Apple Music launched on Tuesday, and if you’re an Apple user you’ve got three free months to fiddle around with the streaming service that promises to revolutionize music listening. New features like Beats 1, Connect, and For You make it easy for music obsessives to find new jams, explore curated playlists, and keep tabs on their favorite artists’ work. (Seriously. FKA Twigs posted a new behind-the-scenes video as soon as the service launched.)
Before you dive in, here’s what you need to know before downloading Apple Music:
- There’s a way around Apple auto-billing you. Anyone who wants to try Apple Music gets a three-month free trial of the service, but not before getting signed up by Apple for future payments after the trial’s expiration. Disabling the auto-pay feature is easy—just go to your Apple Music profile in the upper left-hand corner, then view your Apple ID and manage subscriptions—and will guarantee that even if you revert to Spotify tomorrow you won’t get charged three months down the road.
- Beats 1 could change radio. Internet radio is nothing new. NPR shows, indie podcasts, music services like Pandora, and even some terrestrial radio stations can be accessed via the web rather than a traditional dial. But Beats 1 is different. It fuses talk radio with music streaming, while adding in a dash of curation from tastemakers to separate it from the bevy of our-algorithm-knows-you services out there today. And, by broadcasting live globally on an already massive network of devices, Beats 1 could become a cultural touchstone.
- The other radio stations aren’t too shabby either. Beats 1 will have star power—musicians from Elton John to Dr. Dre to St. Vincent have signed on—but Apple also overhauled its radio streaming to go toe-to-toe with competitors. Most genres have corresponding radio stations with content curated by experts. Apple Music scans your library to see your listening habits and learns to tailor the streaming to your tastes—plus, you can skip the songs you don’t want to hear. A bit of a Pandora knock-off? You bet. But odds are that with a worthwhile radio feature, listeners won’t leave Apple Music to seek out other services.
- For You provides immediate tailored listening. Along with New, Radio, Connect, and My Music, For You is one of the five tabs in Apple Music. Upon launching the service for the first time, users are greeted with a swarm of red circles with genres and artists to tap based on how much they like them. For You analyzes these responses and user libraries to immediately compile playlists and albums best suited for a specific listener. In addition to suggesting new music, it also digs into libraries to simply suggest old favorites that haven’t been played in a while.
- You can now share playlists via iTunes. When the iPod first launched, “sharing your library” meant splitting earbuds with your best friend on a long car ride. The web has become more social since, and Apple Music has adopted a feature that’s one of Spotify’s most underrated: Playlist sharing. Users will now be able to send playlists that’ll immediately recognize updates made by creators. Get ready for a spike in unsolicited mixes.
- Prepare to change your music video watching habits. Apple Music won’t render YouTube obsolete—after all, bedroom Zeppelin covers and your brother’s experimental short films have to live somewhere—but it could threaten the video-sharing website’s music primacy. Because YouTube exploded around when Apple added video capabilities to iPods, the iTunes store’s $1.99 videos never really caught on. With Apple Music, the company has revamped its approach to music videos, making them available for streaming and offline use in the same way as audio tracks.
- Improved Siri recognition will make listening to music on your iPhone easier—and more fun—than ever. Here’s something fun to try when you’ve got Apple Music up and running: Ask it to play the No. 1 hit from the day you were born. The service has access to decades of chart information and can mine that data for the ultra-specific search queries users give Siri. The iOS voice control software hasn’t become ubiquitous yet, but this nifty party trick—that also makes music listening far more convenient—could do just that.
- Assuming artists latch on, Connect’s Sound Bites capability will add a new dimension to artist-fan interaction. Musicians can use Apple Music’s Connect feature to post all sorts of content for fans, including text updates, playlists, video, and audio. One nifty aspect is Sound Bites, a tool for artists to share 10-second audio clips of songs they’re fiddling around with—or any other fun content. Apple hopes bands will eventually use Sound Bites to test out new ideas and get fan feedback as they write songs.
- Apple has recruited fantastic curators for playlists. Apple Music’s radio services will get the lion’s share of attention, and rightly so. But the company also has a solid stable of playlists and playlist curators, ranging from themed mixes for everything from cooking to “getting ready to go out” and collections by Complex, the Fader, Pitchfork, and many more. Unlike radio, these are mixes with a set number of songs that remain the same.
- Exclusives, so many exclusives! From exclusive interviews with the likes of Eminem and Justin Timberlake on Beats 1 to streaming options like Dr. Dre’s The Chronic and Taylor Swift’s 1989 that aren’t available elsewhere, Apple has come out of the gate with a stacked lineup of tunes that listeners can’t hear on other services.
•Trent Reznor: Apple Music is like going to a record store
•Everything you need to know about Apple Music
•Spring King had no idea they would be the first band played on Apple Music’s Beats 1