The rise of wearable tech and the fact that everyone now wears headphones almost all the time has created a massive market for music streaming. Apple has arrived late in the music streaming market, but now that it’s here, Apple Music offers a great service – and it’s free for the first three months! Although not exactly a game changer, Apple Music does offer substantial improvements over the competition, especially in the live radio department.
Important note: As of 25 December 2016, Amazon Echo still does not work with Apple Music. So if you plan to get an Amazon Echo, rather go with the Spotify streaming service, which does pair beautifully with Amazon Echo.
Read more about Amazon Echo here – it’s a smart speaker that makes your life easier and more fun!
If you have an iPhone, you already have an Apple Music icon. It’s been there since the upgrade to iOS 8.4, replacing the icon that used to represent local music stored on the phone’s internal memory. The question is: should you use Apple Music?
At the moment, you can take advantage of a three-month free trial of Apple Music, so you have nothing to lose by trying it – even if you already have Spotify or some other streaming music app. You will need an Apple account to get Apple Music – if you don’t have one, simply create one. Apple will walk you through it, and it’s quick and easy, with no hidden catch.
What is Streaming Music?
Streaming music is like Netflix – except it’s songs instead of movies. For example, tonight on the train I read a tweet that reminded me about John Lennon’s song, “War is Over.” I remembered how I used to cry every time the little kids sang this song at the Christmas concert at my son’s elementary school – so of course, I immediately wanted to listen to the song. Before, I would have had to buy the song from iTunes to listen to it on the train. But now I have Apple Music! So I could just find the song and stream it to my ears, with no extra cost.
Listening to the song made me so happy I was smiling from ear to ear – always a good thing on a train late at night, because it makes people think you are crazy, so they stay away from you. Then, Apple Music decided that if I had chosen to listen to one John Lennon song, I would probably enjoy another, and played “Power to the People” and “Jealous Guy.” Good times!
How to get Apple Music
To get Apple Music, start by getting the Apple Music icon, and then follow the simple prompts. If you don’t already have an iTunes account, you will need to supply a credit card number (which will kick in after the three-month trial, unless you cancel). Prices are $9.99 a month, or $15.99 a month for a family account. (This requires Apple sharing, which is a whole different story, and only available in some countries.) Of course, if you can get a family account, it’s a very good deal, as up to six people can share the account – making the cost of Apple Music almost negligible.
Telling Apple Music What You Like
Once you activate your Apple Music account, the very first step is for Apple Music to figure out what kind of music you like. You will immediately be taken into an interactive process in which you basically tell Apple Music what you like. This is a really important part of the process, because the better Apple Music knows your preferences, the more accurate and useful will be the choices it presents to you.
Based on the preferences you communicate to Apple Music, it will decide things such as what to play on your radio streams, and what artists and albums it will recommend to you on new release Tuesdays.
The selection process is done in an easy, visually appealing way. Little circles come onto the screen, with the names of various music genres. You pick the genres you like, and then little circles with the names of artists in those genres appear.
You choose artists by tapping on them – tap once for like, and twice for love. The size of the circle will increase accordingly. Pull up more artists by tapping the button on the bottom right of the screen. You can also delete artists completely by holding your finger on their circle for three seconds.
Don’t get too stressed about it – you can rest the artist cloud later, if your choices are not working out for you.
Once you have Apple Music up and running, you can steadily build up preferences so that you end up with a custom-made-for-you music experience. For example, when listening to the radio you can use the heart icon to favorite songs. These will then appear on the My Music tab. Also on the My Music tab will be songs you have stored on your phone.
Connect to Your Favorite Artists on Apple Music
Many features of Apple Music are similar to Spotify. For example, Spotify has a Follow feature, in which users follow their favorite artists, and get alerts about new releases and tour dates. Apple offers Connect, which does much the same things. However, it is quite a big improvement on Follow.
What Songs Can You Access on Apple Music?
