General Question

2davidc8's avatar

What does having an iTunes account do for me?

Asked by 2davidc8 (4687 points ) December 29th, 2011

I wound up with some iTunes gift cards. I understand that they can only be used to buy stuff in the iTunes store. So, what does setting up an iTunes account allow me to do? What are the advantages? Someone told me that there a lot of hassles and restrictions. For example, you can’t readily move music from one device that you own to another, you can’t burn music or videos to CDs, the music is in a proprietary format, etc., etc. Is this correct?

Also, I was checking the iTunes terms and conditions, and it says,
“You may download previously-purchased free content onto an unlimited number of devices while it is free on the iTunes Service, but on no more than 5 iTunes-authorized computers.” Huh? “previously-purchased free”? How can something be purchased yet free? What can they be talking about?

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15 Answers

dabbler's avatar

There are some items offered free on the iTunes store, and occassionally something is offered free as a promotion. If you had those on one machine, presumably you could get the same stuff on another machine.

I haven’t done it for a while but unless they changed iTunes you can burn to a CD tracks you either have purchased or have uploaded into iTunes yourself from CD.

iTunes is pretty handy for “ripping” CDs you already have onto your computer. Also there are a bunch of “radio station” channels in all sorts of genre that can be fun to listen to – I’m pretty sure you have to use your account to log in for that.

zenvelo's avatar

“Purchased Free” is what they call songs or other items you get from redeeming those little giveaway cards you can get at Starbucks or from other promotions.

You can designate up to five devices to access your library, such as an iPod or a computer.

I have burned music to a CD without problems, but the use is restricted, you can’t burn too many copies.

SmashTheState's avatar

Nothing useful. That’s what an iTunes account does for you. Sell the card on eBay or give it away to someone you know who doesn’t have a computer. There are many places you can acquire music in formats which are freely transferable between devices – and it won’t cost you a penny.

(Note to moderators: In the country where I reside, Kanada, downloading music is not – yet – an illegal activity. Because the RIAC, the Kanadian version of the criminal syndicate known as the RIAA, fought for and won the right to place a levy on the sale of every recording device in Kanada, people have already paid for the music through their taxes every time they purchased a blank CD or a cassette tape. It is illegal to freely upload music without greasing the palm of the RIAC with baksheesh, but not to download it. So I am not advocating illegal activity. If you should live outside of Kanada, then my advice above does not apply and you should immediately throw your computer down the Memory Hole and report to the Ministry of Love for processing.)

elbanditoroso's avatar

Absolutely nothing, unless you are an Ipod/Ipad person who has bought into the entire Apple ecosystem (or prison).

Essentially by downloading and using Itunes you are agreeing that Apple can manage you music collection for the forseeable future, subject to their pricing, their whims, and their licensing agreements. Many people are comfortable with that cocoon. Many people are not.

robmandu's avatar

iTunes no longer wraps DRM around music… at all. Music is downloaded to you in AAC format… which is a standard and supported on nearly all MP3 players… not just the iPod. Your iTunes music can be freely and easily distributed to all of your devices and computers.

This is not true of videos, tv shows, or movies, though. That’s because the video industry still has the wrong-headed belief that strangling control through the use of DRM is a good thing for them.

AAC provides superior audio quality over MP3. That’s why Apple uses it… and why it’s a widely supported standard. You can still get MP3-format music from a lot of places though, like mp3.amazon.com.

iTunes is primarily intended to act as a digital hub to manage content for your iPod/iPhone, although it can do a lot more than just that. If all you want is music, it’s probably overkill for you.

