Apple singlehandedly turned the digital music marketplace on its head when it launched the iTunes Store in 2003. Since then, the iTunes Store has evolved into Apple Music, a music streaming service to compete with the likes of Spotify, Tidal, and other services.
Whether you’re new to Apple Music or have been a subscriber since day one, there’s a lot to take in—especially if you’re considering jumping ship from another service. Our guide to everything Apple Music can help set the record straight.
Apple Music: Getting started
What the heck is this thing? Apple Music combines subscription-based music streaming with global radio-like programming. It’s an all-you-can-eat service for subscribers: Pay a flat fee, and you unlock all of Apple Music’s extensive 60 million-song library.
The Music app, which is how you use the service, comes pre-installed on all new iPhones, iPads, iPod touches, and Macs. You can also access Apple Music on the web at music.apple.com.
Isn’t Apple Music the same as the iTunes Store? Not at all. The iTunes Store is all about media ownership, functioning as both a virtual record store and an efficient digital library for music that you own personally. On the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, you’ll find an iTunes Store app separate from the Music app.
On the Mac, the iTunes app went away; Apple released new Music, Podcasts, and TV apps. The iTunes Store is now a section of the Music app and you can still buy music there.
If the iTunes Store is about buying music, then what is Apple Music about? Apple Music is all about streaming. You pay a flat fee to unlock access to Apple Music’s entire catalogue, but you don’t actually own the music you listen to. The files don’t live individually on your devices; you’re instead just listening to tracks stored remotely, that are owned by Apple. If you subscribe to any other media streaming subscription service—be it a music-only service like Spotify or Tidal, a TV service like Hulu, or a movie/TV combo service like Netflix or HBO Now—Apple Music functions the same way.
Is iTunes dead? Not exactly. It has taken on new forms. You can access your entire iTunes library from within Apple Music—just tap the My Music tab (think of your iTunes library now as your music library). The iTunes Store still exists if you prefer to continue to buy music à la carte.
If you had TV shows and movies in iTunes, you will find them in in the TV app.
What makes Apple Music different from Spotify/Tidal/every other music subscription service? Apple puts a lot of emphasis on Apple Music’s Beats 1 and its curated playlists.
Beats 1 is its radio offering, which features an around-the-clock worldwide live broadcast from DJs based in Los Angeles, New York, and London. It delivers a curated selection of songs, pop culture news, and interviews with artists.
Speaking of curation, Apple Music also offers up recommendations tailored to your tastes, looking at artists you like and serving up other artists and playlists for you to listen to. But instead of being built by algorithms, they are built by real people, according to Apple. You can find these in the For You section of the app—but first you’ll have to set it up by following the prompts to select genres and artists you like.
Apple Music’s library has over 60 million songs. Oh, and you can also watch music videos without ads, and check out Apple’s exclusive original content.
Apple Music used to have an artist-based social networking feature called Connect. Artists were able to share special content with fans through Connect. For example, hip-hop artist Drake used the service to post behind-the-scenes photos of his life, share snippets of new songs, and other content. But Apple discontinued the Connect service.
How much does this cost? Apple Music costs $9.99 per month, or $14.99 per month for a family subscription for up to six people (which requires iCloud Family Sharing). College students can subscribe for $4.99 per month.
Can I try before I buy? Yes. Apple offers a free trial for new subscribers. If you cancel during the trial, you do not get another opportunity at a free trial.
Is there a free, ad-supported version? Sadly, no. Some aspects will be available to anyone who logs in with an Apple ID—namely, Beats 1, and the ability to listen to Apple Music radio stations with a limited number of skips. But a paid subscription is required to access Apple Music’s entire library.
What devices can I use this on? Apple Music is available for all iPhones, iPads, and iPod touch models that are running iOS 8.4 or later. It’s also available on the Mac and PC (via iTunes 12.2 or later, or through the Music app starting with macOS Catalina), Apple TV (running tvOS 9 and newer), and on Apple Watch. Android users can join in on the fun, too, if their device is running Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean) or newer.
Wait, did you say Android? Yes! Android users can sign up and have access to Apple Music’s complete catalogue, but they’ll miss out on its full array of features (like voice commands). Music for all!
Does it work with AirPlay? Yes! Each song or music video has an AirPlay button next to it—just tap it and select the device you want to beam to.
Which countries have access to Apple Music? Apple Music is available in more than 100 countries worldwide, including the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia, Japan, Brazil, and India. Check out Apple’s complete list for more info.
Moving to Apple Music from other streaming services
I have an iTunes Match subscription. If I subscribe to Apple Music, do I still need iTunes Match to keep my complete music collection together? According to Apple, iTunes Match and Apple Music are completely separate services, so it will be up to you to decide if you’d like to keep iTunes Match. If your personal music collection has a lot of rare tracks and content that you can’t get through Apple Music, then you may want to consider keeping both subscriptions. Check out our explainer to learn more about how Apple Music and iTunes Match work together.
I spent years perfecting my playlists on Spotify and iTunes. Can I import these into Apple Music? Your iTunes playlists will automatically be pulled into Apple Music when you set up your account, as will the rest of your iTunes library.
However, if you use Spotify, Google Play Music, or any other music subscription service, you’re out of luck. There is no easy way to directly import your playlists into Apple Music. There are some third-party playlist importers out there, like Stamp, but we haven’t tried any of them.