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. 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.)

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