Update: Bad Tracks from iTunes Match: Who Do You Complain To?

A number of people have found that iTunes Match sometimes matches incorrect tracks; not that the songs are wrong, but that the versions might be wrong. This seems to happen especially with music that has been remastered. iTunes may match either an original or remastered track, and the user who matched the track may have tho one that iTunes doesn’t have. This can be a problem, if, say, you prefer an original album over a remastered version, or vice versa.

But I today I found, for the first time, a bad track coming from iTunes Match, one with an audible problem. It’s one of an excellent set of Bill Evans recordings, The Last Waltz, from the summer of 1980, just before his death, made at the Keystone Korner; the song is Your Story, While iTunes matched these tracks, I was listening to some of this music today, and found a bad track. There’s a gap of about a half-second at one point in the track. Looking at it with Rogue Amoeba’s Fission, you can clearly see the missing chunk of music:

If this happens, you’re basically screwed. Who can you complain to? Contact the iTunes Store? I doubt anything will happen. The only way to have a good copy of the track is to take your original and make sure it stays in your library; if you ever have to download it again, you’ll get the track with the gap. It’s worth noting that this track is not available on the iTunes Store. This makes me wonder exactly how they match such tracks; do they match them to tracks that other people have uploaded?

I don’t expect this will happen a lot, but the fact that it happens at all shows the weakness of this system. iTunes Match clearly needs an option for tracks that you don’t want matched, ones that you want uploaded, because the matched version may not be the same as yours.

Has anyone else found matched tracks that have similar problems?

(As an aside: if you like Bill Evans, there are two box sets of this run at the Keystone Korner, in San Francisco, between August 31 and September 8, 1980. The Last Waltz is music from the first sets, and Consecration has tracks from the second sets. Just a week before his death, Evans was playing some of his finest performances. These two box sets, together with Turn Out the Stars, recorded at the Village Vanguard in June, 1980, comprise 22 discs of astounding piano music.)

Update: my son came across a bad track today. It’s a match of Philip Glass’s Witchita Vortex Sutra, from the Minimal Piano Collection box set. There are clicks throughout the track, with one big dropout at 4:25:

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27 replies
  1. Chris says:

    From what I can tell, it sometimes matches tracks to stores in other countries, leading to a song being linked to a track that isn’t actually available for purchase in your default country.

    • kirk says:

      That’s an interesting thought. I wonder how the record labels feel about that though. Their contracts are generally very strict regarding territories. The ability to match something they don’t have the right to sell seems to me to be, well, copyright infringement (unless they have a deal with the record companies allowing cross-territory access).

  2. Tyler Regas says:

    Well, this is whistle blowing at it’s finest. One track has a missing gap and definitively shows how weak the idea is overall? Even if there are dozens of tracks with gaps, it indicates nothing about the supposed weakness of iTunes Match. It simply reveals some fixable gaps in Apple’s current quality control system. Or, it could reveal that you have an issue with your ISP or your network in that it’s dropping packets somewhere and still passing along the “data” resulting in gaps.

    Like everything, Apple will fix it. Be patient. While music is important to me and I’m unhappy when presented with something that disturbs that, it is, in the end, only music. I don’t require it to live, and I would be surprised if you were significantly different than me in this regard.

    Now, in regards to the seeming lack of ability to contact Apple for any issues, I’d be pleased to illustrate how that works. I hope that these steps help:

    1. Go to iTunes
    2. Click on the Help menu and select the Apple Service and Support link. This takes you to https://expresslane.apple.com/Symptoms.do.
    3. Click on iTunes > iTunes Store > Purchases, Billing & Redemption and click on Continue.
    4. In the next page, select Quality of Purchased Content and fill out the form and click Continue to move on. Everything is rather self-explanatory from there.

    So, we can either act like companies are impenetrable fortresses who simply grift customers out of money and then post a complaint on your blog or you can simply use the available technical support tools.

    • kirk says:

      I think you’re missing something about how iTunes Match works. Suggesting that my ISP is dropping packets is, well, not an issue. The file is simply bad; I’ve re-downloaded it, and it’s bad again. But it’s matched; it’s not a file that I uploaded.

      As for support, iTunes support is generally very good regarding purchases. But this is not a purchase. And I’ve heard from several people who have had no luck getting any real support regarding iTunes Match issues.

      So, yes, I’m going to “whistle blow.” (Though that’s not what whistle blowing means…) Because this is one bad track, and because there are others. Some people get different versions of tracks, as I mentioned, others have gotten tracks that don’t play. I’m not saying that the idea is “weak … overall,” simply that the lack of an option not match a track will lead to problems for many people.

