Apple Music is coming June 30. We’ve got the beats and the deets.

On Tuesday, June 30, Apple plans to unleash Apple Music in all its glory — Beats 1 radio, a redesigned music app, and more custom playlists than you can shake a stick at. Here’s what Apple Music is, what it’s not, how it compares to other services, and what you’ll be able to find on your iPhone, iPad, Mac, or PC.

Basics and membership | Music | Radio | Connect

Basics and membership

What is Apple Music?

Apple Music is, to quote the company, “All the ways you love music. All in one place.”

So… in non-marketing lingo, Apple is attempting to put together a service that combines your purchased music library with the power of its iTunes catalog.

From there, you can mix-and-match your songs with their songs in online or offline playlists, listen to specific artists, or rock out to hand-built groupings of music from Apple’s music editors.

Apple Music also encompasses a 24/7 radio station that will be available for anyone to listen to; iTunes Radio-like custom radio stations; and a social media stream for musicians called Connect.

Why is Apple making a streaming music service in the first place?

More and more people are listening to streaming music, and for good reason: When you can listen to just about any artist, genre, and song you set your heart on, it’s a lot more enticing than playing the same thousand songs you own in your library.

By adding a streaming component to its service, Apple can unify the music you already own with its gigantic catalog—described as “tens of millions” during WWDC–and let you mix your purchased or uploaded music together with your streamed songs, whether or not you have them locally stored on your device.

It’s sort of what iTunes Match does now—sticking your personal library in the cloud—but when you add in Apple’s massive streaming library, you have quite a few songs to pick from.

On top of that, Apple thinks it can help you find great new music to either stream or purchase with tailored recommendations, hand-built playlists, and its new Beats 1 radio station. It’s a gamble, but given Apple’s background in music, it’s one the company wants to take.

Do I have to pay for Apple Music?

Yes, but not at first: The company will be offering a free three-month trial for everyone, whether you own an iPhone, iPad, iPod, Mac, or PC.

Once those three months are up, you’ll have to pay $9.99/mo to continue taking advantage of all that Apple Music has to offer.

There’s a family plan, too, right?

Yup! If you have a few people in your house who love streaming, just sign up for the $14.99/mo family plan and up to six people in your family can jam out to Apple Music. You don’t even have to use the same Apple ID for each device, either: You just have to turn on iCloud Family Sharing.

What was that thing with Taylor Swift? Is Apple not paying artists?

So here’s the deal: When an artist’s music is streamed, they’re paid a certain monetary percentage per-play. Originally, Apple planned not to pay artists—technically record labels, who then pay artists and other rights holders—during the three-month-free-trial period, but pay a higher premium after the trial ended to make up for this.

Several labels and artists, Taylor Swift included, weren’t too happy with this proposal, and as a result, Apple changed its tune: The company will now pay a certain percentage during the free trial and pay the higher premium when the trial is over. It pays to be Taylor Swift!

What do I get when I sign up for Apple Music?

For the first three months, everyone will get all the features of Apple Music. After that initial trial, however, here’s how it breaks down.

If you don’t have a paid subscription with Apple Music, you’ll be able to listen to any music you’ve purchased or ripped to your device (or, if you pay $24.99/year for iTunes Match, any music you’ve uploaded to iCloud, regardless of whether it’s on your device or not). You’ll also be able to listen to Beats 1 radio, view and follow an artist’s Connect stream, and listen to ad-supported Apple Music radio stations (which replaces the current iTunes Radio interface)—though you’ll only have limited song skips available.

With a paid subscription (or a free three-month trial), you get all of the above plus:

  • unlimited skips for Apple Music radio stations
  • the ability to like, comment, play, and save Connect content
  • unlimited listening to the entire Apple Music catalog
  • the ability to add Apple Music songs to your library and listen offline
  • your entire purchased and ripped library, uploaded to iCloud
  • access to Apple Music’s hand-curated recommendations and playlists

What happens if I decide not to subscribe after the three month trial?

Any streaming music you’ve added to your library from the Apple Music catalog will no longer be playable; you’ll stop having access to Connect content; you’ll be skip-limited when listening to Apple Music radio stations; and unless you have iTunes Match enabled, you won’t be able to stream your previously purchased and uploaded music to your devices.

What devices can I use to listen to Apple Music?

Apple Music will be available June 30 on the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple Watch, Macs, and PCs; you’ll get Android access and Apple TV later this fall.

