Updated: Apple Music: release date, price and features

Apple music streaming service

Update: According to USA Today, in its first month Apple managed to coax 11 million subscribers to sign up for its free three-month trial.

Update #2: Apple Music has arrived! Check out our first impressions in our hands-on review of Apple Music, the the new streaming kid on the block.

Once you’ve checked that out you can bag yourself a free three month trial of the service, but you’ll need to download iOS 8.4 on your iPhone, iPad and iPod touch to access it, or update iTunes.

If you’re unsure how to get Apple Music on your devices, read our handy how-to guide!

Original article follows…

Apple Music, the name of Apple’s long-awaited replacement for Beats Audio and iTunes Radio, is official. And while it may sound like a copycat, Apple’s controversial approach will sing a different tune from Spotify and other music streaming services.

Announced at WWDC 2015, the service looks to integrate on-demand music streaming, a 24/7 radio station called Beats1 and a social network that will help fans connect with artists “on the deepest level, building relationships that last a lifetime.”

Some of these features will be free. Some of them won’t. A lot of it will look like Spotify and Rdio, but Apple has a few tricks up its sleeve to separate itself from the pack.

For one thing, the Cupertino company’s bold new venture into streaming isn’t all about songs – it’s about community and uniting music fans the world over.

Apple Music

Services like Beats1 will have a revolving set of DJs based in London, Los Angeles and New York that keep new music, interviews and news running around the clock. Meanwhile, a new integrated social network called Connect will try to erase our memories of Apple’s misguided Ping service.

Cut to the chase
What is it? A new streaming music service from Apple
When is it out? June 30 on iOS 8.4, OSX and Windows, with Android support coming in the fall
How much does it cost? $9.99/£9.99 (about AU$13) per month or $14.99/£14.99 (about AU$20) for families of up to six individuals

But for every move Apple’s made to shake, shake, shake up the industry, it’s been met with consternation and apprehension, most notably from megastar Taylor Swift.

But before we go too far down the MP4 rabbit hole, let’s talk about how big of a hole Apple Music will leave in your wallet every month.

Apple Music

Pricing and release date

There’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that Apple doesn’t believe in giving away a free meal. Apple’s service has a price tag: $9.99/£9.99 (about AU$13) per month or $14.99/£14.99 (around AU$20) for families of up to six individuals.

The good news is exactly what you’ll get for that asking price.

By subscribing to the service, you’ll be able to play and locally save any number of tunes from iTunes’s 25-million song catalog without any stipulations. That’s 5 million more songs than Spotify has which, for fans of the indie genre, makes all the difference in the world. Plus, for fans of Tidal, you’ll also be able to access “high-quality curated playlists” and get “expert music recommendations,” if that’s more your speed.

Apple will offer a free version of the service, too, to everyone with an Apple ID, but all it includes are the ability to listen to the new global radio station and use Apple’s social media service. Comparatively, Spotify and Rdio offer unlimited streaming with ads to its members without a monthly fee, though many similar features, like saving local music, are set behind a paywall.

Apple Music’s free version is intentionally limited, clearly, to see users jump into Apple’s paid ecosystem. The silver lining is that the monthly service is lessened by a three-month free trial offer that Apple is extending to new users.

Apple Music will be released on June 30 alongside Apple iOS 8.4, with PC and Macs to receive a new version of iTunes around the same time, and an Android version will be made available in the fall.

Apple Music

Music curation

When Apple started hiring ex-music journalists shortly after the purchase of Beats, we knew something was up. What they were doing, apparently, was putting together a comprehensive way to sort and recommend music, using not only the algorithms from the now-defunct Beats service but human curation to present “great music people want to hear.”

In theory, this will look a lot like Tidal’s curated playlists, jam-packed full of information on artists, studios and producers, combined with Pandora’s ability to match you with the most popular songs in your preferred genre.

Realistically, Apple Music has the advantage here by having your entire iTunes library at its fingertips that it can use as a reference point for the bands and artists you listen to the most.

Beats 1 global radio

When Apple said it was going to revolutionize the way we listened to music with a new radio station, it was hard not to laugh.

Beats1 will be a 24/7 music station, like SiriusXM here in the US, and hosted by renowned DJs like Zane Lowe, Blame Ebro and Julie Adenuga from Los Angeles, New York and London. It will be the first in its class that will offer news, interviews and new music from artists around the clock.

Apple Music

A recent report from The New York Times says that we can expect Elton John, Drake and Pharrell to host their own shows, with Pharrell calling “dibs” on the first Apple Music debut of an upcoming song. The report also revealed that the first guest on Zane Lowe’s show will be renowned rapper Eminem.

Apple Connect social network

Ping, Apple’s first attempt at connecting fans with artists via Facebook-like social media, was a complete failure. It launched in 2010 and was shuttered by the end of 2012 after limited engagement, and what seemed like artist apathy.

Apple Connect, we hope, will be different.

Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue took the audience through a live demo of the service that promises to integrate the on-demand streaming from services like Rdio and Spotify with social media services like the revamped Myspace.

In Cue’s demo, he showed a behind-the-scenes video of Bastille composing music for their new album, as well as Alabama Shakes’s lead singer and guitarist Brittany Howard in the recording studio.

