Keep Your Music Library Synced Across Multiple Computers With iTunes Match

iTunes Match is yet another music service by Apple that made it much easier to keep all your music synced and make them available from Windows to Mac, iPod, iPad and iPhone.

We’re a family that puts great importance on our music, and because of that, we have every musical device that’s able loaded up with our favorite music. My daughter and I both have MacBooks that we’re using, and my husband has a Hewlett Packard laptop. When my husband got a new iPod, he decided he wanted to take over control of his music on his laptop instead of having me do it on my laptop. Since an iPod can’t be synced with Windows and Mac at the same time, the dilemma became how to get the music from the MacBook onto the HP, then onto to iPod. Sure, there’s old-fashioned ways, such as making CDs to transfer, but in this electronic age, it’s not necessary. iTunes Match did it all for me.

iTunes Match does have a hefty price tag on it for $24.99 a year.  That’s what kept me from signing up when it was first released with iTunes version 10.5.1. However, for our uses of music, it became worth it. To sign up for iTunes Match, open iTunes on your computer and find the link on the left side underneath iTunes Store.

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iTunes Match begins by gathering information about your library. It needs to know exactly what you have on there. Depending on how much you do have on there, it can take a while. While you can link up to ten computers and iOS devices to iTunes Match, you can only have it upload one library at a time.

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iTunes now matches up the songs you have on your computer with ones in the iTunes Store. Since not everything is available in the store, it won’t find everything in this step.

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For all those songs it couldn’t match up, iTunes Match now uploads them into the cloud. This was the selling point for me with the service. My husband was putting stacks of CDs into iTunes on his computer. I wanted access to that too, yet didn’t want to spend the hours combing over it all. For the CDs he uploaded that just came through as “Track 01,” “Track 02,” etc., it wasn’t very helpful. iTunes Match couldn’t match that to anything in the store and just put it in the cloud that same way. I’ll have to go through at some point and identify and edit those to fix it. Again, the time for this step will vary depending on your own library. My library had over 2000 songs in it and the whole process took hours.

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Once iTunes Match has finished uploading artwork and songs and has matched everything to the best of its ability, you’re free to either add another computer or link up your iOS devices. Initiate it on a second computer the same way you did for the first one, except click “Add This Computer.”

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To initiate iTunes Match on your iOS 5 devices, go to the Settings app, and choose Music. change the option for iTunes Match to being on. It will ask for your password and warn your about replacing your library. The service will remove your library and replace it with what you just uploaded to the cloud. For me, I have music I don’t keep on my devices as it’s things I no longer want or things I downloaded for someone else. However, once you have enabled iTunes Match on your device, it gives you an option to only show your downloaded items on your device. It’s still avaiable to you in the cloud, but you don’t have to sort through it.

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For the purposes of this article, I chose the option to have the cloud visible in my iTunes library on my iPad. The items that are not in my library on my iPad, but are in the cloud, have a little cloud icon next to them. The coveted library my husband was looking for is now in the cloud. We had changed the album name to “Jeff’s Mix” to keep the songs together, and had replaced album artwork with special pictures of the family. I’m not even sure where those pictures are anymore to redo it. However, that adjusted playlist is now in the cloud, with the pictures. It was on my MacBook, and now with iTunes match, we can download it to our devices, and my husband can download it to his computer, and then put it on his iPod.

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With the music stored in the cloud, you have a choice of playing it from the cloud, or downloading it to your device or computer. If you want to download it, tap the cloud icon next to the song or album you want downloaded. It seems to take a little longer this way then downloading it from iTunes straight up.

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The advantage to downloading the songs and not playing them off the cloud is that you then have the option of using other music apps. I prefer to play my music using the SoundHound app, and after I downloaded the song off the cloud, it then appeared in this app as well. I also added the service to my iPhone, making all of the music we have ever downloaded in iTunes, or have uploaded to these two libraries, available on all iOS devices and both computers. Doing the same to my daughter’s computer will improve all this even more.