The way music is consumed has changed drastically from record players and cassettes, to MP3 files and the iPod. Now we’re at the point where streaming services are how the majority of people get their music. While they weren’t the first in the game, Apple Music has become one of the more popular services available for music lovers, but why? Is Apple Music actually good? Let’s find out.

What is Apple Music?

Apple Music App on an iPhone X from the front

Unless you’re already deep into another streaming service, Apple Music is a great option for most people.

Apple Music is a streaming service using elements of the Beats streaming service Apple purchased back in 2014, and brought on some of the worlds most popular DJs to give it a boost in popularity. The Beats brand basically became a live internet radio station within the app, and this, along with some high profile music acts like Drake signing exclusive deals to only stream on Apple Music for a certain amount of time was how the company initially competed with other streaming services like Spotify. The exclusive deals have since died out (thankfully), but the internet radio is still one of Apple Music’s main features.

How to use Apple Music

 

If you own an iOS device, Apple Music is the default app for listening to music. Surprisingly, it’s one of a few Apple apps that is also available on Android, but you’ll need to download it from the Play Store first. Using the service on both operating systems is fairly similar, with the biggest difference being how you search for music. On iOS there’s a separate tab in the bottom menu, while on Android there’s an ever-present search icon in the top right instead. Besides that, how you navigate Apple Music is identical on both platforms. There are icons along the bottom to help you navigate the different menus. From left to right they are the library, the “For You” section, browse, radio, and (if you’re on iOS) the aforementioned search. All of your music listening and navigating is done in one of these screens.

Library

Screenshot of the library section in Apple Music.

The library is where all of the music that you’ve saved is stored.

The library consists of all of your music, whether that’s your own personal library or songs that you searched for in the app and saved. Every time you come across a new song or album that you like you can hit the “+Add” button to save it to your library. Navigating the library is pretty intuitive as it’s essentially the same way that iTunes was organized. That main screen is also where you’ll find the recently added section, so you don’t have to go digging through screens to get to the song you just added this morning.

The one feature that I do wish Apple Music would incorporate here is the ability to collaborate on a playlist in the way Spotify does. A collaborative playlist allows you and a friend to both add music to a particular playlist that you both have complete control over. The only thing you can do in Apple Music is to share a playlist with a friend, but that friend won’t have any control over what songs are in the playlist.

For you

Screenshot of the For you section in Apple Music on iOS.

As the name implies, the “For You” section is where you’ll find songs that are recommended based on your past listening habits.

The next section is “For You”, and this is where things get interesting because this is the screen where you’ll probably be doing most of your music discovery. By using algorithms Apple Music recommends similar artists, songs, or curated playlists based on a mix of your past listening habits and new artists that it thinks you might like. It even adds a few playlists right up top so you can quickly listen to new music or some of your past favorites.

Browse

Screenshot of the browse tab in Apple Music on iOS.

The browse tab is where you can find new releases, top 100 hits, and custom playlists made by Apple.

Next is the browse tab, which is essentially the landing page of the Apple Music app. Instead of music and playlists made for you, this is where you’ll find everything that’s new and some playlists that are more topical and broad. For example, instead of a playlist of songs that are similar to your past listening habits, you’ll find a daily Top 100 playlist here separated by countries. There’s everything from Top 100 songs globally to the Top 100 songs in Uganda. The browse page is also where you can look through new releases, different genres, or even watch some Beats 1 interviews. That actually brings us nicely into the next tab.

Radio

Screenshot of the radio tab in Apple Music on iOS.

The live radio part of the app is one of the only features that you can use without paying.

One of the standout features of Apple Music at launch was internet radio stations, and it’s still going strong. There is always a live DJ somewhere in the world who is live. So all you have to do is click in too start listening. If you miss one, you can always just go back and listen to the DJ’s set as it’s all recorded and organized nicely in this tab. You’ll also get an upcoming schedule of so is going to be live and if you don’t feel like listening to a DJ this is also the page where you can pick a station by genre, though as far as I can tell it’s just a few more constantly updated playlists. Still, it’s just another way to discover new music if you want it.

What if you don’t have an unlimited data plan?

Data usage on smartphone next to cash.

Depending on how much you pay for data, it might be a good idea to save your favorite tunes for offline listening.

