Yesterday I received an email outlining the activation of iTunes Match from the Apple Developer Program mailing list. Match was announced at Apple's World Wide Developer Conference this year and was originally described as a service to "back-up" your iTunes library, even if you ripped or pirated the music. With the email last night came the news that it will also allow streaming of the music to any iTunes library or iOS device (and hopefully the web later down the line). This peaked my interest, since "backing up" my music wasn't enough to sell me on the $25 a year commitment.
I'm no stranger to streaming services. In the past year I've used Google Music Beta, Amazon's Cloud Player, Rdio and Spotify. All four service left me wanting more, in their own unique way. I missed having my own library when using Spotify and Rdio. Even though you can import your current library, it doesn't feel like your own, knowing the day you stop paying a monthly fee you'll loose it all. Google Music Beta and Amazon's Cloud Player both offer your library in the cloud. The downside with these is the lack of mobile access through an iOS device (Android apps are available though). Without this the appeal in minimal.
iTunes Match puts your library in the cloud by matching the music you have locally with the music they already have through iTunes. There is also access on all iOS devices (Apple TV is currently missing from the list, but I'm confident we'll see something here by the time Match is officially released this fall). For all of the music that couldn't be matched, Apple will allow users to upload up to 25,000 songs.
The biggest concern I have is the intentions of Apple and the music industry to allow users to upgrade their music and store/sync it online all for $25 a year. It's no secret that I've invest a good deal of resources into the Apple ecosystem, Apps, eBooks, TV series', but I don't think I'm willing to trade in all of my music for drm-free (embedded information) versions of all of my music.
Obviously the upside of not having to carry around a 20 GB library is tremendous. No more agonizingly long transfers when setting up a new computer or iPhone. No more deleting old tracks after running out of space on whatever size hard drive I'm using that month. The idea that for a small fee I no longer have to worry about the space my music takes up, this alone may be worth the cost. For some the upgraded quality that Match allows may be a plus, but I'm ok with my V0 rips. I'm quite curious about bandwidth usage and offline syncing as well. If I do sign up for Match, you can bet curiosity over streaming bandwidth is the culprit.
So the question is, if I give Apple all of the music I've amassed over the years, however I came about it, will they give it back to me no questions asked? Or will I end up with one more leg in the Apple ecosystem hole I've dug, paying them a $25 and up in taxes annually to be there?