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Do More With Apple Music Streaming Service—Part 1

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:LongLanguages:

Apple Music is a music-streaming service, launched back in June 2015. When you join Apple Music you get access to millions of songs for streaming and offline play, curated ad-free radio stations and music recommendations. At launch, the music-streaming service received mixed reviews.

On the one hand, reporters praised Apple Music for its vast and exclusive collection, human curated radio stations and the accuracy of curated playlists. At the same time, they criticised the service for its unintuitive interface, the number of bugs and iCloud Music Library related problems.

With iOS 10, the entire interface opted for a plain black-and-white design and a complete makeover. While the bold design has intriguing consequences for the overall consistency of iOS visuals, its impact on the usability is remarkable. The re-designed interface packs significant enhancement to the discovery and listening experience.

In this, the first part of three tutorials, I’ll show you how to:

  • Take advantage of the basic features of Apple Music
  • Refine Apple Music suggestions

Availability and Compatibility

Apple has listed the countries in which you can join Apple Music, listen to Apple Music Radio, Beats 1 Radio, or subscribe to iTunes Match

If you live in a country where Google Play is not available, download the Music app from the Apple website instead. You might need to adjust the security setting to complete the installation.

Apple Music is compatible with iOS devices running version 8.4 or later, iTunes version 12.2 or later (on OS X Mavericks or later, Windows 7 or later), Apple Watch, Android devices running version 4.3 or later, and Sonos speakers

Apple Music is not supported for iPod nano, iPod shuffle, and does not work with Chromecast devices.

Disclaimer

There's a range of Android devices available on the market. Some OEMs design their own user interface as a custom layer on top of the stock Android OS, while some devices have different android version. 

Consequently, your experience with Apple Music app may vary. Also the Music app is not updated with the latest features and new design as seen in iOS 10. 

For this tutorial, I am using

  • OnePlus One running version 6.0.1, not tested with version 7.0 (Nougat)
  • iPad Mini 2 Retina Display running version 10.1.1
  • OS X El Capitan with iTunes 12.5.3

Changes in the User Interface

Unlike other Apple apps, Music app in iOS 10 does away with most UI conventions in favour of big, bold headlines and large text buttons. There's a conspicuous decrease of transparency in the interface with plenty of white space. The use of More … icon, is also now used sparingly as much as possible.

Apple Music no longer follows the interaction paradigms of iTunes Store and App Store, there’s no front page highlighting dozens of top songs and curated recommendations.

While this definitely decreases the amount of content on the screen, it made the app a lot simple to use who aren’t well versed in the intricacies of the iTunes app.

The app’s background no longer tries to match a color with the album artwork. There were problems with this approach—unreadable contrast, poor readability and legibility. 

While this effect was certainly cool, it was hard on the eyes. The song information, download icon, playback controls, and the volume slider also got noticeably larger and darker.

Apart from the interface redesign, few sections were re-named. 

My Music tab is now LibraryFor You contains recommendations as before, and the New tab is now Browse. Connect tab is now demoted from standalone view to a sub-section of For You. There is a separate Search icon to search the Library and Apple Music catalog.

Take Advantage of the Basic Features

In order to take advantage from the Apple Music’s vast catalog, the service includes a bunch of helpful features. 

It has a Library to hold your favourite albums, playlists and music bought from iTunes Store, a search box to search the entire Library and Apple Music catalog, helpful menus to download songs and albums when you don’t have an Internet connection and the ability to create and manage playlists.

