Apple Music and Beats 1 launches to the world

iPhone (and Mac and iPad) owners get three months of free access to a ton of music, plus Beats 1. Jordan Golson provides the details.

Apple Music

Apple Music is finally here. It's one part streaming music service with millions of songs, another part music syncing service for music you already own (it used to be called iTunes Match), and then there's some other stuff.

To get started with Apple Music, first you need an Apple device--an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or Mac (Apple TV support comes later this year).

If you have an iOS device, you need to update to iOS 8.4. Head to Settings | General | Software Update, follow the prompts, and then wait a little bit. Once your device has restarted, you're good to go.

On a Mac, fire up the App Store and click the Updates tab. iTunes 12.2 should show up there. Update, and you're off!

We'll stick to iOS for now. The old Music app has been replaced and revamped, with a new logo. Fire up the app, and go through the (easy) process to sign up for the three-month Apple Music trial. (Here's how to cancel auto-renewal so you don't forget and get charged in September if you don't want Apple Music going forward).

At the bottom left, you have For You. It pulls data from songs that you've purchased on iTunes, plus artists and genres that you like or dislike. When you first fire it up, the app will ask you to tap or double-tap genres that you like, love, or (if you hold down) hate. Then it'll prompt you to do the same for some artists. That should be enough to get it primed.

It'll suggest playlists and albums that fit your style, both new and old. Listen to whatever you want, as much as you want. Basically, you have access to the entire iTunes Library (with a few exceptions). It's just like Spotify or the other streaming music services.

Then, there's the New tab. This is something like the main page of the iTunes Store, making recommendations about newly released albums, top charts, playlists for certain activities like working out, celebrating, driving, or more. Sort through different genres from a menu at the top, or scroll down to see curated playlists from publications like GQ or NME.

Top Charts

There's a ton here, and Apple has a tall task to catalog millions of songs and make it easy for users to find both the music they want and the music they don't know they want.

Of course, all music previously purchased from iTunes is here in the My Music tab, as is any music that was loaded into the old $25/year iTunes Match (now called iCloud Music Library and included in the $10/month Apple Music cost).

Really, a review isn't necessary. In my first two hours playing around with the service, it's clear that Apple Music is a serious contender in the streaming music world, if for nothing else than it's really easy to get into on an iPhone. Apple Music is free for everyone for three months, so join up, tap around, see what you like.

One last thing though--down at the bottom is the Radio tab. It includes revamped radio stations, replacing Apple Radio, which came out last year. Gone are the all-algorithm stations, replaced with a mix of algorithm and hand-crafted stations.

There's also the new Beats 1 radio station, anchored by former BBC Radio One DJ Zane Lowe, along with a cast of other DJs. It's apparently going to be a way to discover new music across all genres.

All Genres

In the first hour, Lowe played some old-school AC/DC (For Those About to Rock), a world premiere of Pharrell's new track Freedom (played twice, back-to-back, something of a habit of Lowe's), and a number of other tracks from across Drum & Bass, Hip-Hop, EDM, and more.

I've been listening to Beats 1 while writing this article, and I'm really enjoying it. I haven't actually listened to radio with DJs in years, and it's nice. Even better, there aren't really ads. It's just music and DJs guiding things along. I heard one brief NPR-style ad in between two songs: "Beats 1 is made possible by American Express."

Anyway, it's out now. Go download iOS 8.4 or iTunes 12.2 and try it out. Apple Music is free for three months and costs $10/month after that.

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