  3. Tyler Regas says:

    If you read what I wrote before, you will see that I suggested bad packets as a possibility based on the information you had given. In the article, you only suggest that it would happen again should it be downloaded again, not that you had actually done that.

    Regarding the idea that iTunes Match is not a purchase is inaccurate. You purchase the service for $24.95 a year, clearly making it a financial transaction, and subject to the terms and conditions of purchases from Apple. I believe that this means there is no question that it should be a purchased content support issue.

    The issues regarding Apple supplying different tracks than the ones in your library is a problem. I do agree that users should be given the option to include or exclude a track or, more specifically, full albums from the Match program. Again, however, I suggest that Apple has a rather positive track record when it comes to improving functions over time.

    It is, after all, beneficial to Apple to offer products and services that meet the needs of the users, as they have done for years.If they don’t, they risk losing the gains they have made since 1997.

    • kirk says:

      All due respect, but I wouldn’t have considered posting this if I hadn’t downloaded the file again, and if I hadn’t tried to match it again to see if I got a correct file (which I did).

  4. James says:

    Apple needs to solve this or people like me will not renew iTunes Match in 12 months. I can’t stand that iTunes Match matches 8 out of 10 tracks in an album. I have no way to fix this currently except by turning off iTunes Match completely and go back to syncing music.

    If Apple doesn’t give me a way to fix this by either forcing a match or by forcing an upload, I will not be renewing next year.

  5. Mike says:

    Apple has clearly stated iTunes Match is still in beta. I have faith they will correct the bad tracks (I’ve had about 30 myself), and update the matching algorithm so more tracks are matched. In three months we probably won’t even be talking about this.

    In the meantime, this is why we all keep backups of our music library, right?

    • kirk says:

      You’ve quoted an article. Show me where Apple labels it as such? Several people have claimed this is the case, but I haven’t seen anything. I think there was some misunderstanding because when it was first released, the word beta appeared somewhere for a few hours.

  6. Bud Clark says:

    I’ve had the issue with the “remastered” version replacing two originals (that I preferred). What I’ve done that seems to have worked is, restored the real tracks from a backup, then renamed the album (I prefaced the word “Original” to the title), and re-uploaded the songs. The (re-)downloads are the good originals. Not sure this will work in every case, but worth a try maybe.

    I’ve matched over 10,700 songs, and these are the only two glitches I’m aware of, but the overall issue of originals being replaced with remasters is absolutely a problem.

  7. godbout says:

    Got the issue with some albums from the Pink Floyd (Pulse Live). Wrong matching, I ended up with the album having non-gapless tracks which fucks the whole stuff. You should have 45 minutes of non-stop music and now you can hear each track individually.
    Fortunately I had a Time Machine backup, got back my old mp3s. So I’ll be fine on my Mac, but I guess my iPad and iPhone will be screwed?

  8. godbout says:

    I’ve made some more tests and the gapless issue is even more stupid than that. iTunes calculates the gapless information when you add the songs in the library. When you have iTunes Match, this information is sent through iCloud to your phone. The problem is that the files you have on your computer and the ones that get matched and downloaded on your iPhone are different, so the gapless information doesn’t work correctly! If you decide to remove the files from your library but keep them in iCloud, then force the download of the iTunes Store version, it’s not gonna work either because the gapless information is not recalculated (big miss from Apple here). To recalculate the gapless information you’ll have to download the iTunes Store versions, and remove the songs from the library AND from iCloud (then then song entry is really removed from the iTunes library). Add the songs back again and the calculation will be made and sent over iTunes Match, then it works correctly. Crazy.

  9. Des Dougan says:

    Over the last couple of years, I digitized all my vinyl albums and a smaller number of cassettes (using the excellent Amadeus software). I was enthused by the idea of gaining access to higher-quality versions of my music when I first read about Match; however, the reality is far different – some brand-new ripped CDs don’t match all songs (which I find quite bizarre) while classic albums that are available in the iTunes Store haven’t matched at all, or have only partially matched. Of over 6000 songs in my collection (mostly rock from the 70s onwards, with some classical and jazz recordings), about half matched. I find that extremely disappointing. The fact that there doesn’t seem to be a mechanism to resolve this is a poor decision on Apple’s part.

  10. xboxremote says:

    Although I haven’t come across any tracks that have clear gaps or noise in them, I have come across several tracks so far that are the incorrect version. The differences in versions is sometimes very small and most people probably wouldn’t notice. Sometimes the difference is far more noticeable. For somebody to suggest that it’s okay because he can live without those tracks is absolutely ridiculous. We paid for a service (as the same person pointed out) and they did not deliver. If it was a matter of life or death, then we’d be looking at a recall. Obviously the author of this blog is not looking for Apple to recall iTunes Match, but to simply deliver on their promise.

