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Introduction to the Apple Music Service

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Jason R. Rich takes a look at the new Apple Music service, discusses some of its key features, plus focuses on its integration with the Music app for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, as well as the iTunes software for the Mac and PC.
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On June 30, 2015, Apple once again introduced a new way for people to enjoy music. While the concept of an online-based streaming music service certainly isn’t new, what is new is that Apple’s streaming music service, called Apple Music, fully integrates with the newly redesigned Music app for iOS mobile devices, as well as the iTunes software for Macs and PCs.

This integration creates a seamless and intuitive environment, in which anyone can manage and access their own digital music library, enjoy iTunes Radio, or stream almost any music content whatsoever--on-demand and on an unlimited basis--from the iTunes Store’s vast and ever-growing music library (which is currently comprised of more than 30 million songs).

Unlike other streaming music services, Apple Music automatically studies your listening habits and music preferences and over time gets to know your taste. As a result, through the Music app or iTunes software, the service is able to introduce you to new music that you’ll find appealing, plus offer personalized recommendations and curated playlists, which ultimately makes it easier to discover music you’ll love. This is all done from the new For You feature of the iTunes software and Music app.

Another thing you’ll notice about the Apple Music service is that most of the features are interconnected, allowing you to explore the service and its content easily. For example, if you hear a song you love on Beats 1 or another iTunes Radio station, you can quickly purchase it from the iTunes Store (with just a few mouse clicks to screen taps), and add it to your personal digital music collection.

In addition to maintaining easy access to content from your own digital music library, as well as the iTunes Store, iTunes Radio, and the Apple Music service, as long as your computer or mobile device has Internet access, it’s possible to enjoy your favorite music and personalized playlists anytime and anywhere.

The Music app and iTunes software continues to make it very easy to manage your personal music library, as long as the content is acquired from the iTunes Store. By also subscribing to the iTunes Match service ($24.99 per year, http://www.apple.com/itunes/itunes-match), your entire digital music collection (regardless of how or where it was acquired), can also easily be managed, synced, and accessible across all of your computers and mobile devices that are linked to the same iCloud account.

Apple Music is More Than a Run-Of-The-Mill Streaming Music Service

After experiencing a free, three month trial of the Apple Music service, which is available to everyone for an ongoing fee of $9.99 per month (or $14.99 for a family subscription), the Apple Music service unlocks and becomes an integrated part of your Music app and the iTunes software. A subscription to Apple Music can be cancelled at anytime, but once you subscribe, it becomes an auto-renewing subscription that’s billed to the credit or debit card you have linked to your Apple ID account.

What Apple Music includes is unlimited, on-demand access to most of the iTunes Store’s music collection via streaming. So, instead of purchasing and downloading music content from the iTunes Store, or previewing snippets of music before purchase, with a continuous Internet connection, you’re able to select almost any song or album, and stream it to your Mac or PC computer’s iTunes software, or to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch via the newly redesigned Music app. By the end of 2015, an Apple Music app for Android mobile devices will also be released by Apple.

Beyond just making the iTunes Store music library available for streaming, Apple Music offers personalized music recommendations and curated playlists that are provided to you based on your music tastes and listening habits. Recommendations might include new music from well-known recording artists and bands that you already love, music that’s similar to what you already enjoy from different artists or bands, or music from up-and-coming or unsigned artists that share their music through Apple Music.

So, by analyzing all of your past music purchases, your music listening habits, and the feedback you provide when listening to iTunes Radio, for example, Apple Music is able personalize its new music recommendations, plus share curated playlists compiled by the company’s music experts.

Another way Apple is able to introduce new music is through iTunes Radio and the Beats 1 station that’s broadcast around the world, live, 24 hours per day, every day. Beats 1 has three resident hosts (based in New York, Los Angeles, and London), plus features celebrity guest hosts and special programming almost daily, while the iTunes Radio service offers streaming music content that can be customized based around any music genre, recording artist, band, album, or song.

While a paid Apple Music subscription is required to unlock all of the service’s features and functions through the iTunes software on your computer, or using the Music app on your iOS mobile device, some of the core services are free to everyone.

Apple Music Allows Recording Artists and Bands to Interact With Their Fans

One of the new features built into the iTunes software and Music app is called Connect. Using the Apple Music service, any recording artist or band is able to share original content with their fans via a customized feed. A feed is much like a Facebook page or Twitter account feed, but with Apple Music, an artist or band can easily share any type of content, such as music, photos, text, a tour/appearance schedule, behind-the-scenes video clips, or fully produced music videos, for example.

