What happens when you cancel your iTunes Match subscription?

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Given that iTunes Match came first and Apple Music years later, many readers aren’t quite sure which features come with which service. That’s partly because some aspects overlap, especially access to iCloud Music Library syncing and streaming, which requires a subscription to either Apple Music and iTunes Match.

Macworld reader Anthony wants to know particularly about what would happen if he has Apple Music (via a family account shared with his brother) and he cancels iTunes Match. He used to rip his CDs, but (like yours truly and many others) that’s not how he’s acquiring new music, so he wonders if the match feature remains useful. Disabling iTunes Match would save $25 per year. (Nearly all my new music is purchased from Amazon, Apple, or directly from musicians, and all in DRM-free formats.)

iTunes Match takes any song you have in your library and tries to find a match in Apple’s iTunes Store. For each match, the iTunes Store version is marked for inclusion in your iCloud Music Library. (Non-matched songs are uploaded with certain restrictions on size.) You retain the original file that you used to match, but you can also delete it and stream or download the iTunes Store version everywhere. (Note: Make a full backup before deleting your originals!)

Apple Music also matches music, but its matched songs are locked when downloaded, and will be unplayable when you cancel your Apple Music subscription, although your original file that was matched remains intact. A lot of people pair Apple Music and iTunes Match together to ensure they have the best permanent access to all the music they bought elsewhere and to have access to Apple Music’s library.

Anthony asks if he cancels iTunes Match, “Will this mean that my uploaded songs are no longer available on my device?”

Fortunately, no.

  • Without Apple Music active, you still retain all the copies downloaded, but can’t use iCloud Music Library for sync anymore. Make sure and download all your matched copies before cancelling.

  • With Apple Music active, you likely won’t notice a difference, but as noted above, if you add music from other sources, it can be matched in such a way that any downloaded copies on other devices (besides the “original” on whatever machine you add those files to) won’t be playable if you later cancel Apple Music.

I didn’t find Apple Music offered me enough, but I have kept iTunes Match since it was introduced, as at roughly $2 a month, it’s been a great way for me to keep everything synced and available across all my Macs and iOS hardware.

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