Apple Music subscriptions explained: The difference between free and paid accounts

When you sign up for Apple Music, you'll get access to all the features of a paid account for the first three months of your subscription. After those initial 90 days, however, you'll have to choose whether you're going to continue paying for Apple Music—and keep those paid account features—or downgrade to a free account. If you're not sure what the distinction is between the two levels, we don't blame you: No one has a free account right now, as everyone got three months of paid subscription free, so it's hard to tell off the bat what you'll be missing out on if you cancel your subscription.

So let me straighten things out. Here's what you get with each subscription type, and what you're missing out on.

What a free account offers

If you don't have a paid subscription with Apple Music, you'll be able to:

  • Listen to any music you've purchased, ripped, or uploaded to your device.
  • Listen to Beats 1 radio
  • View and follow an artist's Connect stream (but not view or download exclusive Connect content)
  • Listen to ad-supported Apple Music radio stations—though you'll only have limited song skips available.

What a paid account offers

With a paid subscription, you get all of the above, plus:

  • unlimited listening to the entire Apple Music catalog
  • the ability to add Apple Music songs to your Mac's library and listen offline
  • your entire purchased and ripped library, matched and uploaded to iCloud
  • unlimited skips for Apple Music radio stations
  • the ability to like, comment, play, and save Connect content
  • access to Apple Music's hand-curated recommendations and playlists

What happens if you stop subscribing to Apple Music after the three-month trial?

If you decide not to subscribe after the three month trial, the following happens:

  • Any streaming music you've added to your library from the Apple Music catalog will no longer be playable
  • Unless you have iTunes Match account, you won't be able to stream your previously purchased and uploaded music to your devices, and any songs from your Mac's library that you've downloaded to other devices will be removed. (Your Mac's original iTunes library remains as-is.)
  • You'll stop having access to Connect content
  • You'll be skip-limited when listening to Apple Music radio stations

Other questions?

Hopefully we were able to make sense of free and paid accounts. If you have a question about them, just ping us in the comments and we'll do our best to reply.

Serenity Caldwell

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.