PSA: Don’t cancel your iTunes Match subscription if you deleted your matched music


Your own matched music re-downloaded from Apple Music gets DRM added

Since Apple appeared to have rolled the functionality of iTunes Match into Apple Music, it was looking like there wouldn’t be any point in retaining an iTunes Match subscription if you were planning to continue your streaming music subscription after the free trial. But MacWorld senior contributor Kirk McElhearn found that there is one small but crucial difference between the two: DRM … 

With iTunes Match, if your own music doesn’t have Digital Rights Management restrictions, uploading it to iTunes Match doesn’t change that. If you delete your local copy of an album and re-download it, you get back a non-DRM version. But that isn’t the case with Apple Music. Download one of your own tracks from Apple Music, and it arrives as a DRM-locked version.

It’s been suggested that this may have been a condition imposed by music labels for allowing Apple to wrap the match functionality into Apple Music. If so, it wouldn’t be the first time this has happened. Either way, if you’ve used iTunes Match as a convenient way to free up space on your Mac by deleting your own copy of any of your music, don’t cancel your subscription in favor of Apple Music if you want to keep that music DRM free.

If you haven’t deleted your own copies of your music, then there’s nothing to worry about. If you download onto other devices from Apple Music, those devices will get the DRM versions, but you’ll still have your DRM-free originals.

We learned earlier that Apple also quietly removed Home Sharing support for music in iOS 8.4.

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  1. alethomas - 8 years ago

    Well, that’s good to know.

    So, by canceling iTunes Match those matched songs transitions to Apple Music but then get DRM protected? Now, I really have some decisions to make… I was definitely thinking about canceling iTunes Match…

    • Günther Wieser - 8 years ago

      That’s not 100% correct. What you described only happens when you have deleted your local copy of your iTunes Match songs, then cancel the subscription and then download from Apple Music.

      If you have a local copy of your music, nothing changes as long as you do not delete your local copy.

      • Benjamin David - 8 years ago

        What exactly do you mean by “local copy”? Is that still what is matched on iTunes…or the actual file that takes up space on your hard drive?

      • Günther Wieser - 8 years ago

        Local copy means local file that consumes hard disk space.

    • Havic (@HavEyeC) - 8 years ago

      I keep a copy of my library in Google music, so if I delete my local copies I will re download from there.

  2. tmrjij718 - 8 years ago

    Thanks for this article. Was thinking about deleting my local copies until this.
    Also, nice profile Ben.

  3. The Gnome (@gnomehole) - 8 years ago

    Let me get this straight, if I still have iTunes match and “match” an album, remove my crappy copy and download from Apple it will now have DRM restrictions? Or am I ok as long as I continue with iTunes Match? I much prefer managing my own library of music than streaming services, but did add the Music subscription to augment Match.

    • alethomas - 8 years ago

      If you keep iTunes Match you keep the free-DRM aspect of your library, but if you cancel iTunes Match all those songs you have uploaded previously through Match… Gets transitioned over to Apple Music… And you lose your free-DRM songs.

    • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

      Thomas is exactly right. There’s no problem if you either keep local copies of your own music or use iTunes Match. The issue is only if you delete your local copy and end your iTunes Match subscription.

      • Claude-Michael Comeau - 8 years ago

        This isn’t quite true. You only get the DRM version if you download the track FROM Apple Music. If you have it in your iCloud library from a non-Apple music source, DRM is not added. I can email screenshots of the differences if you want them.

      • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

        Claude-Michael, do you mean if you originally bought the track from iTunes it gets DRM and if you bought it elsewhere/ripped it from CD it doesn’t? If so, screenshots of the two would be helpful, thanks.

      • Claude-Michael Comeau - 8 years ago

        And to clarify, my iTunes match ran out yesterday, so I don’t currently have it. Still can download my matched tracks with no DRM.

      • Claude-Michael Comeau - 8 years ago

        Tweeted you screenshots.

      • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

        Got them, thanks. So, to clarify: Adele was not bought from iTunes and Lianne La Havas was?

      • Claude-Michael Comeau - 8 years ago

        Adele was not bought from iTunes. There should be a third screenshot of a Daft Punk song that was purchased from iTunes, and Lianne La Havas is just a straight Apple Music download. Both the Adele and the Daft Punk song are free from DRM when I download the songs from iCloud. The Lianne La Havas song is not, and has the FairPlay version 2 sticker. But any song I already had uploaded or matched to iTunes Match pr purchased from iTunes remains DRM free.

      • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

        Interesting – it seems different people are seeing different behaviours when apparently doing the same thing.

      • Claude-Michael Comeau - 8 years ago

        Tweeted another screenshot of what happens when I go to Apple Music and redownload the same Adele track THROUGH Apple Music.

  4. dfresh1988 - 8 years ago

    And I was just beginning to think the end of music piracy was nigh.

    • tomtubbs - 8 years ago

      If they hadn’t added it, then music piracy would be even more rampant –
      If Apple Music didn’t have DRM, a pirate could just subscribe to Apple Music, save locally massive amounts of music, then cancel the subscription, leaving all that music for the cost of the subscription.

      • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

        It ought to know what music you own in the same way iTunes Match does, without needing to apply DRM to the files. Applying DRM to tracks you don’t own is of course completely understandable.

      • truth42 - 8 years ago

        Maybe. If ‘Make Available Offline’ actually worked.

      • Roger Hill - 8 years ago

        DRM for music doesn’t make any sense. There are many DRM converter tools on the net. What you describe is actually possible with or without DRM. Pirates get their music for free anyway. With DRM you just piss off all the honest customers.

  5. I think with Apple Music, Apple had no choice to put DRM with music…. because if you cancel your Apple Music account what will happen with the music you store offline ? Without the DRM, it’s impossible for them to track… So with the DRM, Apple can track and the songs won’t be able to be played anymore. when you cancel.. I’m sure Spotify is doing the same when you take music and put it offline, it’s attach to your account.

    And this is normal and will be only for songs download from the Apple Music Catalogue.

    • alethomas - 8 years ago

      I think the issue being that canceling iTunes Match and having those matched songs transition to Apple Music becomes DRM-protected.

      Those matched songs under iTunes Match was previously fine, but Apple Music changes that. I wish I could cancel my iTunes Match & not worry about whether or not my songs are DRM-protected or not.

      • Andre Godoi (@ranutso) - 8 years ago

        This is still a little unclear to me. But your point is also my point.

        So if I had iTunes Match and now cancel it in favor of Apple Music, will my previously matched songs be downloaded with DRM or not? I’ve read other comments and it seems like different people are having different results.

      • iSRS - 8 years ago

        But if you deleted local copies when subscribed to iTunes Match, then had nothing to do with Apple Music, and then cancelled your iTunes Match subscription, you wouldn’t get anything back.

      • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

        iSRS, sure, but many of us would have assumed that – if we had an Apple Music subscription – we could let our iTunes Match subscription lapse.

  6. James Thomas - 8 years ago

    I am not sure what i am doing differently, but all my music is still showing as MATCHED.. i can select to Delete the files by selecting “remove download” this removes it from my iCloud Music Library, and when i re-download them on any device, this includes phone and iPad it shows as MATCHED and has no DRM.. if i select to listen to an Apple Music playlist offline then those songs are DRM.

  7. PMZanetti - 8 years ago

    As long as I can keep my iTunes Match subscription and continue DRM-Free, I’m happy. I’ve deleted thousands of crappy mp3s and replaced them with high quality AAC from the iTunes Store. Those are MY files as far as I’m concerned. Transforming into DRM would be criminal.

    • Air Burt - 8 years ago

      And nothing changes if you switch to Apple Music, unless you delete your local files.

  8. Sounds like two sleazy moves they tried to slip into this new service without mentioning either. Count me as unimpressed.

  9. sgtowns - 8 years ago

    I have iTunes Match, and now I have a few songs that Apple Music couldn’t find in my collection (I guess) and downloaded a DRM version of the song. If I click delete on that Apple Music song, it deletes the old non-DRM version and I can not re-download it from iTunes Match. I can only download a DRM version. So if Apple Music is going to replace my music with DRM versions, this is a huge problem.

  10. This is incorrect. I never owned match and all my non-itunes/apple music songs have no DRM on them. Maybe some server issues but I dont think this is a policy. Seeing the same with many of my friends.

    • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

      If you’ve never had iTunes Match, how did you delete the tracks and get them back?

      • I uploaded a test library of 2000 songs yesterday. These were ripped songs I got from non-apple sources All those songs have a cloud icon next to them. They are always in the library right?

  11. Brandon Billingham - 8 years ago

    This doesn’t seem to be true. I’ve just downloaded a song from Apple Music and it has DRM, then a song I had matched in iTunes match previously (subscription ended yesterday) and it has no DRM.

