iTunes Match is a great new service from Apple, allowing subscribers to “match” their iTunes music library with the online iCloud version. This allows people like me with large MP3 collections to “upgrade” to the official Apple iTunes Plus 256 kbps music files. But iTunes Match often stumbles over music files, marking some as “Not Eligible” and seemingly not recognizing others. Here’s my solution to the former problem, and perhaps the latter as well.
Some iTunes Match Limitations
You should also read How to Legitimize and Upgrade Your Music Library Using iTunes Match
iTunes Match only allows music files greater than 96 kbps to be “upgraded” from the iTunes Store. But it appears to have difficulty with variable bit rate (VBR) MP3 files: These often show up as having very low average bit rates. Some in my collection were marked as low as 32 kbps, even though they sound great.
I suppose Apple created this limit to keep people from pirating tiny, ultra-low bit rate files and then upgrading them using iTunes Match. But it caused havoc for my library, eliminating a huge number of files from Match eligibility. Happily, I’ve stumbled upon a quick fix for the “Not Eligible” issue!
The iTunes Match algorithm also seems to have trouble with other files, seemingly at random. Rather than marking these as “Matched”, iTunes uploads them as unknown files. This is happening frequently in my music library, and the songs marked this way often do exist in iTunes. I’m not sure what can be done about this except to wait for a updated version of iTunes.
Fixing “Not Eligible” VBR MP3 Files
The fix for VBR MP3 files that appear to be too low bit rate to iTunes Match is simple: Re-encode the file as AAC using iTunes and force iTunes Match to try again. I’ve documented this process in a video, embedded below, but will go through the steps here as well.
First, locate a file in your iTunes library that is flagged “Not Eligible.” I created a Smart Playlist to do this, but it’s fairly easy to just scan through the list of songs. Right click on the song and select “Get Info” to see how Apple sees the bit rate. In most cases, “Not Eligible” songs are actually just detected incorrectly.
Create a backup copy of the song file by dragging it into a folder, then right-click on it and select “Create AAC Version” to re-encode it. When this is done, delete the original MP3 version from your library and iCloud, leaving just the AAC file behind.
Now, right-click on the new AAC version of the file and select “Add to iCloud” to force iTunes Match to reanalyze it. If you’re lucky, iTunes Match will change the status to “Matched”.
If your AAC replacement is “Matched”, go ahead and delete the file again but leave the iCloud copy untouched. You can now download the official 256 kbps version from iTunes!
iTunes Match is a great service, and well worth the $25 annual subscription, but it’s frustrating to see files that can’t be matched. Using this technique, I fixed about half those obvious errors. Let’s hope Apple improves the matching algorithm in future versions of iTunes!