Is Apple Music Subscription Only? (Explained)

If you’re a music lover, you may have been looking for the best streaming service where you can enjoy some great music.

Apple Music is an obvious competitor among the streaming giants, but it doesn’t offer a free tier. And, it can be a little tedious trying to find out about Apple’s different subscription offers and figuring out which is best for you. 

So if you’ve wondered what your options are when it comes to Apple Music, wonder no more, because that’s exactly what we’ll be exploring in this article!

Here’s Why You Need an Apple Music Subscription:

Apple Music offers four subscription options: Voice, Individual, Student, and Family. Although Apple Music doesn’t offer a free version, a significant perk is that none of the plans include adverts that could interrupt listening. Apple’s most affordable option, Voice Plan, begins at $4.99/mo. 

Apple Music App open on Smart phone

Why Doesn’t Apple Music Offer a Free Version?

We can only speculate on the exact reasoning that went into the decision, but it’s clear that somebody (probably several somebodies) at Apple thought they’d make more money this way.

But why was a subscription-only model believed to be the most profitable option?

The best way to answer this question is to take a look at subscription services that do offer a free tier function.

Since Spotify is Apple Music’s biggest competitor and does offer a free tier, it’s a perfect case study.

A free user on Spotify can access the same huge library of music content that a paid user can, excluding some other benefits.

Spotify makes money from free users interacting with their advertisements. It’s also why Spotify ads are so frequent and much more difficult to block successfully than a lot of other online ads.

Why doesn’t Apple Music offer a free version, it works for Spotify. Right? 

Apple Music’s subscription options offer a better user experience than a free tier with ad interruptions and it’s also profitable to the company.

The problem is that ad revenue is unreliable compared to the revenue that can be generated by a large user base that pays a subscription fee every month. 

There are many dedicated ad-blocking services on the internet that allow many users to use ad-supported services without the ads. This is counter to a company’s interests because it allows savvy enough users to bypass the one thing generating money for the company in a free tier.

Moreover, many users want to be able to enjoy their playlists without the hassle of ads.

And, as such, we can safely assume that some kind of analysis was done which came to the conclusion that Apple Music could reliably acquire a large user base that was prepared to pay a fee for its services.

How Much Does an Apple Music Subscription Cost?

That depends on which subscription we’re talking about!

Apple Music technically offers four subscription options, but three of them have identical benefits.

As such, it’s more useful to look at it as two basic plans, one of which has two variants designed to be used by certain kinds of people or groups.

Here’s a rundown of the options, and their cost, when subscribing to Apple Music:

  • Voice Plan: $4.99/mo: The cheapest and most basic plan which allows you to stream all the music you want, and that’s about it.
  • Individual Plan: $9.99/mo: The fully-featured plan that allows full streaming, downloads, lossless audio, and a number of other benefits.
  • Student Plan: $5.99/mo: This is just the Individual Plan, but at a discount for college students. You need submit proof of your student status to claim this discount for up to 4 years.
  • Family Plan: $14.99/mo: This is the individual plan, but for up to 6 people to use at once.

So as you can see, how much the subscription costs depends on which plan you choose and what your specific circumstances are.

Check out our article on Spotify or Apple Music for students!

Is the Apple Music Subscription Worth it?

Ultimately, only you can decide if Apple Music is worth it because everyone’s wants, needs, and financial situations are unique.

If all you really want is access to music streaming from your home computer, and you either don’t mind listening to ads, or you have a really good ad blocker, then it might not be worth it.

This is because, in this case, you can get everything you’re looking for from a free Spotify account, so there’s no need to spend money on a subscription.

But what if you also want to stream from your mobile device(s), don’t want to deal with ads, and are looking for other features like downloading songs for offline listening? In this case, both Spotify Premium and Apple Music could meet those needs.

If it really is just the ability to stream on mobile devices and you don’t need other features, then Apple Music’s Voice plan is for you.

Spotify Premium doesn’t offer any low-priced equivalent option here, so if that’s what you’re after, then Apple Music is definitely worth it with its half-priced Voice Plan.

But if high-quality audio is important to you (such as lossless audio) then Apple Music’s Individual Plan may definitely be worth it for you.

It’s worth noting that lossless audio isn’t something Spotify offers at all, so if you’re a major audiophile, Apple Music is definitely worth it in this department.

If you don’t care about lossless audio, though, the competition (Spotify) offers an Individual Plan with otherwise very similar features for an identical price.

Suffice it to say, whether or not Apple Music is worth it or not depends on a lot of factors, like what you want out of the service, what you can afford, and what the competition offers.

You may be wondering if there are any possible ways for users to access Apple Music for free. Unfortunately, as we have already covered, there is no way to access Apple Music’s library for free.

To help you better determine if Apple Music is worth it, here’s another list breaking it down by what you want out of your subscription and who you are:

  • You’re an individual who just wants to stream music and nothing else: Choose the Voice Plan, Apple Music will cost $4.99/mo for you.
  • You’re an individual who is NOT a college student but wants all the bells and whistles: Choose the Individual Plan, Apple Music will cost $9.99/mo for you.
  • You’re an individual who IS a college student and wants all the bells and whistles: Choose the Student Plan, Apple Music will cost $5.99/mo for you.
  • You’re part of a family or group of roommates who want to split costs: Choose the Family Plan, Apple Music will cost anywhere from $7.50-$2.50/mo for you, depending on how many people you split the $14.99 bill with.

For more, check out our article on Apple Music’s Family Plan.

Can You Still Listen to Your Library without an Apple Music Subscription?

There’s been a lot of confusion with questions like these since macOS Catalina launched the changes to the iconic iTunes app. This change split iTunes into several apps: Music, TV, Books, and Podcasts.

Because of this change, and especially because the new music-listening app is also called “Apple Music,” it’s easy to get confused.

You can use the Apple Music app to listen to any music you own or have imported, even if you lack a subscription to the Apple Music streaming service.

It can be helpful to think of the Apple Music app as the new version of iTunes, but only for music, while the other types of media iTunes used to offer now have their own apps.

All this to say that, yes, if you have music that you own in your personal library, that’s not going away. You can access this library from within the Apple Music App. 

Do You Need to Use the iTunes Store if You Don’t Have a Subscription?

Well, for one thing, that depends on whether you even have iTunes or not.

If you’re on macOS Catalina or newer or iOS, then iTunes was replaced by a host of other apps.

If you’re on Windows, however, the iTunes app still exists there.

Either way, be it through iTunes on Windows or the Apple Music app on iOS and macOS, you can, in fact, still purchase an individual track or album through the store as an alternative to an Apple Music subscription.

All your purchased music from iTunes will be stored in the Apple Music App. It is also worth noting that music and playlists on Apple Music are only available while you are subscribed. 

Please also read our article explaining what happened to iTunes!



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