Wait… Android? Really?

Really. Beats Music had an Android app, after all. And if Apple really wants to offer all your music in one place, it needs the flexibility to do so on multiple platforms.

How does Apple Music work on the Apple Watch?

Basically, you can sync any music from your Apple Music library to your Apple Watch like you would a normal playlist. You don’t have to have your iPhone nearby to play it, as it’s stored locally on your Apple Watch.

I already use Pandora/Spotify/Google Music/Tidal/etc. Why would I use Apple Music instead?

Apple Music’s biggest asset is its integration: You don’t have to download extra software. You use your Apple ID to pay for it. And it can tap into your iTunes library, allowing you to listen to any of those songs while you’re on the go—even if you don’t have them downloaded to your device.

Pandora is cheaper, but limited to algorithmically-generated radio stations. Google, Tidal, and Spotify are on par price-wise, but can’t upload and stream your iTunes library. And Apple Music will have the old custom-curated playlist magic Beats Music brought to its customers.

I can’t advise you for-sure what service to use until Apple Music has launched and I’ve spent some time with it, but for now, I’d give Apple Music a shot if any of the following are true for you:

  • You want your iTunes collection side-by-side with your streaming music
  • You don’t want to download an app and pay for a third-party service
  • You loved Beats Music’s playlists
  • You want an affordable family plan

And hey: it’s free for three months. Might as well give it a try.

How do I get Apple Music, exactly?

On June 30, Apple will push out the iOS 8.4 update to the iPhone/iPad and an iTunes update; this includes the new Music app and support for the Apple Music service. We’ll let you know when it happens, so stay tuned!

Which countries are getting Apple Music at launch?

Apple said during WWDC that over 100 countries would be getting Apple Music, though we don’t have a specific list. Evan Killham at Cult of Mac has done a little more digging on that front, if you’re curious.

I’m a Beats subscriber—what happens to Beats Music on June 30?

Currently? Nothing. You can switch your Beats account over to Apple Music and it’ll transfer all your saved library content and starred playlists; once you move, your Beats subscription will be cancelled and you’ll be an Apple Music member, billed via your Apple ID.

I suppose you could keep on using Beats Music for the time being, but there’s no word on how long it will continue before being shut down entirely; after all, the service’s staff is now working on Apple Music full-time.

The Beats Music website has a few more FAQs, if you want more information.

Music

What does the new Music app on iOS look like?

It puts Apple Music front and center, offering five categories: For You, New, Radio, Connect, and My Music. For You showcases your playlists along with any suggested music and playlists Apple Music thinks you might like. New highlights the latest and greatest from artists you’ve told Apple Music that you enjoy. Radio is where you can find Beats 1, along with Apple’s automated Music radio (née iTunes Radio) stations. Connect collects the social feeds of your favorite artists, and it’s where they can post exclusive videos, songs, lyrics, photos, and more.

My Music is the tab for your music library—any music you’ve purchased, uploaded, or transferred from Apple Music—and it contains all your songs; you can organize this by Artists, Albums, Songs, Music Videos, Genres, Composers, and Compilations.

Along the top bar of the app, there’s an icon to access your Music/iTunes account, along with a search icon.

What about iTunes for the Mac and PC?

Much like iTunes 12, with some new top-tab categories. My Music, Playlists, and the iTunes Store tabs remain the same; replacing Match and Radio are the four new tabs found on iOS: For You, New, Radio, and Connect.

Apple’s not going to automatically put music in my music library, right?

Nope, we’re not getting another U2 debacle: Any music that shows up in your library should be music that you put there. You may see suggested playlists and songs for you in the other tabs, however.

So my music lives next to the streaming service?

Next to, yes, but also integrated with. Your current music collection exists in the My Music tab, but you can add anything from the Apple Music collection to that tab. If you never want to stream songs from Apple Music, you have that option—but it would make having the service pretty silly.

What does Apple Music mean for iTunes Radio, the iTunes Store, and iTunes Match?

iTunes Radio is dead. RIP. In its place, you’ll find Beats 1 (which is live and streaming 24/7), and Apple Music radio stations (which are automated, much like iTunes Radio stations), along with the option to create your own custom Apple Music radio station.

The iTunes Store is very much alive, though: Just because you can stream music doesn’t mean Apple expects you never to buy a song again in your life. Sometimes, you just want to own an album or song, and iTunes will be there for you.

