iTunes Match: What are your first impressions?

itunes-match

On Monday, Apple made iTunes Match available to any U.S. iTunes account holder for $24.99 per year. For that fee, you get your entire music library stored in the cloud and made available to your Mac computers and iOS devices. On the surface, it’s an appealing process, but going from subscribing to Match to getting a usable library isn’t exactly a piece of cake.

Delay the pay

Apple has been having difficulty dealing with demand for the service in its first day of operation, and it seems to be implementing rolling brownouts of registration to cope with the issue. Many users complained that, like me when I initially went to confirm that the service was live, they are seeing a message advising them to try again at a later time. Subsequent attempts to get to the registration process worked, but Apple is still pacing sign-ups, presumably to prevent server overload.

Scanning of epic proportions

In the end, it’s probably for the best, since once users are in, they’re often faced with huge delays as iTunes scans their library, matches tracks and then uploads tracks that couldn’t be matched. The process is taking hours for some, and it threatens to be a process spanning multiple days for others. Many are complaining about the need to stop and restart the process on a regular basis to get past stalls, which is an issue we heard about from people during the developer beta. Were Apple to open the floodgates to everyone at once, this process would likely be more painful.

Hit or miss

Apple’s scan-and-match tech isn’t perfect, and it often requires that your library be in fairly good shape in terms of track, artist and album information. It runs into issues with low-quality tracks (it won’t match ones that are under 96 Kbps, for example, but Apple states this clearly on its website), and users are finding the difference between “purchased” and “matched” tracks a bit confusing (hint: one has to do with what you buy in the iTunes store, and the other is strictly limited to what’s included in the local library on the Macs you use for your iTunes Match scan and upload process).

Pay now, get satisfaction later

Despite its problems, once iTunes Match is set up, it seems to work as advertised, providing tracks for download from Apple’s servers. But it takes a long time and a lot of hiccups to get to that point, and users don’t seem to be all that clear on what (or what not) to expect from the service to begin with. Paying for delayed gratification is not something Apple users and iTunes music shoppers are used to.

So based on the above and your own experiences, what do you think of iTunes Match? Did it need more time in the oven, despite already arriving late? Or is it just a different kind of service that inevitably requires a lengthy initial setup process in order to accomplish the magic it advertises?

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