It’s content that will drive Connect. Without it, Apple should consider pulling the curtain early and saving the world a small headache down the road.

Controversy about paying artists

Apple Music’s three-month free trial was its ace-up-its-sleeve. To promise every iTunes account holder three months of unlimited streaming sounded too good to be true. It turns out it was. Just not for the content creators.

After its WWDC 2015 unveiling, Apple announced that it wouldn’t pay artists a cent for music streamed during a user’s three-month trial, and then it would switch to a 70/30 payment system then-after.

As you can well imagine, this didn’t sit well with artists – particularly, Taylor Swift. “We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation,” Swift wrote on her Tumblr blog. Talk about “bad blood.”

Indie artists and megastars alike asked Apple to pay up or ship out, and Apple being Apple, decided to do the latter. Apple refused to negotiate with indie artists, giving them an ultimatum to either stream their catalog for free for the first three months or remove their music from the storefront.

It took a threat from Taylor to withhold her latest album “1989” before Apple caved in to demands. Apple has since back-pedaled on its original stance and will now pay out artists during users’ free trials, and in return have the exclusive streaming rights to Swift’s set of tracks.

Apple Music

  • You’ll need the best headphones around to get the most out of your music streaming service

Page 2 – Leading up to WWDC 2015

What follows is our take of the service before Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference…

Following months of reports, Apple is expected to unveil its own on-demand music streaming service at its annual developer conference. While the tech giant has yet to detail its intentions in full, sources paint a fairly clear picture of a paid subscription model in the vein of Spotify and the fresh-faced Tidal.

There are also talks of Apple overclocking its current iTunes Radio platform with technology from its acquisition of Beats Electronics. Has Apple finally lined up its successor to iTunes, or will this be too little, too late?

It’s too soon to make the call, but we’ve managed to collect as much information as possible in the days leading up to Apple’s big developer conference.

What is Apple’s new music service?

Apple’s new service will allow users to stream unlimited music for a monthly fee, according to a recent report by The New York Times. This service may well be a revamped version of iTunes Radio, its current horse in the race against online radio services such as Pandora.

Apple music streaming service

The streaming service is projected to borrow heavily from Beats Music, following the acquisition of the Beats Electronics brand by Apple last year for a cool $3 billion (about £1.9 billion/AU$3.9 billion). This would likely result in an emphasis on expert-crafted playlists, and using both music downloaded by the user as well as music curation algorithms to create custom, personalized soundtracks. Integrations with social networks such as Facebook or Twitter could also be expected.

There have also been talks of upgrading the iTunes Radio to feature virtual DJs to create a living radio atmosphere and prepare specialized music rotations, with artists such as Pharrell and Drake rumored to take part in the lineup.

How will I get it, and how much will I have to pay?

The app’s launch is expected to play out as an update to iTunes and the iOS Music app featured on iPhones, iPads, and iPods, so says USA Today. This method ensures all up-to-date iOS and iTunes users have access to Apple’s new music service, which could turn out to be a huge boon for the company as they play catchup to the long-established Spotify.

Considering the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus alone managed to sell over 10 million units the weekend they were released, shattering pre-order records for the company, smartphone users on iOS could become a massive install base once the revamped music service reaches their device.

Payment and account information would most likely be tied to a user’s Apple Pay and Apple ID information, as well as be part of the Music app currently pre-installed on all iOS products. This means Apple could get first dibs on a ton a potential customers new to streaming, as well as simplify the onboarding and payment process for established fans of on-demand music.

Apple music streaming service

The most recent report, courtesy of The Wall Street Journal, has an Apple musc subscription costing $10 per month, a rate similar to the rest of the competition, excluding Tidal’s HiFi offering for $20/£20 a month.

There will also likely be free trials available, but curiously enough Apple hasn’t offered a “free” tier similar in other online services, suggesting that the new Apple Music will only be available to paying customers. Given the streaming side of the service might be premium-only, it is likely that any advertising content will be reserved for its internet radio service, where the DJ-run channels may still be available to listen to for free.

Why now?

Apple is no stranger to spotting trends. Remember, iTunes revolutionized purchasing and playing music in the digital space over a decade ago. Music streaming has rapidly become more popular over the traditional model, with music download sales dropping 8% in 2014 while subscription sales climbed nearly 40%, according to market research by the IFPI music market research firm.

This isn’t Apple’s first foray in online music listening, either. iTunes Radio made its debut in 2013 as a response to Pandora and other online music services. As more on-demand services gain traction, offering instant access to millions of songs, it would make sense for Apple to make its next step, especially given that the extensive iTunes library already grants it a head-start in music selection.

When is Apple’s new service coming out?

Apple’s upcoming WWDC 2015 conference begins June 8 and runs through June 12, and it’s here Apple is expected to make an official announcement.

While the service could very well be set to launch as early as that week, there have been reports of license negotiations with major record labels going at a sluggish clip.

Apple music streaming service

We’ll just have to see if Apple can get its music service off the ground for a June release. Until then, there’s still many questions left unanswered. How will prior iTunes purchases factor in? What regions will it be available in? Will there be an offline mode? With luck, these questions and more will be resolved as we provide updated coverage in the coming week.

  • Music isn’t the only streaming service in the works from Apple. Check out the Apple TV 2!