Apple Music: Everything you need to know about Apple’s music streaming service

Apple Music iOS 9Apple used WWDC 2015 to introduce Apple Music, a new music streaming service that was built upon the foundation of Beats Music, which Apple acquired in 2014 for $3 billion. The service is much different from what Apple has offered in past, incorporating a streaming music service, a 24-hour radio station and an artist-driven social network. How does this new music service mesh with Apple’s other offerings such as iTunes Radio and iTunes Match? Read on to find out more about the new Apple Music.

What is Apple Music?

Apple Music is a new streaming music service that has three core parts — Apple Music, Apple Music Radio and Apple Music Connect. Apple Music will launch on June 30th with pricing that is on par with competing services. The service will cost  $9.99 per month for an individual account or $14.99 for a family account that supports up to 6 members via iCloud Family Sharing. When the service launches on June 30th, subscribers will be eligible for a free 3-month membership.

Apple owners who prefer not to pay for Apple Music still can access the service, but will be limited to select Music Radio and Connect features. All  Music streaming options require a subscription. Apple Music will be available in 100 countries when it launches for the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple Watch, Mac and PC. It also will work on the Apple TV as well as Android devices starting this fall.

Apple Music

Apple Music is the center point of the service, providing a catalog with 30 million songs that can be streamed directly to your favorite device. Think Spotify, but for iTunes. You can stream any track on demand or save tracks for offline listening. Apple Music also scans your existing iTunes library, allowing you to stream any music you already have purchased and any playlist you may have created. More than just a static catalog, Apple Music provides regularly-updated, human-curated playlists in a dedicated “For You” section that’ll help you discover new and exciting music.

Apple Music Radio

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Somewhat similar to iTunes Radio and Pandora, Apple Music Radio offers an all-day radio station Beats 1, which is is streamed from London, New York and Los Angeles. The stream is hosted by professional DJs and is broadcast live to listeners in over 100 countries worldwide. Besides music, the station also will broadcast interviews, news and other music-focused programming. Music Radio also includes additional stations that will be curated by “music experts” and cover a variety of music genres. Similar to other station-based services like Pandora, you can skip tracks to help fine tune the song selection to your musical tastes. Limited skipping will be available for free, while unlimited skipping will require a paid Apple Music subscription.

Apple Connect

Last but not least, Apple Music Connect is designed to connect musicians with their fans in a service that is reminiscent of the now defunct Ping. Using Connect, artists can share content such as lyrics, backstage photos, and new track or album releases directly to fans. Fans in turn can comment on the material as well as share it via Messages, Facebook and other social networks. As fan leave comments, musicians then can respond and carry on a conversation with their listening audience. A free version of the service will allow you to follow musicians on Apple Music Connect and view their Connect feed. All other features require a paid subscription.

How Apple Music differs from iTunes Radio

iTunes Radio will be a standalone app in iOS 8

In a way, iTunes Radio is the predecessor to Apple Music Radio. iTunes Radio debuted alongside iOS 7 and is available for iOS devices and the Mac. Similar to Pandora, iTunes Radio delivers a station-based music streaming service that is available to all iTunes users. Instead of selecting songs and creating playlists, iTunes users can listen to channels based on the artists, songs, or genres they choose. You chose a genre, for example, and iTunes Radio will select the songs. The service will learn from experience and select the best tracks for a station based on an individuals’ musical preferences. With the debut of Apple Music Radio, the future of iTunes Radio is unclear as Apple Music Radio is very similar in scope. For the immediate future, Apple likely will keep iTunes Radio as a separate entity, but it would not be surprising to see the service disappear if Music Radio gains traction.

How Apple Music differs from iTunes Match

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Introduced in 2011, iTunes Match differs from music streaming services like Spotify. As its name implies, iTunes Match matches songs for you, scanning the music library stored on your Mac and trying to find matches in the online iTunes catalog. If a match is detected, then that song is made available to your other iOS and OS X devices via iCloud. If there is no match, then that song can be uploaded to your online library. Once all your songs have been matched or uploaded, you can stream the music  over the air to your Mac or start playing tracks from iCloud and download them as they play.

iTunes Match costs $25 per year and is billed through iTunes. Apple says on its Apple Music membership page that Apple Music and iTunes Match are independent but complementary, so we expect to see iTunes Match remain an option for Apple customers who want their music library in the Cloud, but prefer not to subscribe to Apple Music. If you do subscribe to Apple Music, you probably won’t need iTunes Match any longer.

Early Reactions to Apple Music

The initial response to Apple Music has been guarded, with more than one source questioning Apple’s decision to group together three very different services — Apple Music, Music Radio and Music Connect — under one umbrella. At $9.99, The service is priced accordingly and seemingly offers more than its competitors (Music, Radio and Artist connections, but will users buy into all three of these services? Will customers actually use Radio and Connect or will those features sit idle while Music takes center stage? Even worse, will customers see Radio and Connect as superfluous and in the way? Only time will tell how successful Apple Music will be.

Are you interested in the new Apple Music? Will you use all three features (Music, Radio and Connect) or just one of them? Share your opinions about Apple’s new music service in the comments.