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How much is Apple Music, and how can you get it for free?

Apple Music is one of the best music streaming services available, offering a catalog of more than 100 million songs, all in high-quality lossless audio at no additional cost, as well as a huge amount of albums and tracks in Dolby Atmos spatial audio, which if you haven’t heard it, is music on a whole other immersive level. And while it does play a close second fiddle to Spotify‘s excellent UI and music discovery (as well as in global subscriptions), the Cupertino music streamer is still a giant and is loaded with cool features, live shows, and exclusives making it a tricky choice if you’re deciding which to run with.

But the biggest factor for most is how much it costs. While there are some limited-time “free” options and a free trial you can cash in on to check out Apple Music, if you stick with the service long enough, you will end up paying. Let’s take a closer look at how much Apple Music is.

Apple Music plans

iPhones showing Apple Music features.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Before we dive into the different pricing tiers Apple Music has to offer, note that each subscription plan offers access to the same catalog of ad-free content, offline listening, Apple Music 1 live and on-demand radio shows, and exclusive releases.

Sign up, and you can stream more than 100 million songs (all now offered in lossless audio for nothing extra) ad-free while also gaining access to Dolby Atmos Music tracks (which are excellent on the new Sonos speakers, and Apple’s new HomePod, by the way), exclusive playlists, the karaoke-like Apple Music Sing feature, and live radio that you can listen to across all of your devices.

The main difference between the plans comes in the form of the Family membership (more on that in a bit), which lets you create up to six individual accounts in a subscription that’s billed as one flat fee per month — regardless of how many people you add on.

Apple Music Individual — $11

To reiterate, Apple Music doesn’t have a free plan, so if you’re looking for the most basic way to get your foot in the door — or if you don’t qualify for the following discounts — you’re going to need an $11-per-month Individual subscription.

Keen to lock people in, Apple also offers customers the option to pay for a year’s worth of service upfront for $109 — a discount of $23 — which isn’t bad. However, you should always compare with alternative subscriptions (we talk more about this below with our Spotify comparisons). Note that users don’t always see the option for the discounted annual plan until they actually sign up for Apple Music on a monthly plan and go back into their subscriptions.

Apple Music Student Subscription — $6

Just like Spotify, Apple Music offers all students (with a valid student email address from a supported educational institution) half-off an Apple Music membership. That drops the monthly subscription payment down to a modest $6. The offer is available only for college students at this time.

Apple HomePod 2023 in a home office.
Zeke Jones/Digital Trends

Apple Music Family Subscription — $17

Looking to enroll up to six people in your household in an Apple Music plan? Subscribe to the Apple Music Family plan for $17 per month. That works out to a total savings of $5 per month for two members, $15 for three, $25 for four, $35 for five, and $45 for six family members.

Apple Music Voice — $5

The Voice plan offers an interesting alternative to other Apple Music subscriptions: It’s an affordable $5 per month, but it’s audio-only, and we mean only. You can only activate and control it with Siri, so it’s only usable on Siri-enabled devices (primarily just Apple devices). Voice has access to all the audio songs on Apple Music, but you won’t be able to watch any music videos or look up lyrics on the service. It also won’t support Apple’s higher-tier audio formats, like spatial audio (which renders the latest AirPods less effective) or lossless audio.

That makes this plan a good fit for more casual users who listen to a lot of music through HomePods, AirPods, or CarPlay. It also includes access to all Apple Music playlists and offers customization based on user preferences over time.

Apple Music logo on a smartphone.
Nikki Meel/Shutterstock

Apple One

You also have the option to choose an Apple One plan, which combines all of Apple’s services into one discounted payment. That includes not only Apple Music but Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, iCloud+, and more. Individual Apple One plans start at $17 per month and comes with 50GB of iCloud storage, while the Apple One Family plan starts at $23 per month and adds up to five members and 200GB of iCloud storage. You can also sign up for a Premier plan that adds Apple Fitness+ and Apple News+ to the mix as well as a whopping 3TB of iCloud storage. These options may offer a lot of value if you use other Apple services in combination with Apple Music.

Apple Music with Verizon

If you’re a Verizon Unlimited customer, we have some good news: You’re eligible for a free Apple Music subscription.

If you are on the 5G Get More Unlimited plan, you get Apple Music included for free as long as you have the plan.

You can also score a six-month Individual membership for no cost. Currently, to qualify for the free six months, you must be signed up for an eligible Verizon Unlimited Plan. After six months, Apple Music will cost $11 per month per line. As with a subscription directly from Apple, you will have access to the Apple Music library, download songs for offline playback, and stream your favorite songs over 5G, 4G LTE, or Wi-Fi.

