iTunes Match vs Spotify

iTunes Match vs Spotify

iTunes Match icons have started appearing on iDevices in recent days, suggesting that the service will soon be launched in the United States.

The big question for users is whether Apple’s cloud music service will be worth the $24.99 per year or whether you’re better off paying rival Spotify’s annual fee of $60.

iTunes Match – your music, online

Once you’ve paid your $24.99, iTunes Match will scan your iDevice or laptop for music and then see whether those songs are already pre-loaded on Apple’s iCloud servers. There are more than 20 million songs already on iCloud and so the chances are that almost all of your music will already be pre-loaded.

For the songs that are already in the iCloud system there is no need to upload your own music, iTunes Match will simply credit your iCloud account with those songs. The great thing about this service is that the songs will be available in DRM free 256Kbps quality – even if the songs that you originally had on your computer were of a lower quality such as 128Kbps format. iTunes Match also doesn’t care whether your music library consists of ripped CDs and legitimately purchased MP3 or whether you’ve downloaded them illegally. (Not that any of you would, right?) Music stored in iCloud also doesn’t count towards your 5GB of free storage.

If you have an esoteric music collection and have discovered some music that Apple is yet to get its hands on, then you just have to upload only those particular songs. This means that it will be a much quicker process to create your iCloud library than if you had to upload your entire music collection from scratch.

The music industry, ever mindful of the bottom line, has made murmurings about the fact that the iTunes Match system allows you to effectively “launder” your illegal MP3 collections. Once you’ve set up your music collection in iCloud in 256Kbps “legal” form, you are then able to download that music again to up to ten computers or iDevices. This means that you end up with clean and legal versions of any illegally downloaded content that you put through the iTunes Match system. The record labels do though receive part of the $24.99 annual fee from Apple for music that is stored on the iCloud for each user and the general industry consensus seems to be that it’s better to make some money from content that was originally illegally downloaded, however little.

The main downside of iTunes Match compared to its competitors is that you are in effect paying $24.99 every year simply to access music that you already possess. Sure, it provides an easy way of storing and moving your music across multiple iDevices but you could achieve that by just syncing your computer with each device over Wi-Fi. Apple does seem this time to have left something in the market for its competitors to target.

Spotify – all music, online

Spotify is a completely different type of music service to iTunes Match as is essentially a music streaming service which allows you to stream songs to computers or mobile devices such as iPads, iphones and Android phones.

With Spotify you’re not restricted to the music that you already own but instead have access to a huge library of more than ten million songs. This allows you to chance upon old music that you haven’t discovered before and also to listen to brand new music without having to purchase it.

The key difference then between iTunes Match and Spotify is that iTunes Match only allows you to upload your existing music to the cloud whereas Spotify allows you to stream a vast library of music from the cloud.

Spotify has three different pricing options:

1. A free account allows you to stream but not download music for 10 hours a month with occasional adverts playing between songs. This means that you can listen occassionally to both brand new tracks and old favourites without paying a cent.

2. The $4.99 per month Unlimited plan allows you to stream unlimited music each month with no time limit and no adverts. You can’t however download music and listen to it offline, you can only stream from the internet. This is fine if you always have an internet connectino but does mean that you won’t be able to use Spotify when you’re travelling on planes or subway trains. You can however still purchase songs individually to download in the same way as you can with iTunes.

3. The Premium account costing $9.99 per month also allows you to download music to the spotify app for offline listening. This means that if you travel to work by subway with no internet connection then you can still listen to the music that you’ve pre-downloaded onto Spotify’s desktop or mobile app. As long as you maintain your spotify account you are able to listen to the music that you’ve downloaded. Terminating your account means that you lose access to everything you’ve downloaded.

With a Premium account, music can be streamed to both computers and mobile devices – including Apple and Android devices with a Blackberry app coming soon

There’s also no need to spend time uploading music to Spotify, the tracks are already there waiting to be discovered.

Spotify’s focus is on allowing you listen to a huge breadth of music rather than concentrating on the music you already own. As such it doesn’t provide some of the other features that iTunes Match offers such as uploading your own music to the cloud and providing you with legal copies of music that you may have illegally downloaded.

Thank you for the music

The two contenders have very different offerings. iTunes Match provides a way for you to store your existing music collection in the iCloud and then access it from a large number of devices. Even for $24.99 a year, you will still have to purchase any new music at the normal price from iTunes.

Spotify, by contrast, charges more at $60 per annum but allows you to listen to a vast selection of music from the world’s leading record labels and you don’t have to pay extra to listen to new music.

My personal choice would be Spotify but you can bet that, with Apple’s brand reach and its tight integration into iTunes and iCloud, iTunes Match will be a great success.

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