Apple Music launched with much publicity, fanfare and notoriety. Apple’s new music streaming service is similar to Rhapsody, Spotify, Google Music, Tidal and other music subscription offerings. This article covers how to get started with Apple Music on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.
Back Up Your iPhone
Before you begin, make sure to backup your iPhone. You can do this using either iCloud or iTunes. If you are unfamiliar with the backup process, please read Apple’s guide on iOS backups.
Keep in mind that an iPhone backup only creates a copy of your content (apps, music videos) and personal data (contacts, etc.). For example, if you backup your iPhone and upgrade to iOS 8.4, restoring the backup will not revert your iPhone to 8.3. It will only restore the content, not the operating system. Furthermore, a restore is an all-or-nothing operation. You cannot pick specific files to restore, as iOS has an abstracted file system. There are some utilities, such as iPhone Backup Extractor, that can do this. I recommend backing up with both iCloud and iTunes, if you have the time.
It is very important to create a backup before upgrading to iOS 8.4. Unfortunately, Apple Music has been known to alter people’s music libraries. Apple also recommends backing up your device before using Apple Music.
Run the iOS 8.4 Update
iOS 8.4 was a rushed release. Apple had to get the release out quickly to attract Tidal users coming off their free trial. It was also released in the beginning of summer, when students are on summer break and have more free time. In their haste, both iOS 8.4 and Apple Music are a little buggy. If you have an iPad 2G (original 2011 model, not the iPad Air 2) or an iPhone 4S, I do not recommend upgrading to iOS 8.4. Apple Music is unbearably slow on these devices. The 8.4 update will also slow down Safari and any app that uses an embedded browser. If you experienced the “WiFried” bug prior to iOS 8.3, some users are reporting its return in 8.4. For more information, please read “iOS 8.4: Worth Upgrading?“.
You can start the iOS 8.4 upgrade process by tapping Settings > General > Software Update. Follow the on-screen instructions. If you have been upgrading your device regularly, the update should take no more than 30 minutes.
Launch Apple Music
Apple Music replaces the previous Music app on your iPhone’s home screen. The new Apple Music icon is placed in the same location as the previous Music app.
If you have trouble finding it, you can use Spotlight. Simply swipe one finger down from the middle of the home screen to reveal Spotlight.
Type in the first few letters of “music” and then tap on the Apple Music icon.
Start the Three Month Free Trial
The initial Apple Music screen presents two options — “Start 3-Month Free Trial” or “Go to My Music.” Tap on “Start 3-Month Free Trial” to begin your subscription. If you choose “Go to My Music”, you will only be able to play music stored on your device in addition to iTunes Radio. It is basically the old Music app with a new look.
I recommend signing up for the Apple Music free trial. It is very easy to cancel the service if you choose not to pay. You can do it right away, so you don’t forget later. You can still use Apple Music. You just won’t be billed for it after the three-month trial. For more information on canceling your Apple Music subscription, please read this article.
The next screen asks if you want an individual or family plan. The individual plan costs $9.99 per month, but only allows one subscriber. The family plan costs $14.99 per month and allows up to 6 users. It is an amazing deal!
Keep in mind, the family plan uses Apple’s Family Sharing program. This means that one subscriber’s credit card is tied to all other accounts. You don’t want to abuse Family Sharing as a way for you and your friends to get cheap Apple Music subscriptions. It is designed for a primary subscriber (head of the household) to share content purchases with their family.
If you engage in Family Sharing with your friends, the linked accounts can purchase apps using the primary account’s credit card. Of course, the primary credit card holder can enable the Ask to Buy feature. Family Sharing is designed for families, not friends. Your friends will not be able to freely purchase apps and content if they are part of your Family Sharing network.
If you wish to save a little money on Apple Music, apps, videos, iBooks and every downloadable product that Apple sells, consider using iTunes gift cards. Stores such as Costco regularly sell iTunes gift cards at a discount. You can save more than 8% on Apple purchases using discounted gift cards. For more information, please read this article.
After choosing a plan, you are presented with the legal agreement. Tap the OK button to view the new legal agreement.
