Apple Music goes live, courtesy of latest iOS software update

After years resisting subscriptions, Apple hits play on a $10-a-month streaming music service Tuesday with a three-month free trial.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
Expertise Streaming video, film, television and music; virtual, augmented and mixed reality; deep fakes and synthetic media; content moderation and misinformation online Credentials
  • Three Folio Eddie award wins: 2018 science & technology writing (Cartoon bunnies are hacking your brain), 2021 analysis (Deepfakes' election threat isn't what you'd think) and 2022 culture article (Apple's CODA Takes You Into an Inner World of Sign)
Joan E. Solsman
2 min read

Apple Music, a late entry by the electronics giant into the competitive subscription streaming music race, is live.

Apple on Tuesday fired up the new $10-a-month service in more than 100 countries as part of an update to its iOS mobile operating system for devices like the iPhone , iPad and iPod Touch . Anyone can try it out free during a three-month trial.

The service is the belated entry into subscription streaming tunes by the company that revolutionized the music industry more than a decade ago as recorded tunes morphed into digital formats. Apple's loyalty to the 99-cent download let startups like Spotify, which dominates the subscription business, gain steam. As downloads decline and streaming options surge in popularity, Apple Music is the electronics giant's bid to come off the sidelines and remain relevant to consumers' changing habits. However, Apple needs to prove that the unique elements of its service are enough to convince people to pay.

Apple Music can be found in all iOS gadgets after the update, but you can also listen on Macs and PCs. The new version of iOS with Apple Music was available starting at 8 a.m. PT, and a worldwide 24-hour live radio station, Beats 1, was planned to go live at 9 a.m. PT.

After the trial period, elements of Apple Music will remain free: You can listen to Beats 1 with advertising integrated into hosts' patter, you can play other radio stations with ads and limited song skips, and you can follow and view artists' feeds through a featured called Connect.

For years, Apple was dismissive of subscriptions. Founder and former CEO Steve Jobs called the model "bankrupt" in Rolling Stone in 2003 and told Reuters "people want to own their music" in 2007. Apple's success with downloads backed up his stance even after his death in 2011: A year ago, Apple revealed it had sold 35 billion songs since launching iTunes.

It has only been in the last year that streaming music's growing popularity has started to erode the download business. Worldwide revenue from digital subscriptions jumped 39 percent last year while download sales fell 8 percent, according to International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, a global trade group for the music business.

Like rivals such as Spotify, Apple Music provides commercial-free access to million of songs on demand, and it has sections that make personalized recommendations based on your listening habits and -- in Apple's case - your iTunes history.

Watch this: Apple Music brings together music and the artists that create it

Unlike others, Apple Music features the live radio element of Beats 1 alongside the expert-curated stations and Pandora-like options that are common to its peers. Apple also differentiates itself with Connect, which gives artists the ability to share audio, video, photos and posts directly with fans. Additionally, it integrates Siri voice commands like "play the top song from 1993" and "add Drake's latest album to my library," and Apple Music offers cloud storage for 100,000 songs.