Charles's avatar

Give it to someone else as a gift. Unload it. Craigslist it. Ebay it. Anything. Get rid of it. Don’t get dependent on iTunes.
As others mentioned, iTunes and iPods are very limiting services/devices. There is very little if anything iTunes or an iPod does that a person couldn’t do with a generic portable music player from WalMart. You can get music from anywhere – much of if free – and that’s if you do it legally. If you use torrent tools you can get anything for free from places like Pirate Bay.
iPods are very restrictive in Windows environments – lots of major syncing hassles. They also don’t play wma. Any other generic portable music player simply plugs and plays to any computer – no resyncing hassles – they are basically mass storage devices that also play music. You can simply drag music files into the “music” (or whatever) folder.
I think people have really become victims to Apple’s marketing and hype and “cool and hip” billboard ads. Apple has the support of musicians because of Apple’s music protection philosophies so your average consumer sees cool and hip billboards coupled with support by their “favorite music stars” and boom, they buy ipods. iPods don’t sound any better than any other player.

jaytkay's avatar

There seems to be a strong (and wrong) belief that iTunes means buying all your music from Apple, and it chains all your music to an iPod.

You don’t need an iPod to use iTunes.You can use iTunes without ever buying anything from Apple

I use iTunes on my Windows computers. Most of my music I ripped from CDs. I buy some music from Amazon. Maybe 5% of my music was purchased from Apple.

And as @robmandu points out, iTunes music is not DRMed. I play music purchased from iTunes on my Android phone all the time.

So @2davidc8, back to the original question – you need an iTunes account to spend your gift cards. After that you are free to ignore the account forever.

SABOTEUR's avatar

Dunno what the hubbub’s about. I used to be anti-Itunes…before I started using it. And I find it to be a lot of fun. It’s also a great source of free stuff, which I download (or “purchase”) rather frequently.

Occasionally, I’ll get an urge to carry a particular movie on my Touch, so I’ll track it down on Itunes and download it. No fuss, no muss.

It really just depends on the user. Either you like it and have a use for it…
...or you don’t.

Give the cards away to someone.
Heck…I’ll buy them from you…I’m sure I’d use them eventually.

Be thankful you have something that can be easily negotiated for cash or something you’d find more useful.

(Feel free to contact me if you decide to sell them.)

2davidc8's avatar

@SABOTEUR Yes, that’s why I asked this question. I’m trying to determine what all I could do with an iTunes account and gift card, to see if I would have any use for it.
Thank you to all of you who replied. The gist of the replies seems to be that everything that I could do in iTunes I can also do outside of iTunes, but if I have more than one of those i-devices, it just makes things more convenient.

I do have some follow-up questions.
I gather that the iTunes account that I establish and that holds stuff I purchase or upload is in the so-called “cloud”, right? (i.e., servers at Apple).
(1) So, can i upload CDs without ripping?
(2) Normally, boomboxes don’t have Internet connectivity. But, can I connect the boombox to an iPad, iPod, or iPhone and have these devices access my iTunes account and play the music through the boombox? If not, how about connecting the boombox to a laptop to access my iTunes account?
(3) Is the music that I purchase through iTunes always compressed (MP3 or AAC)? I wonder about the quality.
(4) Can I access the music that I’ve uploaded to my iTunes account from a public computer or from someone else’s house?

@zenvelo Thanks for the explanation of “purchased free”!
@SmashTheState Thanks for the link.

2davidc8's avatar

Oops, i think I should phrase question #4 a little better:
(4) Can I use a public computer or someone else’s computer to access the music that I’ve uploaded to my iTunes account?
Thx.

jaytkay's avatar

I gather that the iTunes account that I establish and that holds stuff I purchase or upload is in the so-called “cloud”, right?

Not really. Until very recently iTunes downloaded to a computer or ipod or ipad.

Now they offer iTunes Match. For $25/year it will sync among all your iTunes-running devices. But the files are still downloaded to your machines(s).

Google does have a cloud music storage service. It uploads your music, and you can access the music from any device on the web.

I use both. On my computers I use iTunes to play music. At the same time, Google Music uploads the files, and I can listen to them on my Android phone or from any computer on the Internet.