The legal agreement is displayed. You can email it. Agree to the terms to continue.
iCloud Music Library Can’t Be Enabled
First impressions are important. Unfortunately, people are welcomed to Apple Music with a confusing error message: “iCloud Music Library can’t be enabled”. The iCloud Music Library is a new feature accompanying Apple Music. It is similar to iTunes Match, but is offered free with Apple Music. It basically allows you to make Apple Music albums and songs available offline. It also works across all of your Apple devices.
New users are also welcomed to Apple Music with missing album art, even for iTunes purchases. Don’t worry, the album art will eventually appear.
If you download an album on your iPad, it will be available for download on your iPhone or other Apple device if the iCloud Music Library is enabled on that device. When you rip and import a CD into iTunes, you can download it on any of your devices using the iCloud Music Library. It is similar to iTunes Match, except it is free with Apple Music.
Music stored in the iCloud Music Library is DRM-protected. If you cancel Apple Music, you lose this library, even if you back it up. It may seem harsh, but if Apple didn’t do this, it would be like bringing an ice chest to an all-you-can-eat buffet. People would download massive amounts of music and cancel the service. Apple also needs to compensate artists when you listen to their music. They can only do this if iCloud Music Library is available to subscribers. Without DRM protection, you could play Apple Music downloads in a different player, which would bypass artist compensation. Even when you listen to music offline, Apple Music counts the playback and compensates the artist.
Don’t worry about the iCloud Music Library for now. We will explore this feature later in the article. You can activate it later from the Settings app. When you choose to make music available offline, Apple Music can take you directly to this setting.
Tell Us What You’re Into
Apple Music offers recommendations for music. To facilitate this feature, you need to communicate your musical preferences by tapping on “bubbles”. The categories are a bit vague. Don’t sweat this step too much. It will not prevent you from accessing any music, it will just inform recommendations for music. I actually think the bubble interface is kind of cool. You can tap on a bubble multiple times to indicate the strength of your preference. The bubble will get bigger after each tap, but will reset after three taps. You can hold your finger down on any genre or artists you don’t like.
After you have made your genre selections, tap Next on the top right of the screen. You will see a screen with artists. Tap on a few artists until the “You” circle is complete, then tap Done.
If the music recommendations are a bit off, you can redo the bubble selection process. Tap on the user icon on the top right.
Now tap on Choose Artists For You.
This will take you back to the musical preference bubbles. If you wish to reset your preferences, tap on reset on the bottom right of any “bubble screen”.
That’s it! You are now free to explore Apple Music.
Activate iCloud Music Library
iCloud Music Library is similar to iTunes Match. It allows an Apple Music subscriber to store any music, even CDs imported into iTunes, in iCloud. From there, the music can be synced to any device that supports the Apple ecosystem — iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac and Windows PC. The iCloud Music Library must be activated to make music available offline.
You can activate the iCloud Music Library by tapping Settings > Music and switching on iCloud Music Library.
You may be prompted to replace or merge your existing local music library. Most people will want to merge their libraries, as this will preserve the downloaded albums and playlists they already have. This step could go awry. You backed up your iPhone and your music collection, right?
If you don’t activate iCloud Music Library explicitly, you will be prompted to do so when making music available offline. A dialog box will appear, which has an inter-app link to the setting.
Find Artists, Songs and Albums in Apple Music
Apple Music has more than 30 million songs, but it doesn’t have the entire iTunes Library, as Eddie Cue suggested at the keynote. The music selections are similar to other services, such as Spotify and Google Music. Don’t expect to find anything by the Beatles. It’s also missing some of the most popular albums by certain artists. They still want you to pay $10 or more for certain albums. Apple Music (and every other music subscription service) is not a comprehensive replacement for purchasing music. They do have an amazing selection that will save any music aficionado a lot of money.
Now that your expectations are set, let’s look at how to find music. It isn’t always easy. Like every music service, artists with similar names will show up when browsing albums by artists. When you tap on an artist and then their albums, you might not see them all, even if they are available on Apple Music. You might have to do some exploration to find these.
First, tap on the magnifying glass icon on the top right of any screen. If you don’t see it, you may have drilled down deep into the UI. Simply tap the back button at the top left of the screen until you see it.