If you currently subscribe to iTunes Match—which, for $24.99 a year, gives you ad-free skips of iTunes Radio and access to your entire music library in iCloud—Apple Music appears to essentially duplicate this feature. According to Apple’s website:

Your entire library lives in iCloud when you’re an Apple Music member. First, we identify all the tracks in your personal collection and compare them to the Apple Music library to see if we have copies. If we do, we make them instantly available in iCloud across all your devices. If you have music that’s not in the Apple Music library, we upload those songs from iTunes on your Mac or PC. And because it’s all stored in iCloud, it won’t take up any space on your devices.

So Apple Music basically duplicates iTunes Match, right? Why is it useful, then?

First, until Apple Music arrives on June 30, we can only speculate that it duplicates iTunes Match functionality based on Apple’s website text above.

That said, assuming Apple Music does what it says, it only duplicates iTunes Match if you’re a paid subscriber. If you’re not, you’ll still need iTunes Match to store your music library in iCloud.

Why would you choose iTunes Match rather than just subscribe to Apple Music? Math, my friends: iTunes Match is just $24.99/year, while an Apple Music subscription runs you $119.98/year. If streaming all of Apple’s music collection doesn’t appeal to you, but having on-the-go access to your full music library does, iTunes Match appears to be a good alternate option.

Can I mix and match my songs with the Apple Music collection?

Absolutely: Apple has said you’ll be able to build playlists with both your music and the Apple Music collection, and add Apple Music songs to your library.

Can I listen offline?

Yup! Offline listening is one of the perks of Apple Music.

Is Apple Music getting any exclusive content I won’t be able to hear elsewhere?

We don’t doubt it! So far, we’ve only heard about exclusives from Pharrell Williams—Apple Music will debut his new track, Freedom, on June 30. Apple Music will also have Taylor Swift’s 1989 available for streaming, though that isn’t an exclusive coup—Swift is open to bringing her hit album to other services.

Beats 1, however, will have all sorts of special and exclusive shows: You’ll be able to hear radio spots from Jaden Smith, St. Vincent, Pharrell, and Dr. Dre, as well as exclusive interviews from musicians like Eminem.

How do I tell Apple Music what I like to listen to?

When you first set up Apple Music after upgrading, it’ll ask you to highlight genres and artists that you like by tapping on gigantic bubbles—Beats Music subscribers may be familiar with this UI, as it’s carried over from the old Beats service. From there, it’s an ever-evolving process where the service pays attention to what you favorite and listen to and adjusts accordingly.

What about new music?

The New tab of the Music app is dedicated to finding the best new music specifically for you—it’s not just a top ten list or Billboard chart. Apple Music looks at what you like and curates accordingly, highlighting new songs, albums, and artists it thinks you’ll love.

Tell me more about curated playlists?

These were Beats Music’s big selling point, and I’m glad they’ve been brought over to Apple Music. Curated playlists are hand-built by Apple’s Music Editors, artists, and what Apple is calling “Curators”; they’re targeted specifically to your genre tastes, so if you like soundtracks, for example, you may get “The Musical Dialogue of Gilmore Girls.”

Apple has a host of editors on-hand who are constantly making new playlists, but they’ve also partnered with websites, magazines, and “tastemakers” for their Curators program: Expect to see song recommendations from Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Q Magazine, DJ Mag, Shazam, Mojo, The Grand Ole Opry, XXL Magazine, and more.

Is there a way to share what I’m listening to?

You bet. Apple is integrating Twitter, Facebook, and Messages into Apple Music, so you can share playlists, albums, and videos with your friends.

How do I search Apple Music?

There are two primary ways to search Apple Music: the dynamic search field, and Siri.

How does Apple Music’s dynamic search engine work?

When you tap the search icon at the top of the app, you can type in just about anything you’re looking for—artist, song, genre, playlist title—and Apple Music will try and find it for you. It’ll also remember what you’ve searched for recently, and display trending music searches from other Apple Music members.

You’ll also be able to filter between searching through Apple Music’s catalog and the songs that you’ve added to your library.

What about Siri? Has it gotten more intelligent about music?

Has it ever! Siri’s music-playing and finding abilities will improve massively with the Apple Music software update: You’ll be able to ask it to do things like “Play the top songs from 1980” and it’ll make a playlist of the chart-toppers from that year, for instance. Or, while listening to a song, you can say “Play more songs like this,” and it’ll generate a playlist for you on the spot. You can also tell it to queue up a song: “After this song, play Thru the Eyes of Ruby.” And if you like something you’ve heard on Apple Music, you can ask Siri “Add this song to my library.”

