First experiences with iMatch and iCloud (in progress)

Posted: December 16, 2011 by kingcrimsonprog in Life

Has anyone heard of this new iTunes digital internet music backup service ?

You sign up for a £21-ish per year subscription, iTunes scans your library and matches anything it can with the iTunes store, uploads anything else it can’t match (artwork, metadata and all). You can download all your uploads and the iTunes store versions of the matches, even if they are a higher bitrate. This obviously takes a few hours if your library is massive, I myself at the time of writing am still in the process of uploading over 24 hours later on a fairly good broadband connection, but this is largely because of all the unsigned bands and personally split up epics (Eg. A 25 minute single Pink Floyd track edited down into ten smaller tracks so you can skip directly to different parts) or renamed tracks in my library.

Then it synchs it to all the apple products you own. I haven’t checked whether that is in link or file form yet as it wasn’t the part of the service I was most interested in. If it is the link version and you want all your stuff but also plenty of free space then this seems like a pretty handy back up option for someone with a massive iTunes library and a bunch of apple devices, I am not yet a convert to the smartphone or the tablet yet so it isn’t of a personal interest to me at the minute and I haven’t got anything interesting to say on that side of things.

It also puts a little cloud logo beside the music column on the sidebar of the iTunes programme, adds a check box for cloud status in the music section (in the same way you already have a check box for whether you want that track to be included in synchs and shuffles) as well as an actual optional cloud status column (eg. ‘Matched,’ ‘Duplicate’ ‘Ineligible’ ‘Waiting’)

If you downloaded anything off of the iTunes store before, it puts a little cloud image beside that album’s title in the arrange albums with artwork grid, with a cloud button as one of the sorting columns giving you the main option to download it. Oh, and it causes iTunes Genius to activate if you hadn’t already… I hadn’t bothered synching for Genius since getting a new computer, but it happened automatically when I sent the info for this service .

I signed up myself purely for online back-up of my music library, because harddrives have died before and things like drop-box don’t handle libraries of that size for free. I can’t imagine what a pain it would be to sit down and rip all 600+ cds again from scratch. Any of the extra features would just be a bonus.

I have written at length before about how I format my iTunes in a very specific way, eg. albums named with a prefix of ’01,’ ’02,’ ’03’ etc so that they are still chronologically arranged even when the iTunes programme or iPod tries to arrange them alphabetically.

This may or may not throw a spanner in the works of the value of the service to me.

The service also seems to re-download all your old iTunes purchases, or at least put a placeholder link to stream it off of the iTunes store but from inside the programme with an option to download (before the uploading stage is even complete.) Eg, I had renamed a Serj Tankian B-side ‘Fears*’ and put it in the ’02 Imperfect Harmonies’ album as track 15… this kept that and also downloaded ‘Fears’ as track one of the ‘Fears-Single’ album.

Although with Anvil’s ’01 Monument Of Metal’ it just outright swapped it to ‘Monument of Metal’ and changed all the track’s titles so songs with capitalized things like ‘OF THE’ went back to un-caitalized ‘of the’ status etc…. perhaps because I hadn’t remember to use the “create mp3 version” that I usually do to ensure that files stay fitting in with my scheme of changes. I tested renaming the tracks and albums however and it still followed the correct link to the iTunes store, so that was a definite bonus.

(If anyone is similarly picky, I’d “create mp3 version” everything again before signing up, just to be safe)

My Library after signing up, note the cloud logos, and unformatted re-downloads.

My Library after signing up, note the cloud logos, and unformatted re-downloads.

There was a size limit, I forget how much (EDIT: 25,000 tracks), but my library is about 80-gigs and that fit fine.

When the process is finished I am going to try and use the “sort artist” function to move all the re-downloads that don’t conform to my specific finnicky formatting rules, move them to the very bottom of the library and out of my sight by changing their sort artist tag to ‘zzzzzzz iCloud downloads’ or something similar.

I tested this already, but it did not moved the links away to the bottom like I’d have hoped… perhaps that would disrupt the link in a way that simple renaming of the title does not.

One of the other main attractions for people is to match tracks with low bit-rates or restrictive DRM rules, then download apple’s high quality DRM-free version legally. I’ll give that a go once everything is uploaded, although the only DRM-featuring tracks I still have a from older iTunes contracts, such as my copy of Kiss’s Alive album which is from iTunes store about three or four years ago. Currently, 99% of my library is at 160kbps (If you don’t know what yours it, left click on the columns and tick on the ‘bitrate’ column) …this allows you to essentially swap them out for 256kbps files without having to break out each cd again and rip them at a higher bitrate, assuming that it is an album which is available on the iTunes store.

Well; That is my initial reaction to the first part of the process, I may write again about the download/usage aspects later if I find them interesting enough to warrant a post.

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