More reading…

Lifehacker: How iTunes Match Works and Whether You Should Subscribe

Google Music

robmandu's avatar


(1) So, can i upload CDs without ripping?
Ripping is necessary to copy the CD’s information (music) off of the disc. Once you’ve made a copy, you can upload it anywhere you want. I’m not aware of any ripping software that wraps DRM around the music copied off disc. iTunes can, of course, rip music from CDs.


(2) Normally, boomboxes don’t have Internet connectivity. But, can I connect the boombox to an iPad, iPod, or iPhone and have these devices access my iTunes account and play the music through the boombox? If not, how about connecting the boombox to a laptop to access my iTunes account?
If you’re talking about an older boombox, then that’s why you can burn music back to CDs and play it that way – or use the auxiliary input jack. Else, I suggest considering some iPod-specific boombox if you want access to your complete library. That latter route would also allow you to play music from streaming sources like Spotify, Pandora, I Heart Radio, etc, too.


(3) Is the music that I purchase through iTunes always compressed (MP3 or AAC)? I wonder about the quality.
All music downloaded from iTunes is encoded in AAC format. AAC is designed to provide better quality than MP3 at similar bitrates. If you’re buying your music thru iTunes, Amazon, or any other such major name brand, I wouldn’t worry about the quality at all for 99% of us. Chances are that a true, hardcore audiophile would likely have a different opinion about any such form of lossy compression, though.


(4) Can I use a public computer or someone else’s computer to access the music that I’ve uploaded to my iTunes account?
Sort of. You have to “authorize” that computer – it counts as one of the “5 iTunes-authorized computers” you saw in the iTunes terms & conditions. I don’t recommend that approach for “public” or other such temporary locations. Instead, you can setup iTunes on someone else’s PC to access the music library on your iPod/iPhone over wi-fi and play it that way. Then you can share your music at a party or something, but not leave a copy behind (which makes the record labels happy).

2davidc8's avatar

@jaytkay and @robmandu Thank you for your Great Answers! Sorry for sounding so ignorant, but I’m starting from scratch here, as far as knowledge of Apple products. May I ask follow-up questions to #1 above?

So, if music that I’ve purchased/uploaded to iTunes are not actually on Apple’s servers, then I may wind up with multiple copies of the same music on my computer and various i-devices, if I choose to sync them, right? If so, that seems to be a bit of a minus because that’ll eat up a lot of storage.
Finally, if I have a CD that I’ve purchased, say, at a brick-and-mortar store, and I “rip” it to my computer and “upload” it to iTunes, what does “uploading” actually do, since it doesn’t go onto Apple’s server? And if I want to play this music on an iPad, how does this music get over to the iPad? Wouldn’t it be easier to just copy the music over from my computer directly to the iPad without involving iTunes (if this can physically be done, that is).

@robmandu Thank you for spending so much time on such a fabulous answer above! Your suggestion for #4 sounds great. I’m going to try it!

jaytkay's avatar

I may wind up with multiple copies of the same music on my computer and various i-devices, if I choose to sync them, right?

Correct.

Finally, if I have a CD that I’ve purchased, say, at a brick-and-mortar store, and I “rip” it to my computer and “upload” it to iTunes

iTunes will copy the songs to your computer as AACs (by default) or MP3s or Apple Lossless files (you can choose the settings).

They aren’t uploaded anywhere unless you enable syncing with something like iTunes Match or Google Music.

iTunes Match copies your music among your devices, not the cloud. Google Music copies it to Google’s servers.

iTunes Match lets you play those songs on your Windows, Mac and iOS devices where you install iTunes and log in with the same account. Google Music lets you stream music to any web browser, or Android and iOS apps.

Wouldn’t it be easier to just copy the music over from my computer directly to the iPad without involving iTunes
Unless you have a small, unchanging music collection, manually syncing between machines is a nuisance. It really gets tiresome.

2davidc8's avatar

@jaytkay Thank you for another Great Answer! Thank you for the comparison with Google Music. Sounds like with Google Music I may not need iTunes. I’ll look into it!

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