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Ask the iTunes Guy: More iTunes Match questions

[Ask the iTunes Guy is a regular column in which we answer your questions on everything iTunes related. If there’s something you’d like to know, send an email to the iTunes Guy for consideration.]

We’ve gotten more questions about iTunes Match than any other aspect of iTunes. This new service is not as polished as it could be, and users are perplexed by some of what they’re seeing. This installment of Ask the iTunes Guy looks at some of the issues plaguing iTunes Match.

Q: I’ve uploaded my iTunes library to the cloud via iTunes Match. Everything seems to come across on iOS devices except lyrics. Does iTunes Match not handle lyrics?

iTunes Match does retain lyrics you’ve added to your music (to add lyrics, select a track, press Command-I, then click the Lyrics tab and paste the lyrics in). When you download a track from the cloud to iTunes, the lyrics are there. One exception: in my tests, lyrics added to purchased tracks are lost when re-downloaded.

Those lyrics don’t, however, display on iOS devices. I see lyrics on my iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch for music synced directly from iTunes, but not for music downloaded from iTunes Match. I’m hoping this is a bug that Apple will eventually fix. In the meantime, don’t bother re-downloading music now to try and get the lyrics back.

Q: After turning on iTunes Match on my iOS devices, my songs sync fine but their artwork doesn’t. Is there something I can do to fix that?

I’m afraid the answer is: See previous answer. It seems that iTunes Match is a bit buggy regarding artwork. What worries me is that if you have matched music with artwork, then delete the music from your iTunes library and re-download it without artwork, is this permanent or just a temporary glitch? If you’ve spent a lot of time adding artwork to your music, I’d be careful not to delete any original files in case the artwork is permanently lost. Let’s hope that Apple updates iTunes Match to fix both this problem and the lyrics issue.

Q: A recent iTunes update apparently improved the matching algorithm. How can I easily get iTunes to try and re-match songs that have been previously uploaded but I know are in the iTunes Store?

The only way to do so—until Apple offers some sort of feature in iTunes—is to delete your music from iCloud, and re-match it.

First, find the tracks you want to rematch. If there are a lot, create a new, empty playlist, and drag them all there first. Then, drag these tracks from the iTunes window to a folder or to the desktop; you’ll need to re-add these tracks to your library later.

Next, select the tracks you want to delete, then press Delete (or Option-Delete or Command-Delete if the Delete key by itself doesn’t work). You’ll see an alert asking if you’re sure you want to delete the items from your iTunes library, along with a checkbox to also delete the items from iCloud. Check that option and click Delete Items.

Another alert will display, asking if you want to keep these songs in your iTunes Media folder, move them to the trash, or cancel. Click Move To Trash to remove the songs from iCloud and from your library.

Go to the tracks you saved earlier, and add them back to iTunes. You might even want to drag all the files to the playlist you created earlier so you can see their progress and the results of the matching.

Now go to the Store -> Update iTunes Match. Let iTunes try and re-match the files. You may have some luck, but in my tests, matching is not much better than it was at the start.

Q: I used Doug Adams’ Dupin to clean out duplicate songs in my iTunes library. But once I delete these tracks, iTunes Match just repopulates my library with them. How can I get rid of all these duplicates?

You probably just deleted the tracks from your library, but not from iCloud. Follow the instructions above (except for the part about saving copies of the files) to delete them both locally and from the cloud.

Q: My wife and I want to move to iTunes Match, but we are worried about one issue. My wife has a large classical music collection (she’s a piano teacher), and has spent many hours editing the titles of these pieces to make it easier for her to find a specific one. We are worried that iTunes Match will mess up all of these titles. Will that happen or am I being overly paranoid?

Fortunately, while iTunes Match seems to have problems with lyrics and artwork, all other tags are retained just as you set them. iTunes Match matches music by the actual sound in the files, using digital fingerprinting—it doesn’t look at the tags you set, such as name, album, or artist. You should be safe.

Q: I would like to sync my entire iTunes library to iCloud but I think iTunes Match is restricted to content I bought from Apple. I have lots of podcasts, iTunes U content and videos that I have created. How can I get these to sync?

iTunes Match is only for music, but not just what you’ve bought from Apple—you can match or upload any music in your library (up to 25,000 songs not purchased from the iTunes Store). As for podcasts, iTunes U, and other content, those still sync from iTunes to your iOS device as they always have.

[Senior contributor Kirk McElhearn writes about more than just Macs on his blog Kirkville. Twitter: @mcelhearn Kirk is the author of Take Control of iTunes 10: The FAQ, second edition].

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