Today I realised I’ve completely misunderstood what iCloud and iTunes Match do. It got announced at WWDC, and I, for whatever reason, assumed it was simply Cloud storage. In having a conversation with Mr. Colman on Google+ several hours ago, and the latest news that streaming has been added, the nature of what Apple pulled off dawned on me, and it’s rather impressive.
I haven’t downloaded music onto my PC in over a year, because I’m a happy Grooveshark subscriber, but, I know many people still do, and most likely, it’s pirated music.
The basic deal with iCloud + iTunes Match:
- $25 / year for up to 25,000 songs
- Stream and download your songs
- Access your songs on up to 10 compatible (iTunes or iOS requried) devices
- 256 Kbps versions of all matched songs, regardless of their original quality
iTunes Match doesn’t care if you’re a pirate or if you’re one of those crazy people that have purchased music; it will happily match any song you have with its 18,000,000+ song catalogue. If a match is found [I guess based on ID3 tags or the like], it’s added to your Cloud library, accessible anywhere.
Google and Amazon didn’t get the blessing of the record labels, and Apple not only did that, but they managed to have a conversation with the music industry that only they could.
It’s crazy, but, thinking and reading about it more, it makes sense. In 2009, apparently 95% of music downloaded was pirated, and, well, if the record labels get a cut of this $25 / year fee through royalties and what not, something is better than nothing. Also, I’m pretty sure basically everyone with an iPhone or iPad will cough up the $25 / year, so that something will be a decent chunk of change, all things considered.
Clearly this isn’t the best deal for the record labels, and I’m sure they would’ve happily kept going with their 99c songs and whatever the album price is these days, but with all the streaming music services that are bursting onto the scene, this move had to be made.
Apple are ultimately getting a lot more people paying for accessing their own music anywhere, but who knows how the mentality of these people will change a year into iCloud? Maybe they’ll be more inclined to start paying for music.
I said “anywhere” earlier, but it’s on PCs or Macs through iTunes, and devices running iOS 5.
Fact: iTunes is an utter piece of unusable, bloated crap that is almost a disgrace to what Apple is renowned for these days. No web player for the iCloud? iRonic.
I have no idea what Google Music is going to be priced at, but I’ll assume it’s dead on arrival. Amazon is priced higher by quite a way, and I’ll blindly rule that as a non-contender too. To be fair, I’ve read a surprising amount of people happy with Google Music; I’ve just been spoilt by the magic of Grooveshark.
Streaming music services like Grooveshark, Spotify and Rdio are platform independent, accessible anywhere, and provide you with a shared collection of music; not just your own. My Soundrack Madness playlist has over 1000 songs, and I never spent more than a minute finding, playing and adding an album to my collection. I haven’t uploaded a song either. That is what I call convenience. Owning your music is overrated, and so last century.
I have no doubt iCloud + iTunes Match will be a viable streaming music option for a lot of people not quite in the world of streaming music just yet. When will Apple’s actual subscription music service come out though?
Peter Kafka over at AllThingsD says Apple’s Cloud isn’t technically streaming. It seems like much of a muchness, since the song is locally cached before played, but, as Kafka says, the cache and how that’s handled is what needs to be clarified.
One way to think about this system might be “streaming plus”. That is – you get the instant access to your music via the cloud, with the ability to play it back on demand as well. The wild card here is the way Apple treats the cache (How big is it? How often does it get cleared? Etc.). I suspect the company won’t spell that out for users, because it doesn’t think most people will want to worry about it – they’ll just “download” the stuff they want to hear a lot, and not worry about anything else.