Through the iTunes software or Music app, users can follow their favorite recording artists or bands, including unsigned or up-and-coming talent. While the Connect feature is offered to everyone for free, Apple Music subscribers are able to like, play, or save content from an artist’s feed, as opposed to just viewing it. This provides for a more interactive and engagement-oriented experience.

iTunes Radio Continues to Offer Free Streaming

What you’ll discover is that a paid Apple Music subscription offers additional streaming options to what’s already offered for free via iTunes Radio. The iTunes Radio service allows anyone to access and stream any of the many pre-created Featured Stations, select a station that focuses on a specific music genre, or create a custom station that’s based on a favorite album, band, recording artist, or song.

Just like when listening to a traditional music station on the radio, for example, the song playlist offered by an iTunes Radio station is not customizable, and the programming includes commercials.

With an unpaid account, users have limited skip capabilities, meaning that they have fewer opportunities to press the Fast Forward icon in order to skip from the currently playing song to the next song in the station’s pre-created playlist. (This is something that’s not possible when listening to terrestrial or satellite radio.) Apple Music subscribers have the unlimited ability to skip songs, as well as like songs, which allows the service to adapt future station playlists to your personal music tastes.

Playlists Are More Customizable Than Ever Before

What Apple Music offers beyond pre-programmed iTunes Radio stations, is the ability to create custom playlists utilizing almost any music that’s offered by the iTunes Store. You can then listen to that hand-picked content, in the song order you choose, and on a commercial-free basis. Plus, all of your playlists automatically sync with your iCloud account, and become accessible across all of your computers and mobile devices that are linked to the same iCloud account.

In addition to your own playlists, as well as curated playlists you acquire from the Apple Music service (as a paid subscriber), your playlists can easily be shared with your own friends and family. In addition, the iTunes software and Music app now offer improved tools for creating and organizing playlists.

For example, each custom playlist can have a searchable title, description, and a photo associated with it, plus it can include an unlimited number of songs. As always, it’s possible to create or collect as many separate playlists as you’d like, so a customized music selection is available to you when you’re engaged in any activity or experiencing any mood.

Update Your iTunes Software or Music App to Begin Experiencing Apple Music

To begin your free, three month trial of Apple Music, or to become a paid subscriber, it’s necessary to update your iTunes software on your Mac or PC to the latest version, which was released on June 30th. To do this, follow this link: http://www.apple.com/itunes/download.

To experience Apple Music and the new Music app on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, upgrade to iOS 8.4. To do this while your iOS mobile device is connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi, launch Settings from the Home screen, tap on the General option, tap on the Software Update option, and then follow the on-screen prompts.

Final Thoughts…

Between the new iTunes software, redesigned Music app, and the launch of Apple Music, users now have unprecedented access to music from the past and present, and from around the world. Digital music has become global and readily accessible, using any Internet-enabled computer or mobile device. Plus, beyond just experiencing music you already know and love, Apple Music makes discovering new music a truly enjoyable experience.

One thing you’ll notice, is that Apple is putting less emphasis on purchasing and downloading music through the iTunes Store (although this option is still readily available). Instead, more focus is being put on streaming customizable music selections and collections via the Internet, which thanks to Apple Music, can now be done on an unlimited basis for $9.99 per month.

However, if you’re using a cellular data connection (3G/4G/LTE) with your mobile device, and you’ve been given a monthly wireless data allocation by your cellular service provider, you’ll discover that streaming music content will quickly use up your monthly data allocation. That is, unless you’re offered an unlimited wireless data plan, or your wireless service provider offers unlimited streaming from popular music services, such as Apple Music, and doesn’t count it against your monthly wireless data allocation.

If you are stuck in a cellular data plan with a limited wireless data allocation of 2GB or less, for example, seriously consider using Apple Music exclusively with a Wi-Fi Internet connection, or upgrade your cellular data plan.

As a streaming music service, what Apple Music offers that its competition doesn’t, is seamless integration with the iTunes software and/or Music app that you probably already use to manage and experience your personal digital music collection. Plus, Apple Music offers its vast music library and continues to offer exclusive content from well-known recording artists and bands.

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