November 24, 2011, 6:31 AM — With the release of iTunes Match and Google Music becoming available to all, music lovers are starting to move from "Do I want to put my music in the cloud?" to "Of course I do. Which service should I use?" Currently there are three major services in contention for your music--in addition to iTunes Match and Google Music, there's also Amazon Cloud Player. Here's how they compare.
Store tie-ins: Each service is linked to a store--iTunes Match with Apple's iTunes Store, Google Music with Android Market, and Amazon Cloud Player with Amazon MP3. Each service sells DRM-free tracks priced between 69 cents and $1.29--iTunes provides 256kbps AAC tracks, Android Market offers 320kbps MP3 tracks, and Amazon MP3 sells 256kbps MP3 files.
Price and storage: iTunes Match is a $25-per-year service. For that $25 you can have access to up to 25,000 tracks not purchased from the iTunes Store. You can store an unlimited number of tracks you've purchased from the iTunes Store, which don't count against the 25,000 track limit.
Google Music is free and allows you to access up to 20,000 tracks. You can additionally purchase tracks from the Android Market. Similar to iTunes Match, these purchased tracks are not counted against your 20,000 track limit.
Amazon Cloud Player provides 5GB of storage for free. Any tracks you purchase from Amazon MP3 are not counted against this limit. However, if you purchase any Cloud Drive storage plan (starting at $20 a year for 20GB of storage), you can store an unlimited number of MP3 and AAC files. Amazon tells us that this is a limited-time offer.
Match versus upload: One of the most significant differences between iTunes Match and the Google and Amazon services is matching. When you sign up for iTunes Match, iTunes will send Apple's servers a list of the music in your iTunes library. Any of the music in that library that's available in the iTunes Store will be made available to you as 256kbps AAC files--there's no need to upload these matched tracks.
Conversely, regardless of whether Android Market or Amazon MP3 have copies of your tracks for sale, you must still upload them to the companies' servers before you can access them. This isn't entirely desirable if you have a slow Internet connection or a stern bandwidth cap.