Type an artist, album or song into the search field. You can also do a combination, but this doesn’t always work. For example, if you type in “Ornette Coleman shape” it will not display his album “The Shape of Jazz to Come”. You can actually type in “ornette coleman the shape of jazz to come” and see no results! Apple Music offers the album, it’s just that their search feature needs some work. When it comes to search functionality (or cloud services, for that matter), Apple is not as good as Google. Apple makes excellent hardware and the best operating systems. Their stock apps, such as Apple Music, are mediocre.
When you have found an acceptable search result, tap on it. You will see a screen with more detailed results, such as the artist or popular albums or songs by the artist. From here, you can tap on a result to display the artist, album or song.
You can play albums directly from this screen by selecting the “…” menu. Tapping on a song will play it.
If you choose the artist, you will see a screen with top songs, top albums and all albums.
Tapping on an album will display the album’s tracks.
From here, you can play the album by pressing the play button or tapping the first track. This will also add the entire album’s track to Now Playing, which is an ad hoc playlist.
Enable Apple Music to Use Cellular Data
By default, Apple Music will not use cellular data. Furthermore, the setting to enable cellular data isn’t where one would look. If you tap on Settings > Cellular and enable Apple Music, this still doesn’t enable cellular playback or music downloads.
The UI/UX geniuses at Apple decided to put this setting under Settings > iTunes & App Store. From this screen, turn on Use Cellular Data.
Apple Music will prompt you and take you to this screen if you try to play music using a cellular network.
This is not a fine-grained setting that works for just Apple Music. It turns on cellular data for all iTunes and App Store purchases. You may want to turn off automatic downloads and keep an eye on usage, if you need to conserve cellular data.
Make Music Available Offline
Using the iCloud Music Library, Apple Music users can download music to their device for offline listening. This is a great way to conserve cellular data. First, make sure to activate the iCloud Music Library. Refer to the instructions presented earlier in this article. Next, find an album or song that you would like to download and tap “…”. You will see a menu with available options. Tap on “Make Available Offline”.
Your music will begin downloading immediately. You can tap on the My Music button at the bottom of any screen. This is where downloaded music is stored. A progress bar and download count displayed at the top of the screen indicate download progress. My Music will also display any album you have added, even if it isn’t downloaded to the device.
Think of it like a bookmark. You can add songs or albums to My Music for future listening, with or without downloading them to your device. Confused? Don’t worry, Apple Music has confused a lot of people and garnered much criticism, even from tech writers who tend to adore Apple.
Play Beats 1 Radio
Beats 1 Radio is an online radio station hosted by live DJs. The service claims to offer an eclectic blend of “excellent music”. For the most part, it is pop music. You can listen to Beats 1 Radio by tapping the Radio button on the bottom of the screen. A large Beats 1 icon is displayed on the Radio screen. Tap the play button to listen.
Update Apple Music
When it comes to updating the Apple Music app, you really have no choice. Apple’s stock apps are usually not updatable via the App Store mechanism. Instead, to avoid negative publicity, they sneak updates on to your devices when they are plugged in and idle.
I have noticed that every time I charge my iPhone, Apple Music changes. For example, a bug where multiple instances of an album are added to Up Next was patched. After this update, I have experienced new problems with music pausing randomly. It used to work. Their update fixed a cosmetic bug, yet introduce a severe defect. Apple also changed the cellular data options for Apple Music. Don’t be surprised if Apple Music changes on you. It just means they patched it while your device was plugged in and idle. If an Apple Music update has stymied your experience, just continue to plug in your device and hopefully it will be fixed.
Apple Music is a beta quality product that was rushed in order to attract Tidal users coming off their free subscription. We can only hope it improves within three months and is worth the price.
That’s it for the basics. Make sure to spend time exploring Apple Music and finding old, new and great music to listen to. If you don’t like Apple Music, there are other similar services. Apple Music does integrate into the Apple ecosystem better than any other service. You can use it across all of your Apple devices (and Windows with iTunes). Apple Music is the only service that works with Siri. If you are vested in the Apple ecosystem, Apple Music is probably the best music subscription service.