iTunes Match, Apple’s cloud based music solution, was announced by Jobs at Apple’s WWDC 2011 event in June earlier this year. iTunes Match is a $24.95 a year service that scans your hard drive of music, and matches any songs with over 18 million official high quality songs on Apple’s iCloud servers.
Any songs that can’t be matched are uploaded to your iCloud account to fully move your iTunes library to the cloud. Your music library is then fully stored in the cloud and is synced across any Apple devices you may have. These devices can then stream your entire library from iCloud all while keeping your library synced with any new purchases made in the iTunes store.
Based on first impressions this seems like a wonderful product, which it is. $24.95 is a small price to pay to have your music stored and synced permanently across all your Apple devices automatically.
Not all the conversation about iTunes Match is positive however; many argue that it can legitimize piracy and illegally downloaded music. Think about the following scenario: a user of iTunes match may have a lot of illegally downloaded music, possibly thousands, or tens of thousands of pirated song files. These tens of thousands of illegal songs that may be of low quality (E.g. 128 Kbps) are then matched with songs in Apple’s iCloud music library and replaced with high quality licensed music files for the end user to stream and enjoy.
Now of course the $25 fee comes in to the debate here. Does this yearly fee bring deserved money to labels and publishers, or does it help music pirates legitimize their pirated material for a very low price? What music pirate wouldn’t pay $25 a year to replace their free low quality music files with high quality DRM-free music they don’t even need to store locally?
iTunes match seems to be almost mutually beneficial to both the music industry and music pirates, both have a lot to gain from this new product. Music labels are getting paid for music that has been downloaded illegally, and music pirates are getting their low quality music downloads upgraded for a small yearly fee.