  12. Aristomenis Tsirbas - 8 years ago

    Oh boy. Looking for advice here… A while back I locally deleted my entire DRM-free music library but kept everything on the cloud via iTunes Match to save drive space. But in light of learning about this new DRM issue I want to re-download everything before I drop iTunes Match in favor of Apple Music. So, if I do this while still an iTunes Match subscriber AND Apple Music free trial subscriber, will my songs now download as DRM versions?

  13. Mike (@MdcMikedc00) - 8 years ago

    Please don’t rip me, but total newbie question, how would a DRM impact me? If I am planning on keeping my Apple Music subscription active, would it matter to me either way if all my old iTunes Match music now had a DRM?

    • ctpide - 8 years ago

      Theoretically, if you want to pay for iTunes Music forever and only want to use Apple compatible devices, you are fine … as long as Apple is fine as a company and doesn’t close down Apple Music (keep in mind that they have closed services before, though).

      The problem you could face today is a limitation in WHERE you are able to play your music. Maybe you’ll say: “But I will always use an iPhone to play my music”. Maybe that is true, but you will completely lock your music into the Apple eco-system. Any car-stereo / bluetooth speaker / hi-fi entertainment system that you want to play your music on, needs to be able to speak to an Apple device and this will mostly work, but as soon as you drift away from the bigger commercial players and think about free software / open source solutions, suddenly, your music is simply inaccessible, because there is no iTunes for Linux.

    • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

      Well, this is the problem with DRM – it may not impact your usage at all, or it may stop you doing the one thing you most want to do. Short of being able to predict the future, we can’t tell, which is why many of us want our music to remain fully within our control.

  14. paulthefencerfencer - 8 years ago

    I don’t understand why people would want to delete their local copies of songs from their devices. Doesn’t that mean that from then on when you want to listen to the music that used to be stored on your idevice, that it now streams it, using up data, whether it be wi-fi or cellular?

    • chrisl84 - 8 years ago

      Some people prefer to use their local storage for other things than music esp. those with unlimited data

      • That makes sense. Although my “unlimited data ” actually tops out at 10 gigs then they slow me way down. I listen to a ton of music so for me, local storage makes more sense.

    • ctpide - 8 years ago

      The point for me is that you can delete SOME of your less interesting songs and still keep them in reach. You don’t delete ALL of them, generally, unless you are constantly on WiFi (like me) or have unlimited cellular data.

      For example I happily deleted all songs from my Mac to free up space and now can constantly stream through iTunes Match – no download required. And with unlimited internet (at home), I don’t have to worry about using up data.

      For mobile, of course this is a little different, but still I couldn’t even put all my music on my 16 GB iPhone … so with iTunes Match I can sync songs whenever I feel like it (usually while being on WiFi) from the cloud and delete the ones I don’t want to listen to anymore right now.

    • Geoff Fitch - 8 years ago

      I agree, if you mean why would people delete their local copies *and keep no other back up of them*

      So far it appears that the rumors of your music being replaced by DRM versions is exaggerated. Anyone actually have that happen?

  15. chris (@SocialDude27) - 8 years ago

    Synching problem with iTunes to iPhone: Since the os8.4 upgrade using apple music, i’ve noticed that (non apple catalog music files) such as say a home dJay mix will NOT synch to iPhone from lap top. EX: Created a playlist with mixed file. I also added a regular song that IS recognized by apple catalog. That song synched but the other song did not. They are both AAC files so the format i’m sure had no bearing. I should also mention, that i do not have iTunes match. Any thoughts? Can you only synch files that are apart of the apple music catalog? One other mention, the dJay mix is also in iCloud library and shows (uploaded) in iTunes.

  16. Um, I still have an iTunes Match subscription, why is my music coming through as being downloaded from Apple Music? Something isn’t right…

    • Air Burt - 8 years ago

      If you still have iTunes Match, then it doesn’t have DRM even if it says it’s coming from Apple Music.

  17. Caleb Harrison - 8 years ago

    I don’t understand…you should have explained in more detail. Why should I care if a song is DRM protected or not? I can still listen to the song, can I not??

    • Air Burt - 8 years ago

      Because people don’t like that you can’t take it anywhere you want. Some music players/apps don’t let you play protected files. Plus if you stop your Apple Music subscription, you’ll lose the ability to play those songs. So don’t ever leave the Apple ecosystem.

    • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

      You can listen to DRM’d music on a permitted number of permitted devices. It’s unlikely to make a practical difference to me personally, but you never know what devices may come along in the future, and I’m opposed to the principle of retrospectively applying restrictions I didn’t agree to at the time of purchase.


Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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