UPDATED: iTunes In Cloud Might Not Recognize 80% Of Your Music, Says Expert [Exclusive]



UPDATE: I totally screwed this one up. When my contact, TuneUp founder Raza Zaidi, told me iTunes in the cloud has only 20% of the all the music listed in Gracenote’s big database of music, I interpreted it to mean that the upcoming iTunes Match service would mirror only a fraction of most music libraries. What I failed to realize was that 20% of music in iTunes represents the most popular 20%. The remaining 80% is all the music in the long tail. So when Apple rolls out iTunes Match in the fall, it will indeed likely mirror most music libraries, just as Apple claims. In a clarifying note, Zaidi says matches will likely be 95% or higher. In addition, the Get Album Artwork feature in iTunes isn’t powered by Gracenote, as the post implies. Sorry for the mistakes. Teach me to post before my morning coffee.

When iTunes Match goes live in September, Apple promises to instantaneously match any of the tracks in your iTunes library to the iCloud… as long as it already has your music in its mega music library. What Apple hasn’t said is that as much of 80% of your music might not be recognized by iTunes Match… and the only way to get that music into the iCloud will be to spend days manually uploading gigabytes at a time.

Earlier this week, we revealed that Apple’s upcoming iTunes-in-the-cloud service will use Gracenote’s MusicID technology to match your music library with songs in the cloud.

Apple has said its upcoming system will match songs with millions of tunes already online. “Since there are more than 18 million songs in the iTunes Store, most of your music is probably already in iCloud,” Apple says.

But the service may actually recognize a lot less of your music library, says one digital music expert, citing numbers that are already publicly available.

Raza Zaidi, the founder and former CTO of TuneUp Media and now a Digital Media Consultant with Jadugar, says the 18 million songs in the iTunes Store represents only 20% of all the music in the Gracenote database that MusicID can recognize.

Zaidi says this subset of songs were either released on CD (and GraceNote has gathered the fingerprints) or are newer digital releases, and the record labels have provided digital fingerprints to Gracenote.

So when Apple rolls out the iTunes Match feature in the fall, it should do a good job of matching your tunes: if your library is made up of newer digital releases and mainstream CDs.

Gracenote’s MusicID is already built into iTunes. It runs iTune’s Genius sidebar, the music recommendation system.

“All this is public knowledge,” said Zaidi. “It is not very well known that Gracenote powers the Genius sidebar but it is public.”

Zaidi said iTunes Match should be able to recognize just about all the music it has a fingerprint for, regardless of the source — CD rip, file-sharing network, or vinyl LP.

“The fingerprint of a vinyl rip and a CD rip is very similar and MusicID does surprisingly well on vinyl rips,” he says. However, he adds, “I’ve never done a large enough sampling to get a real percentage rate.”

“Recorded streams may be harder because MusicID needs the first 6-15 seconds. If the recorder didn’t capture a song (from the radio, say) from the beginning, or a DJ is still talking, the fingerprint can be a mismatch.”

Overall, Apple will be able to host your entire music collection in the cloud, but depending on how you procured your music, the difference between iTunes Match and competing cloud lockers like Google Music and Amazon Cloud Locker might not be as dramatic as you think.

Try it now. Open iTunes and try to “Get Album Artwork.” (Note: Get Album Artwork isn’t powered by Gracenote). If iTunes doesn’t recognize any of your music enough to pluck album art from its servers for it, it probably won’t automatically mirror those tracks to the iCloud. Instead, when iTunes Match is launched, you’ll have to upload those tracks physically to Apple’s servers… and depending on how much music you have, that could take a very long time and use up a lot of bandwidth.

Are the limitations of Apple’s iTunes Match technology likely to affect you? If so, how badly? Let us know in the comments.

  • Matt Wood

    It may not recognise 80% of Gracenote’s music, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t recognise 80% of the average user’s music! I suspect that most iTunes libraries are made up predominantly of fairly popular and/or digitally-released music.

  • m_hardwick

    So basically every single song I have then… you would think it would use a variety of methods – MusicBrainz, Shazam et al.

  • Wayne_Luke

    Using ‘Get Album Art’ won’t tell you anything if you have been diligent and always update metadata and assign art to your ripped CDs and tracks that don’t match. I know a lot of my music won’t match because I buy it from local artists and festivals. However, I always assign art to it either from the group’s website or scans of the CD cover. I suspect that music I buy from other sources such as Amazon MP3 will match though.

  • John Delfino

    I’m going to be in trouble.

