Buying Music From the iTunes Store

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Introduction to Music at the iTunes Store

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The homepage of the iTunes Store. iTunes copyright Apple Inc.

The iTunes Store has a huge selection of music—probably the world's biggest—that works seamlessly with your iPod, iPhone or computer. One of the great things about having an iPod or iPhone, in fact, is scouring iTunes for new music (and movies and TV shows and podcasts and apps) and grabbing all your favorites.

This step-by-step guide covers buying music—songs and albums—on iTunes (on your desktop computer only. You can also buy via the iTunes app on any iOS device). To learn how to buy other kinds of content, try this article about Apps.

To get anything from iTunes, the first thing you need is an Apple ID. You may have created one when setting up your device, but if not, learn how to set one up here. Once you have an account, you can start buying!

To begin, launch the iTunes program on your computer. Once it's loaded, go to the iTunes Store by clicking the iTunes Store button in the top center of the window.

When you're in the Store, you'll see an array of featured items. Many of them are music, but not all. You'll also see featured apps, TV shows, movies, podcasts, and more.

To find music, you have a few options:

  • If the item you're looking for is one of the featured items on this page, click it.
  • If you know what you're looking for, enter the name of the artist, album, or song in the search box in the top right corner and click enter.
  • If you want to browse the Store to see what's available, follow these instructions on how to browse the iTunes Store.
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Review the Results

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The search results page in iTunes. iTunes copyright Apple Inc.

Depending on which option you choose to look for music, you'll see a different set of results.

If you clicked the Music menu, you'll come to a page that looks a lot like the homepage of the entire iTunes Store, except that it only shows music. If you clicked on a featured item, you can skip to step 3 for further instructions.

If you searched for an artist, though, the page you come to will look like this (the search results pages for albums and songs look pretty similar). Along the top of the screen is a selection of albums by the artist you searched for. You can buy the album by clicking its price button. To learn more about an album, click on it. 

Beneath the albums are popular songs by the artist. Buy the song by clicking its price or listen to a 90-second preview of it by putting your mouse over the number on the left and then clicking the play button that appears.

To see all songs or albums available on iTunes by that artist, click the See All link in each section. When you do this, the page you get taken to looks just like the top of this screen, but with more albums listed.

Further down the page, you'll find music videos, apps, podcasts, books, and audiobooks that match the word(s) you searched for.

NOTE: Many text items in the iTunes Store are links. If they underline when you put your mouse over them, you can click them. For instance, clicking the album name will take you to that album's listing, while clicking the artist name will take you to all of that artist's albums.

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Album Detail Page

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The album detail page at the iTunes Store. iTunes copyright Apple Inc.

When you click on an album image to see more information about it, the screen you come to looks like this. Here you can listen to previews of songs, buy individual songs or the whole album, give the album as a gift, and much more.

The text at the top of the screen provides some background and context on the album. The sidebar on the left shows the album's cover art (which will appear in iTunes and on your iOS device after you buy), as well as its price, the year it was released, and other information. To buy the whole album, click the price under the album art.

At the top of the screen beneath the album title, there are three buttons: Songs, Ratings and Reviews, and Related.

Songs shows you all the songs included in this album. In the list of songs, you have a couple of major options. The first is to hear a 90-second preview of any song. To do that, hover your mouse over the number at the left of each song and click on the play button that appears. The other is to buy just the song—not the full album—to do this, click the price button at the far right.

There are a few other interesting options on this page. Next to every price button—both for songs and the full album—is a small down-arrow icon. If you click on that, a menu will appear that lets you do a number of things. You can share a link to the album on Facebook or Twitter, or email the link to a friend. You can also give the album as a gift to someone else.

The Ratings and Reviews button shows comments and ratings other iTunes users have made about the album, while Related shows songs and albums iTunes thinks you'll like if you like this album.

Make the choice you want—probably to buy a song or an album.

When you buy a song from the iTunes Store, it is automatically added to your iTunes Library. It is added in two places:

  • Your iTunes library, in the correct categorization
  • The Purchased playlist at the far left tray, when viewing your library by Playlist

Purchased content will be added to your iPod or iPhone the next time you sync.

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Pre-Orders and Complete My Album

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An album available for pre-order. iTunes copyright Apple Inc.

There are a couple of other buying features of the iTunes Store that you may find useful: pre-orders and Complete My Album.


Pre-orders are just what they sound like: they let you buy an album before it's released. Then, when it comes out, the album is automatically downloaded to your iTunes library. The benefits of pre-ordering include getting music right away and sometimes pre-orders include special bonuses only available to those who buy early.

Not every upcoming album is available for pre-order, but for those that are, you can find them in the Pre-Orders link in the right-hand sidebar of the music homepage, or by coming across the album you want to buy through browsing or search.

When you've found the album you want to pre-order, the process of buying it is the same as with any other album: just click the price button. What's different is what happens next.

Instead of immediately downloading to your iTunes library, your purchase instead downloads when the album is released. The album is automatically downloaded to the device you pre-ordered on and if you have iTunes Match enabled, it's also added to all of your compatible devices.

Complete My Album

Ever buy just one song from an album and then realize you want the whole thing? Prior to this feature, that meant either buying for the lower album price and paying for the song a second time or buying each song from the album individually and probably paying a higher price than if you just bought the album.

Complete My Album solves this by subtracting the cost of the song or songs you've already bought from the album price.

To complete your albums, go to the sidebar menu on the main Music screen in the iTunes Store and then select Complete My Album.

There you'll see a list of all the albums on iTunes that you can complete and the price you'll pay to do so versus the standard price. For any albums you want to complete, just click the price and you'll buy the remaining songs like normal.

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