Apple’s cloud services can be confusing. There’s iTunes, iTunes Match, and Apple Music. What are the differences? Which ones should you use?
iTunes on the Mac is the music, movie, podcast, and syncing app on the Mac. For now. With this fall’s macOS Catalina, it’s been broken up into Music, Apple TV, and Podcast apps. Syncing will be a Finder feature in the upcoming operating system update.
However, the iTunes Store (pictured above) will remain as the go-to place on your Mac to buy and rent music, movies, and podcasts.
Apple Music (pictured below) is a music streaming service that costs $9.99 per month. You can try it free for one month; the trial period was originally three months, but Apple has whittled that down. There’s a family plan for $14.99/ month providing service for up to six family members. All you need to do is set up iCloud Family Sharing on your iOS device or Mac and invite family members to join the group.
iTunes Match (pictured below) is a $24-per-year service that stores all your music in iCloud—even songs imported from CDs or not purchased in the iTunes Store—and
Both Apple Music and iTunes Match have a library storage limit of 100,000.
The following is my personal preference so keep this in mind: If you want to use Apple Music, using it along with iTunes Match is your best choice if you already have a large music library.
Why? The biggest difference between Apple Music and iTunes Match is that Apple Music doesn’t own the music it streams due to DRM (digital rights management) protection. Songs from Apple Music can only be accessed while you have an active subscription. When you cancel your subscription, the music goes away.
Your iTunes Match subscription also includes an iCloud Music Library. Songs added are made available to your other computers or devices in 256 Kbps DRM-free AAC. Since they’re DRM (digital rights management) free, any of the songs that you save offline can continue to play, even after your iTunes Match subscription ends. That’s the big difference from Apple Music.
Of course, Apple could make all this much simpler by making iTunes Match an “add-on” to Apple Music for, say, $2 a month.
By the way, both iTunes Match and Apple Music have a 25,000 track storage limit. Apple’s Eddy Cue has said that this limit will be increased to 100,000 on Apple Music this year. I’m not sure if that applies to iTunes Match.