  • Anon Developer

    All a bit worrying! I’m hoping, somehow, Apple has some secret algorithm up its sleeve which is considerably more powerful than the existing stuff!

  • aebrett

    That “as much of (sic) 80% of your music” is an utterly ridiculous statistic – the relationship between the size of the iTunes Store in comparison to the GraceNote DB, and the percentage of songs unmatched by iTunes Match of the average user is far more complex than simply (1 – iTunes/GraceNote). If nothing else, that implies that, if the GraceNote DB were smaller, then more of a user’s music would be likely to be matched, which is obviously a ridiculous assertion. Furthermore, there will be users who only listen to obscure ‘fringe’ artists, who may have as much as 100% of their music unmatched.

  • Steven Washington

    The 80% figure is interesting. I would have to say that I would only be concerned with 35 to 40 percent of my music. But I guess I’ll find out just how good iTunes Match is in the fall.

  • Raza Zaidi

    Raza Zaidi here…to set the record straight, I never said “iTunes In Cloud Might Not Recognize 80% of Your Music” as it says in the title. I said that Apple has stated that they will only match to what is in the iTunes Store (18M tracks) and that Gracenote’s MusicID has 100M tracks in its database. The title of the article is, well, journalistic license.

    No one has 100 Million tracks in their collection (if they do, they’re more of a music junkie than I am..which I thought impossible) of which iTunes will only recognize 18Million….the 18Million in iTunes represent very popular tracks…so recognition rates for the average user should be well above 95%…

    Regards, Raza

  • quietstorms

    iTunes can be weird with cover art. I’ve seen it give me the wrong cover art for some music (Ex: Bad Company). I’ve also noticed that iTunes won’t give me the cover art for an album they have in the UK store but not in the US.

    I’m also surprised at how much is missing from iTunes. There are a lot of partial albums (Ex: Kill Rock Stars) and they have music videos for songs they don’t have.

  • m

    apple never mentioned anything about the user manually uploading all unmatched songs.  I bet it’s all automated upload.

  • Raza Zaidi

    Another minor clarification — Get Album Artwork doesn’t use Gracenote’s MusicID technology. I am not exactly sure how it works but I would guess it does a text match from existing metadata in the music file to Apple’s iTunes store database. If you really want to know how well iTunes Match will do, download the trial version of TuneUp the product I am proud to have built…

    Regards, Raza

  • Ted Garey

    “Get Album Artwork” does not always depend on the song titles to match. I have had different song titles under the correct artist and album title according to iTunes Store and iTunes would find the artwork to match the artist and album title. In that respect, even the album title does not have to be one hundred percent correct as long as the artist matches up. 

    For example, the album “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying (The Musical Comedy) [Booklet Version]” has an extremely long and annoying title in the iTunes Store. As long as the artist (or the album artist) was correct in my library (“Daniel Radcliffe & John Larroquette”), iTunes would grab the artwork for the album “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” even though the extra descriptors weren’t present in the album title.

    I am not sure that iTunes Match will work in quite the same way that Get Album Artwork does. I have seen Get Album Artwork be very lenient on user inputed data to match to artwork and I do not think Apple will give the benefit of a doubt and deem items “purchased” in iTunes Store based on user inputed data as Get Album Artwork does.

    Grabbing artwork for tracks is not the same as owning those tracks. I guess we will have to see how lenient Apple will be. Honestly, this entire service seems permissive, but we will have to find out how allowing Apple will be and what constitutes “already in my library.”

  • Geof Abruzzi

    I’m guessing that 80% figure is about right for me.  I have about 8000 tracks, 36 of them have come from iTunes Store, about 2000 were LP rips of music that has never made the transition to CD, about 1000 are from defunct labels, and the rest are pretty obscure.  Another problem is since I ripped many of my CDs before iTunes ever existed, and early mp3 players (and early versions of iTunes) didn’t handle gapless playback, I combined tracks when ripping.  This is the case for my entire opera collection, as well as a bunch of other pieces I have.

  • George Elliott

    Have Apple mentioned anything about uploading your own tracks? Wouldn’t that mean they could potentially be hosting pirated music?

  • 300AShareMakesMeSmile

    Same here.  All my Freestyle vinyl rips that I’ve run through Peak Pro and remastered and extended are never recognized by Apple’s iTunes Genius.  It’s always like “D’uh, I’ve found no match. Select something else.”  I honestly have no hope at all of ever getting some iTunes Match love.  I don’t care, though.  I can easily buy a NAS and keep all my music on there.  I’ve never bought a single song from iTunes, so I don’t really expect them to support me.  What point would there be even if they could even match my songs by name, since the files would be totally different?  I still think that Apple’s iTunes Match will be awesome for users who bought music from iTunes for years.  So, it just doesn’t suit my unusual case.

