One of the big questions about Apple’s upcoming iTunes Match is how the online music service will handle songs acquired from non-standard sources, like analog LPs, or yes, file-sharing networks.
Coming this fall, iTunes Match will scan your iTunes library and make available in the cloud all the songs you’ve purchased online or ripped from CDs.
But Apple hasn’t explained what will happen with songs encoded from sources like tapes or LPs; or those couple of tracks you accidentally downloaded from a file-sharing network and forgot to delete. Will iTunes Match reject these songs or make them available?
In theory, the system should recognize most digitzed music. Apple has explicitly said it will not discriminate based on source, and someone likely ripped the songs from CD before sharing them with the world.
We’ve found a way for you to check how iTunes Match will treat your music library before Apple makes it public.
iTunes Match is above all a convenience feature. It makes your music library available in the cloud without having to actually upload it. Here’s how it works:
iTunes determines which songs in your collection are available in the iTunes Store. Any music with a match is automatically added to your iCloud library for you to listen to anytime, on any device. Since there are more than 18 million songs in the iTunes Store, most of your music is probably already in iCloud. All you have to upload is what iTunes can’t match. Which is much faster than starting from scratch. And all the music iTunes matches plays back at 256-Kbps iTunes Plus quality — even if your original copy was of lower quality.
Whether the technology is based on metadata or audio fingerprinting like MusicBrainz, Apple hasn’t said.
“… the iTunes Match service uses Gracenote MusicID to help recognize tracks in a user’s existing music collection.”
Gracenote’s MusicID is an advanced music-recognition system that can identify songs from CD, digital files like MP3s or audio streams. It then matches songs against Gracenote’s vast library of music metadata. It is already built into iTunes — to add song and artist data to music ripped from CDs. It is also behind the Genius recommendation engine. MusicID is not directly available to the public, but is used by Spotify, Yahoo Music, Winamp and Pandora, and many others.
Gracenote’s MusicID also powers TuneUp, a $30 plugin for iTunes that cleans up your music library.
Using Gracenote’s MusicID, TuneUP scours your iTunes library, fixing mislabeled tracks. It can add song metadata to the myriad untitled tracks and fix mistakes like spelling errors.
The plugin is available for both Mac and Windows, and should give you a pretty good idea how your iTunes library will shape up when Apple releases iTunes Match. In other words, if TuneUp recognizes tracks that you’ve downloaded from questionable sources, chances are that iTunes Match will also.
TuneUp attaches as a sidebar window to the main iTunes window. You simply drag tracks you want tuned-up to the TuneUp window. It runs an audio fingerprint scan on the files and fixes the metadata on tracks it recognizes. Songs that aren’t recognized are unchanged.
Here is a short video of it in action:
It may not recognize everything in your iTunes library. TuneUp only supports .mp3 and .m4a files.