Everything You Need to Know About Apple Music

Apple Music app
image copyright Apple Inc.

Last Updated: June 29, 2015

After more than a year of the world wondering what its plans were, Apple introduced its Apple Music streaming service at the 2015 Worldwide Developers Conference. The new service will feel familiar to users of Beats Music, Spotify, and iTunes Radio, but it also represents a major step for Apple away from music sales in iTunes and towards streaming.

The basic ideas for Apple Music are fairly easy to grasp, but there are lots of details that people have questions about. In this article, you'll find answers to some of the most common questions about Apple Music.

What Is Apple Music?

Apple Music is a new app that comes built into the iOS that provides four different ways for users to interact with music. It replaces the previous Music app. The four aspects of Apple Music are:

Streaming Service—The marquee feature of Apple Music is Apple's new Spotify-style streaming music service. During the rise of digital music, Apple had focused on the sales of songs and albums through the iTunes Store. This was so successful that Apple ultimately became the largest music retailer in the world, online or offline. But as streaming has replaced buying music, the iTunes model has appealed to fewer people. 

When Apple bought Beats Music in March 2014, getting access the to Beats Music streaming app and service was one of the major reasons. Until now, Apple has operated Beats as a separate app. With Apple Music, it's integrating the Beats Music concept—user-controlled streaming music, customized playlists and discovery features, subscription pricing—into the iOS Music app and into iTunes.

Users will be able to save music from the streaming service mixed in with the music stored in their library so that music streamed from the Internet is handled the same way as that played from their device.

  • Radio—Apple Music includes a modified version of iTunes Radio. While it offers a modified approach to the previous version of iTunes Radio, and also adds a new 24/7 streaming radio station called Beats 1. Beats 1 is programmed by DJs Zane Lowe, Ebro Darden, and Julie Adenuga. There is no limits to the number of song skips users can perform in Radio in iTunes Music. 
  • Curation—Apple is rejecting the idea that algorithms can figure out what music you'll like most and is replacing it with expert curation. This will show up in Apple Music in the form of playlists created by experts. Rather than targeting these playlists at users based on their information and demographics, it will simply provide playlists that curators think are great for different occasions.
  • Connect—A pseudo-social network for fans to keep up with and connect to artists. In it, musicians can post content—music, photos, text, etc.—and users can follow their updates, comment on them, and more. Think of it as a music-focused combination of Instagram, Tumblr, and Facebook.

    Is It the Same Thing as iTunes Radio?

    No. Itunes Radio is a component of Apple Music, but not all of it. iTunes Radio is a streaming radio service in which the user can create stations around the kinds of music or artists they like, but they can't control each song they hear or save music offline. In this way, iTunes Radio is more like Pandora or streaming radio. The other major aspect of Apple Music, on the other hand, is more like Spotify, an infinite, user-controlled jukebox.

    That said, iTunes Radio is also changing dramatically with the release of Apple Music. Gone are the earlier user-created, algorithmically generated stations from the earlier version. They are replaced with Apple's new Beats 1 24/7 streaming station programmed by celebrity DJs and musicians. In addition to that, there are pre-made Apple Music radio stations, as well as the ability for users to create their own stations. 

    Is It a New Mobile App?

    Not for iOS users. For iOS users, Apple Music just replaces the existing Music app that comes with the iPhone and iPod touch without them needing to do anything. But for users on other platforms...

    Does It Work on Windows? What About Android?

    For Android users, there will be a new standalone app. This app will replace the current Beats Music Android app (and is the first time Apple has released an Android app). Windows users can take advantage of Apple Music through iTunes, though there will be no native Windows Phone app or support for now. 

    What Does It Cost?

    Apple Music costs US$9.99/month for individual users and $14.99/month for families of up to 6 people.

    Is There a Free Trial?

    Yes. New users get a 3-month free trial of the service when signing up.

    What If I Don't Want to Sign Up For Apple Music?

    No problem. If you don't want Apple Music, you don't need to sign up and you'll still be able to use the Music app like you did in the past—as a library for songs synced from your computer or iTunes Match.

    Does Apple Music Use Apple ID?

    Yes. To use Apple Music you'll log in with your existing Apple ID (or, if you don't have one, you'll have to create one) and billing will happen through the credit card you have on file with Apple.

    Do Family Plans Have to All Use the Same Apple ID?

    No. Enable Family Sharing and each user in the family will be able to use their own Apple ID.

    Can You Save Music Offline?

    As long as you have a valid Apple Music subscription, you can save music offline in your iTunes or iOS Music app libraries. If you cancel your subscription, you lose access to songs saved for offline playback. Apple will reportedly limit users to 100,000 songs saved for offline playback.

    Does It Include the Full iTunes Store Catalog?

    Essentially yes. Apple says that the Apple Music streaming service will have 30 million songs, which is roughly the size of the iTunes Store (though there are some notable exceptions, like The Beatles). There may be some omissions at launch as Apple irons out some contracts, but expect to find most of what you get at the iTunes Store in Apple Music.

    What is the Encoding Rate of Music in Apple Music?

    Apple Music will be encoded at 256 kbps. This is lower than Spotify's high-end 320 kbps, but it equals the quality provided by Apple in music purchased from the iTunes Store and matched with iTunes Match.

    How Does It Affect Beats Music Users?

    It some ways it changes a lot of things for Beats Music, in other ways not so much. The major difference is that Beats Music users will have to transition to Apple Music. They can choose to do so now or will be forced to in the future (likely with the release of iOS 9 this fall). Apple is making that transition easy—just open Beats Music after Apple Music debuts and you'll be prompted to transition.

    Otherwise, pricing for the service remains roughly the same, they'll be able to import their playlists and collections to Apple Music, and will have access to an even better catalog of music.

    When Is Apple Music Available?

    Apple Music is being released as part of the iOS 8.4 software update, scheduled for release on June 30 at 8 am PT/11 pm ET. For Android, the Apple Music app will be released in the Fall.

    For iTunes, it's part of the next iTunes update, set for release in late June as well.