  • bd7349

    If “Get Album Artwork” doesn’t work, all you need to do to get is to search the song on the iTunes store, write down the artist, album name, and song name, go back to the song you’re trying to get album artwork for, right click on it and click on “Get Info”. A window will open with a bunch of tabs at the top. Click on the “Info” tab. When the “Info” tab is open you’ll see a lot of different things, but all you need to focus on is Name, Artist, and Album.

    Now, go back to wherever you wrote down the artist, album name, and song name and put each piece of information in their respective sections. The song name goes in the “Name” box, the album name goes in the “Album” box, and the artist name goes in the “Artist” box.

    This is how I get all my album artwork. :) Works great for me although it can be time consuming and it won’t work if there is any typos so it can be annoying, but for the most part it works great lol.

  • Wayne_Luke

    They did. During the WWDC Keynote. It is also mentioned in the iCloud promotional pages on their site. See: http://www.apple.com/icloud/fe

    The annual fee you pay is going to be licensing fees to the music companies. Anyone with 100% legal music will be subsidizing the legalization of other people’s pirated works.

  • Wayne_Luke

    More methods mean more licensing fees which in turn means higher costs for the consumer.

  • George W

    Apple said they would scan your music, and if they find something they don’t have, they will get it. NO uploading required. Alot of tech writers seem to miss this point and it is right there in the keynote

  • George W

    again, people are getting freaked out over nothing., To reiterate to a reply post. Apple will scan your music and if something is not in their database, they will get it. That is one of the main reasons why they had to get license deals.

  • Guest

    Thats why I will use (continue) to use Google Music. A very small percentage of my music is actual mp3. (most were from amazon) The rest was ripped from CD’s at a 320kbps.

    iTunes (match) could have “matched” my burned CD’s but not the quality.  Long story short, even with iTunes match, I would have to upload (almost) all of my music to the cloud. Plus with the added benefit, I’m able to play (stream) my music on any computer. As long as there is an internet browser and internet, I can listen.  That’s the feature I need the most, and last I checked, iTunes in iCloud dosen’t do that.But If I’m wrong, let me know.

  • Patrick Rankine

    Sorry to say this, I do quite like Cult of Mac, particularly being a dedicated Apple user, but these types of articles which are clearly NOT researched or just interpretations are a shining beacon as to why there is such little credibility in journalism. Yeah I know anyone can post on a blog, but more and more things on this website appear to be nothing more than a first thing in the morning thought that somehow becomes an article… since its blatantly incorrect, instead of posting an “oops I f**ked up” apology, how about REMOVE IT ENTIRELY…. PS – This isnt necessarily a go at Leander but allot of content that appearing on here in general
    Rant over…

  • petergiger

    The never ending drive to be first with the news…. :)

  • Aleksandar Živanov

    Yeah here’s the secret algorithm: “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.” Taken from iCloud site…

  • Chris Brunner

    I understand where you are coming from BUT… That’s why retractions are created. They SHOULD keep the post up, people are human after all. (IMHO)


  • Chris Brunner

    Really… Who cares if iCloud doesn’t recognize some garage band from Ohio.


  • Weston Miller

    I’m a developer and just got iTunes match.  I wasn’t going to get it because I don’t really need it, but I just got a new mac and my time capsule back up corrupted some of my music not bad but a lot of pops and squeaks.  I used the match and it only recognized 400ish songs out of my 3000 songs I have.  Total waste of money.  I hope when it get officially released it’ll be better.

  • Andre Martial

    Something weird happening with my library and what Itunes Match recognizes. Some files tagged as “MPEG audio file” won’t get recognized, even if they from the same album as songs tagged as “Audio MPEG”. Same happens with songs tagged as “AAC audio file” and “Audio AAC”. It’s really strange since, as I mentioned, it recognizes some songs of an entire album, and 2 or three of the same album don’t get recognized.

  • Robert

    I have been ripping vinyl with an Ion turntable and included software. The songs were sent to the Cloud but not matched. It is nice to have your music on a cloud’ but the matching is what I was hoping would work.

  • Juan Carlos Ventura

    For me Itunes Match only recognized 70% of my songs the other 30% was backup in Apples Server, great don’t you think?