Adding Music to a Library

With a subscription, you can add any music to the Library, as long as the subscription is active. To add any item to the music library;

On the Mac

  • Click + to add a single song or click +ADD to add an entire album
  • Or, hover your mouse over the item and from the More … icon click Add to Library
  • To add a playlist, click +ADD. You can find the playlists in the sidebar of Library under Apple Music Playlists
add-music-to-library-mac
Adding Music to your Library in Mac

On iOS

  • Tap + to add a single song or tap +ADD to add an entire album. 
  • Or, tap the More… icon and then tap Add to Library
  • To add a playlist, tap Subscribe
  • You can find the playlists in Library > Playlists.
add-music-to-library-ios
Adding Music to Library in iOS device

On Android

  • Tap + to add an entire album, or tap More… icon 
  • Tap + to add a single song to the library
adding-music-to-library-android
Adding Music to your Library in Android Device

When you add any music to the Library

  • The album, playlist, or a song gets added to the Recently Played section of the Library view
  • The Library get synced with all the devices, provided you turn on the iCloud Music Library
  • It send a signal to Apple Music, that you like a particular artist and it follows them automatically for you
  • Adding items to Library may help in fine tuning the recommendations

Search in Apple Music

In iTunes there's a Search box at the top-right of the window. You can use this box to find music from your Library or the Apple Music catalog. Click a recent search to quickly get back to previous results. Same thing applies for an iOS and an Android device.

  • To see which search items is trending in your area
  • To find artists, albums, or songs from which you can create a custom Apple Music Radio station
  • To see the items you’ve searched for recently. Click clear to delete all the search items
search-apple-music-mac
Search in Apple Music

You can use Siri to search Apple Music at any time. The best part about using Siri with Apple Music is the tight integration, you don’t have to open the app or type-in search each time. You can use instructions like:

  • Play the top songs from 2016
  • Play more songs like this
  • Add the new Britney Spears album to my library
  • Play something for working out
  • Play my new releases

These are just the examples, you can try out more to do wonderful things with Siri.

Download Music for Offline Listening

Once you’ve added an album, or a song to the library, you can download it. You can listen to your favourite music offline without any Internet connection. 

If you have an Android device with microSD card, Apple Music supports them. It can store all the music to the microSD card.

On the Mac

There’s a Download icon next to each track. 

In Albums view, there’s a Download icon near to the right side of the album’s header bar.

download-music-to-your-mac
Download music to your Mac for offline listening

To view the downloaded items, go to iTunes > Library. Then, from the menu bar at the top of the iTunes window, choose View > Only Downloaded Music. Choose View > All Music to see all the music.

view-downloaded-music-mac
View downloaded music on your Mac

On the iOS

There’s a Download icon next to each track. In Albums view, there’s a Download icon near to the right side of the album’s header bar.

download-music-to-ios
Download music to your iOS device

To view the downloaded items, tap Library > Downloaded Music. A message that says Showing only music on this device appears at the top of the screen. Tap Library again to see all the music.

view-downloaded-music-ios
View downloaded music on your iOS device

On Android

Go to My Music and tap More… icon to the right of the song, album, or playlist. Tap Download to store the item offline.

download-music-android
Download albums to your Android device for offline listening

Sort and Shuffle Songs

iOS 10 defaults to sorting songs by artist in the Music app. You generally want to find a specific song, not music by an artist. To change this, go to Settings > Music, then under the Library section, you’ll find the Sort Songs & Albums setting.

Tap it to open the sort settings, and then tap By Title. Your songs will be in alphabetical order again. The sorting criteria that you choose will apply to both songs and albums, there’s no way to sort them individually.

sort-songs-ios-device
Sorting songs and albums in an iOS device

When you play a song, you’ll see a player at the bottom of the screen. Tap or swipe up on the player at the bottom to see the Now Playing screen and controls—here you can rewind, pause, or fast forward a song, control the volume, read lyrics, and more.

Swipe up on Now Playing screen, and you’ll see the Up Next queue. The Shuffle and Repeat buttons are to the right of the Up Next.

location-of-shuffle-and-repeat-buttons
Location of Shuffle and Repeat buttons 1. Shuffle button 2. Repeat button

Tap Shuffle to shuffle the songs in a playlist or album. Tap Repeat once to play an entire playlist or album on repeat or twice to repeat one song. Tap the repeat button third time to clear the repeat.

Make Use of Playlists in Apple Music

Apple Music streaming service recommends a lot of content through playlists. It applies a strategy wherein you can discover new music and listen to your favourite songs through machine and human-powered curation. 