If you’re don’t have an unlimited plan or pay for data as you go, you’re going to want to download as much as you can over WiFi. Apple Music lets you download songs, albums, or playlists onto your device by tapping the little cloud and arrow button to the right of the playlist or song. If you do this while connected to WiFi, you’ll avoid data charges and can still listen to your music while on the go. The downside to this is that there’s no option for offline playback of any of the live radio, even the ones that are pre-recorded. This is kind of a bummer seeing as it would give data-conscious people a way to listen to the radio stations afterward almost like a podcast. The only parts of the radio tab that are available for offline playback are the playlists.

Can you listen to Apple Music offline?

Screenshot of Apple Music download icon on iOS

Hitting the cloud icon will save music to your phone for offline listening.

The answer to this is both yes, and no. As I mentioned above you can download songs and playlists for offline listening, so if you’re going to be somewhere in the mountains camping with no service but still want some sweet tunes, then this is the way to go. That said, you will need internet access at some point to get access to the songs in order to download them. Another option is that you can listen to your own personal library if you have the original files.

How to listen to your own music on Apple Music?

If you have a personal music library that you’re proud of, you don’t need to get rid of it in order to use Apple Music. You can actually upload it all to your iCloud Music Library so that you can listen to it wherever you go. Apple Music allowed you to upload up to 100,000 songs, which is pretty great. There are a few caveats though. For one, a song can’t be over 200MB in size, which seems fairly reasonable considering an MP3 is typically around 4MB depending on the length of the song.

The Apple Music UI on iPhone X

The UI is intuitive, but can look cluttered at first.

The second requirement is that a song can’t be over two hours in length. Lastly, you should know that if your music library is filled with high ALAC, AIFF, or WAV files, you’re going to lose some quality in the process of making your music accessible via iCloud. Apple Music will convert any file into an AAC 256kbps and make a copy of it in the cloud leaving the original file untouched in your drive. If you don’t want to pay the subscription for Apple Music then get only way to get this done is to manually sync over a USB cable with a computer.

How do Apple Music subscriptions work?

Apple Music App on an iPhone X from the front

Unless you’re already deep into another streaming service, Apple Music is a great option for most people.

Like the other major streaming services, Apple Music doesn’t require a subscription to use. You don’t have to pay a dime in order to listen to your own music if you sync it manually or have already paid for it in the past via the iTunes store. You also don’t have to pay in order to listen to the live radio stations in the radio tab. That’s where it ends though because access to the massive music library for streaming is behind the pay well. The free trial will last you three months, but then you’ll have to pay $9.99 moving forward. This will let you stream any song and you sync your personal library with iCloud as well.

Does Apple Music have a family plan? A student plan?

If your family wants to go all-in on Apple Music, you won’t have to pay per person. Instead, sign up for the family plan which will give access to up to six people for just $14.99. If you’re a student, you’re likely short on cash. Luckily, Apple Music has a plan for you too. Once you prove you’re a student, your pricing will be just $4.99 per month for up to four years. Once you reach that time limit or you graduate then the pricing will be bumped up to the standard $9.99. Congratulations.

How much does Apple Music pay artists?

Not much. Sadly, that isn’t uncommon in the streaming industry. If you look at the chart below the data collected by thetrichordist.com shows that streaming music is not the most profitable business for a musician. This shows how much each service pays per stream, and keep in mind that doesn’t go entirely to the artist.

Digital Service Provider$ Per Stream
Qobuz$0.04390
Peloton$0.04036
iHeartRadio$0.01426
Amazon Unlimited$0.01175
Napster/Rhapsody$0.01110
24/7 Entertainment GmbH$0.01050
YouTube Red$0.00948
Tidal$0.00927
Deezer$0.00567
Google Play$0.00543
Apple$0.00495
KKBox$0.00435
Amazon Digital Services Inc. $0.00395
Spotify$0.00331
Loen$0.00205
Pandora$0.00155
Vevo$0.00109
Yandex LLC$0.00051
YouTube Content ID$0.00028
UMA$0.00013

Source: Trichordist.com

What is the steaming quality of Apple Music and is there a hi-res option?

Apple Music App shown on iPhone X

The Apple Music app comes pre-installed on iOS devices.

Apple Music streams using AAC 256kbps, which is more than enough for most people even if it doesn’t quite have the specs that Tidal or Deezer has. At the time of writing this article, there is no high-resolution streaming option for Apple Music but that may be changing. Recently, the company has basically rebranded its “Mastered for iTunes” library of high-quality files to “Apple Digital Master.” Does this mean they’re getting ready to stream lossless files through Apple Music? Who knows, but it’s a step in the right direction even if most people probably won’t care.

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