boat already sailed and now, if I’m not mistaken, the only workaround is paying up for iTunes Match?”

      You should be able to just play the files in iTunes, which is what I’m still doing with the few tracks I bought with DRM years ago. Impressively, Apple still lets you download them from their servers when you add new devices. I’m not sure why that wouldn’t work for you. Right-click a track and select download to make sure you’re not simply streaming it from iCloud.

      Once you’ve got them as Protected AAC on your hard drive, you’ve always got the original “DRM hole” — burn the protected files to a CD, then rip the CD. If it’s not a full album, you might have to manually name the files when you import, but it’s an okay workaround. Guess you could also record while you played on your Mac, if you don’t have a burner handy, though that’s kind of a pain. ;^)

      Strangely, when I had iTunes Match, it didn’t match *one* track from an album I’d purchased *from Apple* with DRM. (I’ve got LOTS of albums I’d ripped where it missed a track or two, but this one I purchased from iTunes.) So on a new box where I copied over a number of files, I have 11 tracks from Between the Buttons as Matched AAC and one only as Protected. Worse, there’s an album that’s been rereleased (Paper by Rich Robinson) that I’d purchased in the past from iTunes where now I’m strangely only able to download four tracks from iCloud on new devices. Go figure. It is, truly, a mess. /sigh

    • Apple did email people when they removed DRM, the Mac press explained how to upgrade, and the upgrade process was visible in the iTunes Store.

  35. Folks, thanks for all the comments and for the article.was really useful. Now my question is regarding 3rd party apps. Lets say that I want to use my Itunes Music library with Djay app. Most of the tracks are grayed out. Even if I got the iTunes Match subscription. It is fair to say that iTunes Match is useful for ones that have old tracks and want to get ina better quality? but this doesn’t mean that you can pay for Apple Music hopping you can use the tracks in the way you want?

    • If you download Matched / Uploaded songs via iTunes Match, you can use them in 3rd party apps. Apple Music tracks cannot be used with 3rd party apps due to DRM. Simply signing up for iTunes Match won’t change you exising DRM tracks to Matched. You must import new DRM free tracks into your library and have them Matched / Uploaded.

  36. Can I delete all music from my computer if I have it all backed up on an external drive and the original files in iCloud? If so, where do the iTunes library files reside?

  37. I just tested this with my Apple ID. I only have a Apple Music subscription, no iTunes Match. When I enable Cloud Support in iTunes it Syncs/Matches my songs as if I had iTunes Match. I can download the matched songs on another computer and will geht an m4a file from apple wich is _not_ DRM protected. If I download my synced songs I get the original Mp3 (or whatever) file.

    Maybe this was a bug which is now fixed. I tested this with mainstream pop where a Match ratio is pretty good.

    • A subscription to Apple Music now includes the functionality of iTunes Match. There is no need to pay for both separately. So if you’re saying it matched a file you already had in your library, then it makes sense that the song that downloads on another computer is M4A (and not DRM protected.) Now add a track you don’t have, from Apple Music, and see what the file looks like when you download it on the other computer. You’ll see it is M4P (which of course has DRM.)

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.