If you’ve rarely used playlists, start using them because Apple Music content is well targeted, well positioned via the brief intro text and album covers.

With the iOS 10 update, Apple Music focus on algorithmic playlist and personalised curation is worth mentioning. For You is the heart of Apple Music. It recommends music based on your listening activity, love and dislikes, and music you brought in iTunes Store. It features two personalised playlists in a carousel at the top.

My New Music Mix, refreshed every Friday. It showcases new music from artists Apple Music thinks you’ll like. 

My Favorites Mix, refreshed every Wednesday. It’s a collection of hit singles, deep cuts, and songs related to your favourite artists.

Scroll down and you’ll see a section with the day’s playlists. Every day the playlist changes and the recommendations are a mix of—genres you like, similar artists which Apple Music thinks you’ll like, and more. Next is Artist Spotlight Playlists, it focuses on music by a specific artist or their influences.

new-music-mix-apple-music
New Music Mix in Apple Music gives you fresh music every friday

While the For You section focuses heavily on algorithmic playlist, the Browse section focuses on personalised curation.

You’ll find playlists organised by both curator-type and Activity based playlists (when you’re in different mood or engaged in different work activity such as cooking, studying, running, romantic and more).

browse-section-playlist-apple-music
Heavily curated section playlist in Apple Music

Click the New Music Playlists section, and you’ll see recommendations from music experts on each genre. The discovery process here is mainly driven by topic. While you may always want to listen songs based on your recommendations, Apple Music is also a discovery platform and it lets you discover new music.

new-music-playlists-apple-music
New music playlists based on editors rating

At the last, you’ll see playlist arranged according to the genre. 

Click any genre from the playlist section to see a thorough list of curated and context playlists. In each genre, you’ll see playlist featured on a particular week, editors favourites, artists playlists, and more.

playlist-by-genre
Playlist by Genre in Apple Music

Create and Manage Smart Playlists

Since the launch of Apple Music, you may have added lots of items to your library. Also, you may have loved some of the songs featured on those albums. If you wish to see all those songs collectively in a playlist, then we’ll create a smart playlist.

Choose File > New > Smart Playlist, or press Command-Option-N.

create-smart-playlist
Create a new smart playlist 

Create a smart playlist with their criteria as Loved and its condition as true. Check the Live updating box, this will ensure that the contents of this smart playlist will show you the latest tracks you’ve loved, to the Music library. Click Ok to save the playlist.

rule-box-smart-laylist
Rule criteria box of smart playlist

Click the heart button to love the song and, then click More… > Add to My Library to add the song to the Library.

smart-playlist-loved-songs
Smart playlist for loved songs

The Smart Playlist gets synced with other devices, and you should be able to see this playlist in Windows, Android, or an iOS device. 

On the iOS device, tap the Library button situated underneath the title bar. Choose Playlists button to see all the playlist you’ve made including Apple Music playlist.

On Android, tap the hamburger menu and then tap Playlists.

loved-playlist-android-device
Your loved playlist tracks synced with your Android phone

As of now this method only works when your album or playlist is in the For You section. It doesn’t affect Apple Music Radio. Also remember, the Love button in Apple Music is not for creating a playlist, you’re just making the songs you loved more discoverable.

With smart playlist, you can also find out which tracks in the iTunes library come from Apple Music. Create a new smart playlist with the condition:

Media Kind is Music
iCloud Status is Apple Music

Click the + button after the first condition to add the second.

rule-box-separate-tracks-from-iTunes
Smart playlist to see which tracks in your iTunes library come from Apple Music

To see which Apple Music tracks are taking up valuable space on a Mac, create a smart playlist with the condition: Location is on this computer

smart-playlist-downloaded-apple-music
Smart playlists to see which tracks you've downloaded from Apple Music

Up Next

In the following tutorials, I'll show you how to:

  • Personalise Apple Music Suggestions
  • Create a custom radio station in Apple Music

and

  • Manage offline music in PCs and smartphones
  • Get lyrics for the songs you love
  • Share an Apple Music membership
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