Apple Music with discounted Apple Gift Cards

If you look at payment options for Apple Music subscriptions, you’ll see that you can use Apple Gift Cards, to pay for Apple Music and pretty much everything else Apple. This opens up a new method to save on your subscription by paying for it with discounted Apple Gift Cards. The key is finding them, though.

You can look for special store deals, like Best Buy’s offer to buy Apple Gift Cards. Sometimes, there will be a special promo that will include Apple Music free for four months with the gift card.

Apple Music free deals for new buyers

If you’re a brand new Apple Music subscriber, you should try to find deals that give you free months when signing up as a new user, purchasing specific products, etc. These deals can vary over time, but some of the top current examples include:

  • Best Buy is offering a deal for up to four months, which new or returning subscribers (they get three months) are eligible for when they start Apple Music. The only thing you need to get this deal is a Best Buy account.
  • Apple also continues to offer free subscriptions occasionally for new buyers of products like Macs or iPhones, as they did with Apple TV+ when it made its debut.
  • Buying newer Apple headphones (AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, or Beats) or HomePod or HomePod mini qualifies new subscribers for six months of free Apple Music. Older generations, such as first-generation AirPods and some Beats models, are not eligible.

How Apple Music compares to the competition

A collage of music streaming services, including Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, and YouTube Music.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Spotify not only has the lead over Apple Music when it comes to global reach, but in the United States, it resumes its lead over Apple Music with its 210 million Premium subscribers worldwide, compared to Apple’s 98 million. But still, Apple is by no means a slouch, offering 100 million songs, 30,000 playlists, and best-in-class human-run radio stations along with other exclusive content, giving it an extensive fan base in America. Spotify recently increased its pricing (as of July 2023) putting it on par with Apple Music now.

Music and podcast selection

Spotify reigns king over Apple when it comes to its enhanced music-discovery tools, but its library is somewhat more limited (although that difference is narrowing). Many eclectic music lovers will appreciate Apple Music’s broader catalog. While Apple has exclusive releases and live radio stations, Spotify tends to have more popular podcasts and has been pushing human-curated playlist content to counter Apple’s live stations. Both services also allow for any streaming track to be downloaded offline for later listening.

Some feel that Apple’s playlists are a bit more in-depth and personalized than Spotify’s and other major streamers such as  Amazon Music or YouTube Music, which, if we’re honest, both kind of take more than a few pages from Spotify’s design playbook. Apple Music’s 2021 update added hundreds of new human-curated playlists for moods and activities, making it a lot easier to find a playlist for just about anything, from dinner parties to a creative drawing session to snowboarding. Apple also added enhanced Siri abilities when you tell the assistant, “Play more like this.”

Free version

Of the two top competitors, Spotify remains the only one with a free version available, which still allows users to play on-demand tracks (with some limitations on mobile devices but none on desktop) in exchange for ads. That makes it an easy choice if you don’t want to pay anything for your music service. If you do, Apple Music’s Voice option is currently the least expensive option. Amazon Music Free, Deezer, and YouTube Music also offer free, ad-based options as well.

Sound quality

If audio format and quality are important to you, Apple is clearly at the head of the pack when compared to Spotify, whose long-rumored hi-res tier is still a no-show (although a June 2023 report from Bloomberg says that this is the year). That said, Apple Music is no longer one of the few hi-res lossless games in town, with pretty much every other service, including Tidal, Amazon Music Unlimited, Qobuz, and Deezer offering lossless audio, which starts at CD quality (16-bit at 44.1kHz) and goes up from there depending on the service. If this is a game-changer for you, here’s how they all compare:

  • Apple Music: AAC, ALAC formats at up to 24-bit/192kHz, as well as Dolby Atmos Music
  • Tidal HiFi: AAC, ALAC, FLAC, MQA formats at 16-bit/44.1kHz (HiFi) and 24-bit/96kHz (HiFi Plus), as well as 360 Reality Audio and Dolby Atmos Music.
  • Amazon Music HD: FLAC format at up to 24-bit/192kHz
  • Deezer Premium: FLAC format at up to 16-bit/44.1kHz
  • Qobuz: AIFF, ALAC, FLAC, WAV, WMA Lossless formats at up to 24-bit/192kHz

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Derek Malcolm
Derek Malcolm is a Toronto-based technology journalist, editor, and content specialist whose work has appeared in…
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