    I don’t necessarily agree with assuming the following about who to contact in regards to this issue: “Contact the iTunes Store? I doubt anything will happen.” However, I do understand the author’s frustration, because I too have not had good experiences with Apple Support in the past. It seems that anything they don’t want to fix falls under their “all sales are final” agreement. The only way we’ll know if they’re going to address this is to actually contact them and try instead of assuming.

    It’s also wrong to assume that Apple will address it because they’ll lose the gains they’ve made since 1997. Apple is not going to make this a priority, hands-down. Remember how hard it was to get Apple to address the “death grip” issue with the iPhone 4 on AT&T? And in the end, they still never explicitly admitted fault from what I remember. When a company gets this big, they have to prioritize. When they have to prioritize, certain issues (like this one) fall to the bottom of the list. When the smaller issues fall to the bottom of the list, they either stay there and a few users get pissed off, or they become a huge issue and the company addresses them. Since iTunes Match is so new (NOT beta), I have a feeling it still isn’t widely adopted. The people who haven’t adopted it yet are probably smarter than us. At least I made a backup of all my tracks before enabling iTunes Match.

    Sorry for the rant :)

  11. Jason says:

    Yep, had this happen to me, once with a recording of Beethoven’s 6th by the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Bystrik Režucha (a couple of the movements had about two seconds of silence on the end where it should have been gapless) and Chopin’s Nocturne No. 11 by Vladimir Ashkenazy (about 8 seconds were chopped off the end of the track). I “solved” the one case by uploading a joined track of the entire symphony, and in the other case, I was able to match a version I had downloaded earlier with a version that had the correct running time (well, actually, it had about 4+ seconds of silence, but that’s OK). There are probably other examples; I just haven’t come across them yet.

    3 things iTunes Match needs:

    1) Option to force upload
    2) Option to download metadata and artwork for matched tracks
    3) Option to prevent iTunes from adding track to iCloud (especially if you’re near the 25,000 track limit)

    I guess I could add (4) More accurate matching to that list, but I think that’s pretty obvious.

  12. doug says:

    Same problem here. Generally a bad download gets fixed when you download again. Unfortunately, I have thousands of tracks that I’ve downloaded in order to get higher res copies, and there’s no way to know which ones are the bad downloads until I either hear them (usually it’s a premature song cutoff) or when iTunes tries to downconvert them when sync’ing to my iOS devices. I wish there was some way to scan my library for bad tunes!

  13. Petr says:

    I hear you – Too many songs bought/downloaded from iTunes have got glitches, clicks, skips or whatever call it. This has always happened even before iTunes match and it always has been pain to get the money back. Not sure if that is possible with iTunes match though but I am now very very careful with replacing tracks and I am getting rid of old versions only if i have listened to the new versions. And I hear glitches not that rarely – in which case I get rid of all the Itunes versions and import my tracks back – pain pain pain.
    One might not notice unless listening via headphones – which I do most of the time :(

  14. Donso says:

    Same problem. I upgraded a whole lot of tunes–thousands that I had originally ripped from my CDs with low quality–via iTunes Match, only to find out that random tunes are bad–they cut off early. Unfortunately, I can find no way to detect which songs are bad (so I can try downloading again) other than the very manual method of having iTunes downsample them when putting them on an iPod. This will at least give me a list of all the bad songs–but I have to take screen shots of that list, find the songs manually, and restore them from backup one at a time. Really horrible.

  15. Scott says:

    I have noticed a problem with one MSI song in particular. I have all of the unedited cd rips and when it uploads one song it always gives me the edited version. I even deleted it from I tunes match and re uploaded the unedited version to get the same edited version streaming.

  16. Dan says:

    Today I discovered a problem with a bad track in iTunes. (“Home” by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros.)

    It wouldn’t play past the 30 second mark or so, even though it appeared to be a full length track.

    I was able to fix it by deleting it from my machine, re-syncing iTunes Match, then re-downloading the track.

    I hope this is helpful to anyone else having issues with iMatch.

  17. Cy says:

    I just signed up for Match last week, and apparently iTunes managed to turn one of my favorite songs, Linkin Park “Waiting for the End” into a horrible karaoke-esque version. I mean, holy cow, this one they matched it to is terrible. It literally sounds like someone singing over the original track. I hope there’s a way to correct this, because you can find the right one in the iTunes store very easily.

    • Matt says:

      Yes, I’m hearing this “Waiting for the End” version now, that’s what brought me here, trying to find a way to undo it. This version sucks!

  18. Zach says:

    “Country Road” by James Taylor off his album “Greatest Hits” is sung by a completely different person when downloaded from the cloud.


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