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Summary:

Songs you once thought were stored safely in your iTunes Match music library may have been automatically removed by Apple. If a contract between Apple and a record label expires or if songs are somehow modified, they can disappear from your iCloud library.

iTunes Match

With today’s devices, there simply is not enough room to store a sizable music library and have enough space left over to do other tasks. The new Macbook Air starts out with as little as a 128GB SSD, iPads can be purchased with only 16GB of internal memory and you can still get an iPhone with just 8GB of space.

Enter iTunes Match. iTunes Match was designed to store your entire music collection in iCloud, even music you’ve imported from CDs or purchased somewhere other than iTunes. With it you can store up to 25,000 songs in iCloud (more if songs are purchased from the iTunes Store), only what you play or download is stored on your device. It sounds like a perfect solution, but there is a catch.

Music you purchase from Apple via iTunes will remain in your iTunes Match music library so long as Apple has the right to continue selling the music. As soon as the music label pulls any song or album from the iTunes Music Store, Apple will remove it from your iTunes Match Library as well. Not only that, but you will no longer be able to re-download your previously purchased music from your iTunes Store account.

iTunes Match Error

This has recently happened to me when a series of albums that I purchased from the iTunes Music Store disappeared from my iTunes Match music library. I tried logging in to my iTunes account and to see if I could re-download the music from the list of prior purchases but the albums were gone. The response that I got from Apple’s iTunes customer support team was that the music label must have modified the albums in some way, or pulled the albums from the store then added them back to the store with a new ID.

I understand that you are not seeing the songs on the list, I’m afraid to inform you that the items may no longer be available or if they are still available on the store, they have been modified by the content providers since you have purchased them.  I understand the inconvenience of this case, however, we won’t be able to make the songs available for you to download again. - iTunes Store Customer Support

What is really bothersome about the whole thing is that these were albums that I previously accessed via iTunes Match; songs I thought were stored in my iCloud music library. But since they were purchased from iTunes and not uploaded, they were not really in my iCloud music library to begin with. If I would have subscribed to iTunes Match after the purchased songs were removed from the iTunes Music Store, they would have been uploaded to my iTunes Match library and I would still be able to listen to them.

Rather than think of iTunes Match as online storage solution for your purchased music, think of it more like having access to a colossal lending library for music. So long as Apple has the rights to sell the music you want to listen to, you will be able to listen to it. Learn from my mistake and be sure to back up all of your iTunes purchases to some sort of external storage device shortly after making each purchase.

  1. It’s ridiculous to give 5 gb with a new Apple ID rather than with a new device. I think minimum iCloud must be at least 10gb free.

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    1. When you sign up for iTunes Match you get 25GB, which is separate from your normal iCloud account, just as Photo Stream is not counted towards your limit.

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  2. I have frankly noticed that music is missing. My library is a bit large, and I can’t even tell for certain, but Tubeway Army is the flag that made me notice. If that in fact happened, I will be canceling my iTunes cloud services and moving to Amazon. As an incredibly loyal Apple customer, and somebody who has purchased music equating to mid-sized BMWs, this is not good form.

    Thankfully, I have a terabyte hard drive with the library safely secure, although sifting though that many albums is not a task that will make me happy.

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    1. I hope you have that Terabyte hard drive backed up. If it’s not in three places, one of them off-site, it isn’t safe.

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  3. WTF!! Consumer protection lawyers, HELP!!!!!!

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  4. If you purchased it from the iTunes store they should at the very least refund the purchase!

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  5. Yeah, this is showing the dark side of the cloud.

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  6. Didn’t Amazon have something like this happen with its ebooks on the kindle?

    I think fundamentally when you buy something even if it’s electronic it should become yours, they must have something the terms and conditions that protects them from being sued which is ridiculous.

    I agree with the comments, at least you should get an apology, and your money back.

    Thank you for sharing, I will go back up my music right now :-)

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  7. The moral of the story is iCloud is NOT a backup solution (even the link to Apple’s website states so) its a syncing solution. As long as you have your music backup somewhere like Time Capsule it is still yours. I think mentioning this caveat in the article would have prevented the cries to alert consumer protection agencies.

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    1. While I understand what you are saying, iCloud does have a service where you can back up your device to iCloud. It is considered a backup service for your iOS devices in that regard. Ironically it is even called iCloud Backup.

      http://support.apple.com/kb/PH12519

      And yes, it does clearly state “Previous purchases may be unavailable if they have been refunded or are no longer available in the store.” But I’m starting to feel a little like Kyle on South Park (ep. 210).

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  8. after the snowden affair, no information is safe, but why do we have to have 50 million copies of the same song swimming around the internet, in everyone’s cloud etc, when we only need a few to feed us all. this story reminds me of the loaves and fishes, i guess we live in a world possessed rather than a smart one, like we think we do

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    1. That’s exactly the point, with iTunes Match Apple does not store 50 million copies of the same song. It ID’s your music and gives you access to those songs in the iTunes store on an annual subscription basis from multiple devices over the internet.

      The odd little piece in this article is, “a series of albums that I purchased from the iTunes Music Store disappeared from my iTunes Match music library.” What about the originals in your regular iTunes library? The songs should still be located on the device to which you originally downloaded them, unless you deleted them yourself. I can see this happening if you download a song to a iOS device and then delete it, for space reasons, without having backed it up somewhere else.

      I suspect that the attraction of iTunes match, is that it give people legit multiple device access to all their music, even to their illegal downloads (which seems to a substantial portion of most peoples collections). So with this in mind, it is exactly like a subscription services. Its a little ironic to complain about losing access to this — not to say that was Geoffrey’s case.

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      1. thanks for the thoughts, the next big thing i suppose is sound quality, and that will come with time, neil young is working on a system called pure tone, he says it outshines all other forms of sound recording on devices, we’ll see in time , but if there is quantity, we need more quality sound

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  9. This is why I don’t purchase any digital downloadable content for real money. If I want music, I buy the CD from Amazon and rip it into my iTunes app. That way, should anything bad happen, I still have the physical media with the purchased content on it.

    Regarding Amazon e-books, I only download the free kindle offerings they provide. Should Amazon pull the “nope, can’t have it no more” plug, at least I’m not out my hard-earned dollars.

    The “cloud” is turning out to be a huge boondoggle, for a variety of reasons, in my opinion.

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    1. “If I want music, I buy the CD from Amazon and rip it into my iTunes app. That way, should anything bad happen, I still have the physical media with the purchased content on it.”

      Thanks for sharing grandpa.

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      1. “Grandpa” is smarter than you think. Not only does he have the physical media, he has much higher quality audio playback (if he rips to a lossless format). You young whippersnappers are evidently the ones who are hard of hearing, unable to tell the difference between mid-fi and hi-fi audio.

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        1. Dwight?

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    2. Yes, I do something similar in case “anything bad happens” as it usually does.

      But ITunes still useful as you say. Other times (like today) when I tried to back it all up on a USB flashdrive, its a bloody nightmare, and I nearly lost it all …..

      Is it worth it, I ask myself.

      Sometimes.

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  10. A similar thing happened to me with video purchases. The Spongebob Squarepants videos were sold by seasons but someone figured out that they could make more money by selling the videos in volumes (where a volume is a partial season). When I went to re-download videos previously purchased, I found that I couldn’t. Apple support told me that I was out of luck and should have made backups.
    This all flies in the face of Apple pushing us to stream more rather than store locally. They really need to rethink the way they are doing this because it’s hurting customers.

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    1. And if you think about it for a moment, they are even selling devices that have smaller and smaller hard drive capacity by switching to SSD. Including the new Mac Pro that is about to be released.

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