Radio

Is Apple’s Radio service replacing iTunes Radio?

Yep: Bye bye, iTunes Radio. But Beats 1 aside, Apple Music Radio sounds to be pretty much identical to the old iTunes service. You’ve got both pre-programmed stations and the ability to create a new algorithmic station from one of your songs.

Beats 1 is the new whole-cloth section of Apple’s radio initiative: It’s a 24/7 station that plays music along with exclusive interviews, special celebrity programs, debut singles, and more.

So tell me about Beats 1.

Well, there’s it’s aforementioned 24/7 nature, achieved by a combination of several A-list hosts and custom celebrity programming. Anyone can listen to Beats 1—whether or not you have an Apple Music subscription—and it’s coming to over 100 countries, like Apple Music itself.

Beats 1 is also played live: Even if its segments aren’t recorded live, you’ll likely only be able to catch certain things once—and that’s it. (Paid Apple Music subscribers might be able to replay interviews via Connect, but that’s a big maybe—we won’t know anything for sure until Apple Music launches.)

Who’s hosting?

Apple’s tapped three top-tier radio personalities: Zane Lowe, formerly of BBC1, will host the LA segment; Ebro Darden, former vice president of programming for NYC’s WQHT Hot 97, will broadcast for NYC; and newcomer Julie Adenuga will host London’s broadcast.

Of the three, Adenuga’s the newest to the radio scene, but also the one music personalities are most excited about; the younger sister of grime crew Boy Better Know, she arrived on the London radio scene in 2010 as a DJ for Rinse FM and has been winning hearts and minds ever since. You can read more about Adenuga’s background in this excellent overview from Fader.

Are there other radio stations, too?

No live ones, though Beats 1 will be hosting programs from various celebrities whenever Low, Darden, and Adenuga aren’t rocking the mic.

You’ll have plenty of pre-programmed Apple Music radio stations to choose from, however, including Soundsystem, The Mixtape, On the Floor, Pop Hits, All-City, Americana, Blues, Chill, Classic Alternative, Dance Pop, Electronic, Hip-Hop, Indie, R&B, and Workout Anthems. (You can read more about each on Apple’s website

Can I create my own station?

Yep! Just like you could with iTunes Radio, you need only select “Create Station” from a song, album, or artist and Apple Music will algorithmically do the rest. You can also adjust your mix on the fly by favoriting songs and marking the ones you dislike.

Connect

Okay, so what’s Connect, and is it going to suck any less than Ping?


So pessimistic, readers! Yes, Connect will hopefully suck less than Ping—in part because it’s not locked down the way Apple’s previous aborted attempt at social media was. Connect attempts to give artists exclusive portals to chat with their colleagues and fans, post unfinished work, showcase videos and photos, and more.

It’s a little bit like MySpace’s Band pages, but for the 21st century.

What can I find on Apple Music Connect?

Whatever artists wish to post, whether that’s a photo, lyrics, URLs, videos up to 8 minutes, song snippets up to 90 minutes—you name it. And if you have an Apple Music subscription, you may even be able to download some of those exclusive song snippets.

Can I leave comments?

Yup, and the artist can respond if they so choose. Better yet, you can share the artist’s post—and your comment—through Facebook, Twitter, Messages, or email, so your opinions on Connect’s content aren’t siloed to just Connect. It’s one of the ways I’m hoping Connect will reach a larger audience and not just fizzle the way Ping sputtered and died.

How do I see more music from an artist I like, using Connect?

All artists on Apple Music should have Connect profile pages, though how well they update those pages depends on the musician. That page will have their full discography on it, their biography, and the content they’ve shared with Connect; you can also see from that page what content of theirs you have downloaded to your library and what you have yet to listen to or download.

How does Connect work for indie artists?

Any musician who has an iTunes Music account can sign up for a Connect page and to put their music on Apple Music. If you don’t currently have your music up on iTunes or Apple Music, you’ll either have to go through your label (if applicable) or an approved aggregator, or contact Apple Music support directly to request access to a Connect profile. Apple has more details on its website.

Other questions?

Got a question about Apple Music that we haven’t answered yet? Drop it off in the comments and we’ll try to answer it to the best of our ability.

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