The complete guide to Apple Music: Get the lowdown before you sign up

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, Amazon Music, 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.

Update 03/10/23: Our guide is updated to include details on Apple Music Classical.

What is Apple Music?

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 90-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. The app is also available for Android phones, on many smart TVs, streaming boxes, and even game consoles. You can also access Apple Music on the web at music.apple.com.

How does Apple Music differ from the iTunes Store?

Not at all. The iTunes Store is all about media purchases, 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.

catalina music itunes store

Starting with macOS Catalina, the iTunes Store can be found in the Music app on the Mac.

Apple Music is all about streaming. You pay a flat fee to unlock access to Apple Music’s entire catalog, 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.

What makes Apple Music different from Spotify, Tidal, etc? 

While the premise and nearly all of the music is the same, Apple puts a lot of emphasis on Apple Music’s radio stations and its curated playlists. 

Apple Music 1 is its main 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. There’s also Apple Music Hits, with everyone’s favorite songs from the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s, and Apple Music Country, featuring country music.

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 100 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 Apple Music cost?

Apple Music costs $10.99/£10.99 per month, or $16.99/£16.99 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. A new Apple Music Voice plan, with limited functionality, became available with iOS 15.2 and macOS 12.1 for $4.99/£4.99.

There is no free version of Apple Music, but you new subscribers can sign up for a free tiral. If you cancel during the trial, you do not get another opportunity at a free trial. The free trial length is one month for new subscribers, though there are longer offers in conjunction with the purchase of audio hardware or Apple hardware from specific retailers. See: How to get Apple Music for free

What devices can get Apple Music?

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. Apple Music is available on several smart TVs and streaming boxes, as well as some game consoles. Apple Music Voice is only supported on Apple devices, however.

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.

What is Apple Music Classical?

When Apple purchased Primephonic in 2021, it promised its own classical music streaming service in 2022.

Apple Music Classical is that curated service, launching on March 28 2023.

This is a separate app, with a separate library of over 5 million tracks focused on classical music with quality up to 192 kHz/24-bit Hi-Res Lossless.

It has a similar interface to Apple Music, but is customized for the classical genre.

Most importantly, Apple Music Classical requires an Apple Music subscription (and Apple Music Voice does not qualify). There is no separate subscription just for Apple Music Classical.

Apple Music 101: Quality, compatibility, offline listening, and more

How’s the music quality? Apple Music streams songs at 256kbps, which is the same rate as iTunes Match. That’s a bit of a drop from Spotify, which tops out at a 320kbps bitrate. Select Apple Music tracks and albums are available with Apple Music Lossless at no extra charge. But the big advantage of Apple Music is the newer Spatial Audio feature for select music. It’s not available for most of the 100-million song catalog, but it makes a big difference for those tracks where it is available.

Can I save music to listen to offline? Yep! Apple Music lets you save tracks to listen to offline—you can save as many songs as you’d like, as long as your device has space for them.

But remember: You won’t own those files and you won’t be able to offload them anywhere else. You can’t burn them onto a disc, use them in separate video projects, or put them on other devices that aren’t linked to your Apple Music account. If you decide to cancel your Apple Music subscription, you’ll lose access to those songs.

The offline listening feature is a great option if you’re concerned about data overages, or if you know you’ll be in an area without a good wireless connection.

Is there a limit to the number of songs you can have in a playlist? Not that we’re aware of! Add away.

How do you tell it what songs you don’t like? When listening to a playlist or radio station, you can skip any song you don’t like (except for in Apple Music 1, which is live). While this should signal to Apple Music that you don’t want to hear that song or artist again, it might be finicky at times. You can hit the three dots menu (…) and choose “Suggest less like this” to show your displeasure.

Why is there stuff on the iTunes Store that isn’t on Apple Music? It all comes down to the deals Apple has made with various artists and record labels. Some artists are not interested in streaming services.

What about podcasts? Apple makes podcast available through its Podcasts app on the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac. 

Can I use Apple Music through the web? Yes, there is a web interface. In your web browser, go to music.apple.com. You can log into your account and access you playlists, songs, and more. The web interface is a lot like the Music app for the Mac, and it’s a handy way to access your music when you’re not using one of your own devices. Don’t forget to log off if you’re using computer that others can use.


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