Apple Music, Apple’s new streaming music service, launched at the end of June. The service rivals Rdio or Spotify, where users pay a monthly subscription fee in exchange for access to a broad music catalog. With Apple Music, a large portion of the iTunes music catalog, along with a new Internet radio station called Beats 1 is available for $9.99 per month. Families can subscribe to Apple Music for $14.99 per month, sharing the service with a total of six users.
Not ready to pay just yet? The first time you sign up for Apple Music, you’re given a three-month free trial to use and abuse the service. After that, your iTunes-linked credit card will be charged the monthly fee. (Don’t worry, we’ll cover how to disable auto-renew in a bit.)
Time to Update
In order to begin using Apple Music on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, you’ll need to make sure your device is running iOS 8.4 or above. You can check for an available update by launching the Settings app, tapping on General, and then Software Update.
If there’s an update available, follow the prompts. It’s not a bad idea to have your device(s) plugged in and charging, along with a strong Wi-Fi connection, to ensure the process goes smoothly.
Mac OS X and Windows users will need to update iTunes to the latest version, currently sitting at 12.2.1.
Windows users can launch iTunes, and then go to File, Check for Updates. OS X users can launch the Mac App Store and check the Updates tab.
Once you’ve updated the software, the Music app icon on your devices will look a little different. Instead of the reddish-orange icon, Music will now have a white background, with various colors strewn about the music note.
The first time you launch Music on an iOS device, you’ll be greeted with a welcome screen to Apple Music. You’ll be asked to agree to the service's terms, and confirm that you want to begin a 3-month trial. Should you choose to wait, you can still access the music stored on your device.
Next, Apple Music will ask you to identify your favorite music genres and artists, enabling it to begin customizing the For You section.
You'll see a series of bubbles on the screen, each one representing a different genre of music. Tapping a bubble once enlarges it slightly, indicating you like it. Double-tapping indicates you like it a lot. Long-pressing on it will remove the item altogether.
Next, you’re presented with various music artists based on the genres you liked in the previous step. The same method for liking, loving, or deleting a bubble applies here.
It’s OK to be picky and take your time selecting artists and genres — your selections will play a big part in how much you get out of Apple Music.
Users who access Apple Music via iTunes can click on the Music icon to start using the service. The on-boarding process of using bubbles to select genres and artists is absent from iTunes. Instead, Apple Music will base its recommendations on your music library.
Apple says Apple Music will be available to Android users later this year. The release is likely to be timed with the arrival of iOS 9 in the fall, and would make Apple Music the first Android app released by the Cupertino-based company.
Using Apple Music
Regardless of the device you’re using to access Apple Music, the basic functions are the same. There's a My Music section, where you'll find albums and content you’ve elected to add to your library. Some of this content will be music you owned prior to joining Apple Music, with the rest of it being content you added after signing up.
To download content and make it available for offline access, tap the three-dot icon on each album or playlist screen, and then selecting “Make Available Offline.”
Another section called New will cover any new album releases, along with trending songs and artists on the service.
For You is where you’ll find playlists and artist recommendations based on your listening history, and the bubbles you used during the original setup. You can listen to and add playlists to My Music by tapping or clicking the + symbol.
Connect is essentially a social network where only iTunes artists can publish content, which you can view. So far, Pharrell Williams, Drake, Alabama Shakes and others have taken to the network to post music videos and behind-the-scenes photos.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Apple Music is the Radio section's Beats 1 service. The name is a nod to the heritage of Beats by Dr. Dre, an audio brand founded in 2006 by rapper/producer Dr. Dre and music/film producer Jimmy Iovine. Apple acquired Beats in 2014, and leveraged Dre's and Iovine's industry clout and connections to forge relationships required to make Apple Music possible.
Beats 1 is a live Internet radio station with famous disc-jockeys who play all genres of music. The station adds an intimate feeling to Apple Music -- one you can’t currently find in competing services.
You can create your own radio stations based on a single song or artist, customizing and tailoring your choices by tapping a heart icon (you can’t miss it) when you like a song. Apple takes your “hearts” into account when creating radio stations and playlists in the For You section.
Turn Off Auto-Renew
If you're not sure Apple Music is right for you, you can always disable auto-renew. In the Apple Music app, tap your profile icon in the upper-left corner, followed by View Apple ID. Enter your Apple ID credentials when prompted, then scroll down to the Subscriptions section and tap Manage.
Select Apple Music from the list, and toggle the switch next to Automatic Renewal to the Off position.
With auto-renew turned off, your trial will expire without charging your credit card. Of course, should you decide to rejoin Apple Music, you can always visit this same page and re-enable auto-renew.