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