iTunes Match: A Tale of Missing Artwork

I recently had my iTunes Match subscription renewed. I was totally happy to do this considering the incredible convenience the service has afforded me. The ability to access my entire music library on any iOS device at any time is incredibly compelling. Of course, the service is not all sunshine and roses.

When iTunes Match first became available in Canada, I signed up for it immediately. At the time almost all of my entire music library I had was ripped from CDs that I owned. The initial scan and match worked pretty flawlessly, so far as matching the music that existed on Apple’s servers was concerned. The main issue that was pervasive across my entire library were albums with missing artwork. Perhaps you may be thinking this is a small issue to complain about, and yes it surely is cosmetic. I’m the kind of person that loves album artwork — I always have. It was only recently within the last twelve months that I started buying all of my music exclusively through iTunes (which guarantees high quality artwork).

For years I was a staunch self professed “audiophile” and insisted on buying CDs so I could rip and encode them in any way I deemed fit. It was about a year and a half ago, when I broke up with my girlfriend, that decided I no longer wanted to haul around huge bins of CDs. I spent several hours removing the inner sleeve of every CD I had and bagged them in convenient resealable plastic bags. The jewel cases were tossed in the garbage. That saved me so much space, I proclaimed from there forth I would go digitally only.

Growing up I always loved looking at the cover art on the sleeve of an album I had purchased. It’s no surprise that I would require the digital representation of my music library be equally beautiful to behold. My main gripe with iTunes Match is that even if it managed to match an album and make it available to download from iCloud, many times album artwork would refuse to download. The issue it seems to have is that unless the meta data of that album matches perfectly to what Apple has, it simply won’t work. The problem is compounded by double disc CDs that I had ripped. When you buy a special edition of what once may have been a double disc CD through iTunes, it’s sold as one album. Since those multiple CD albums were labelled “disc 1” and “disc 2,” it completely breaks iTunes Match.

Perhaps I’m asking an impossible engineering feat, but as a user and music lover, I had hoped Apple would have figured out a better way to match these kinds of albums to what already exists in the store. There has to be a way to fix this. There just has to be.