Apple Music offers over 30 million songs, and they are basically the same songs offered by Spotify. Apple has promised some added content, such as exclusive albums from artists including Taylor Swift, but it’s early days yet. Time will tell if Apple Music manages to offer enough extra content to make it an obviously better choice than Spotify.
Radio on Apple Music
In the world of streaming music, radio usually means a stream of songs based on various genres. Some are pre-setup, in various genres. You can also select a series of songs to listen to – which is not very different from a play list. This feature in Apple Music is just like Spotify and Pandora. With Apple Music you can also choose the “Start Radio from this song” feature to customize your playlist further. You access the radio from the My Radio tab.
However, Apple has made one giant step forward in the radio department – a step that we believe makes it the best choice for many listeners. It also offers actual real radio. They offer Beats 1 Radio, which has actual DJs and interviews, just like regular radio. They also offer NPR and ESPN Radio – which will make them a no-brainer choice for many people, as these are both great radio stations.
I have tried to listen to the radio on my smart phone before, and just got horribly frustrated. Nothing worse than being halfway through a great radio program – only to have it suddenly reset back to the beginning, with absolutely nothing you can do about it! Apple Music is nothing like this – you can listen to (a limited range of) real radio stations, in real time, without any problem. No doubt the range of stations will grow over time, too.
For me the deal clincher was finding that I could have easy, non-skipping access to BBC World Service radio.
However, note that the radio stations you can access from Apple Music differ based on what country you are in. For example, you can only get NPR and ESPN Radio if you reside in the USA.
Once you start listening to radio on Apple Music, it is easy to use. For example, it is easy to find the stations you like because they are stored at the top of your Radio tab, under the heading “Recently Played.” So you can be tuned in and listening to your favourite radio show in seconds! A very far cry from the early days of radio, when you had to turn a knob and plough through static, searching for a clear signal!
Apple also offers the things people have become accustomed to in Spotify: “Staff Picks” “Mood Playlists” and “Content Curators.” However, Apple has made the music easier to sort through, and has made it very easy to save to an outside playlist that you design.
Suggested Playlists from Apple Music
This is one of the most useful features of apps such as Spotify and Apple Music. Spotify called it the “Discover” panel, and Apple calls it “For You.” Basically it is a very useful and fun set of suggested playlists. These are based on songs you have liked and listened to. The great thing about it is that you will be presented with new music that you probably would never have found on your own.
Most of these playlists are cleverly generated by computers algorithms working off your choices – but some are actually created by real live people on the Apple Music team.
Benefits of Apple Music
The real benefits of Apple Music kick in when you have a sudden need for a particular kind of music. Three examples I have had recently: I was suddenly baby sitting a crying baby. In about three minutes I had built a “Go to sleep baby” playlist and was streaming lullabies through my surround sound system – all without having to spend a cent. Another example: I was on transit when I read about David Bowie’s death. I was able to spend the trip listening to his music and feeling sad about his passing. Feeling sad is sometimes good and appropriate. Third example: having a really stressful day at work, I was able to stream music that was essentially relaxing piano music with a stream in the background. I would never actually BUY that music, but it was great to be able to calm myself down by listening to it!
How Much will You Pay for Apple Music
As mentioned, at the moment you can start off with a three-month free subscription. This is of course the best value in town – Apple’s way of making up for being surprisingly late to join the streaming music market.
Spotify has responded by offering three months for just 99 cents to new users. Both are great deals, and great ways to try out these apps. And even once you have to start paying for it, it really is a great deal. Ten dollars a month for unlimited music? I’ll take that!
Is Apple Music in Your Country?
Before you sign up, just check what the coverage is in your own country. Apple has coverage in 100 countries, and the number is growing. Note that not all songs are available in all countries. Spotify only has about half as many countries covered.
Speaking of which – if at any time you decide you don’t want to renew after your first three months are up, you can easily cancel your subscription from the Account tab – Manage.
Whether free or $9.99 per month, Apple Music is a great deal. You could lose yourself in Apple Music for endless happy hours. I know I do! If you love music and radio, then Apple Music offers outstanding value in entertainment for a great price.
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