What is the Difference Between iTunes and Apple Music?

iTunes and Apple Music are both digital music services from Apple, but they offer different features and functionality. This article will explain the key differences between the two to help you decide which is best for your needs.

With the wide variety of music streaming options available today, it can get confusing trying to understand the difference between all the services. iTunes and Apple Music are two of the most popular choices, especially for users of Apple devices. But what exactly sets them apart?

This article will break it down in simple terms, covering topics like:

  • Brief background on iTunes and Apple Music
  • How the libraries and catalogs compare
  • Purchasing vs streaming
  • Availability on devices
  • Pricing and plans
  • Key features of each service

By the end, you’ll have a clear understanding of the main differences between Apple Music and iTunes so you can decide which is a better fit.

Brief Background

Let’s start with a quick history on each service…

iTunes – First launched in 2001 as a media player, iTunes evolved into a multimedia hub for purchasing, downloading, and organizing your digital music library. At its peak, iTunes offered over 43 million songs for purchase along with other media content.

Apple Music – Launched in 2015 as Apple’s on-demand music streaming service, similar to Spotify. Apple Music provides access to over 75 million songs for streaming rather than purchasing.

Now that we have some background context, let’s compare some of the key differences between the two services today.

Music Catalogs and Libraries

The libraries and scope of music catalogs on iTunes vs Apple Music are quite different:

  • iTunes – Previously offered over 43 million songs and 250,000 podcasts available for purchase and download. However, with the launch of Apple Music, the iTunes music store is being phased out.
  • Apple Music – Provides access to over 75 million songs for streaming. This is a much larger catalog size than what was available to purchase on iTunes.

Apple Music also offers a massive selection of playlists curated by music experts and algorithms. So if music discovery is important to you, Apple Music has a clear advantage.

Purchasing vs Streaming

This is a fundamental difference between the two services:

  • iTunes – Originally allowed users to purchase individual songs or full albums digitally to download and own forever. Purchased music could then be played offline and synced across devices.
  • Apple Music – Offers on-demand streaming access to its catalog without the option to purchase and download songs. You can save music for offline listening but do not own the song files.

So with iTunes, you pay per song/album and build a permanent library. Apple Music instead offers unlimited access to its catalog on a subscription basis, without ownership.

Availability on Devices

iTunes and Apple Music have differing compatibility across devices:

  • iTunes – Can be used on Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch. Requires syncing purchased music libraries across devices.
  • Apple Music – Available on all Apple devices along with Android, Amazon Echo, and in cars with CarPlay. Streams music on-demand so no need to sync libraries.

Apple Music has wider compatibility, especially if you want to use it on non-Apple devices. iTunes is more limited unless you own multiple Apple devices.

Pricing and Plans

The costs for each service are structured very differently:

  • iTunes – Songs can be purchased individually, typically $1.29 per song or $9.99 for full albums. No ongoing fees, just pay per song/album.
  • Apple Music – Subscription model with access to full catalog. $9.99/month for individual plan or $14.99/month for family (up to 6 users).

For occasional music purchases, iTunes may be more cost effective. But for unlimited streaming access, Apple Music provides much better value.

Key Features of Each

Some of the standout features of each service include:

iTunes Key Features

  • Purchase and download songs/albums to own forever
  • Organize and manage your digital music library
  • Sync music across Apple devices
  • Listen offline once purchased

Apple Music Key Features

  • Stream over 75 million songs on-demand
  • Curated playlists and music discovery
  • Sync songs/playlists for offline listening
  • Live radio stations
  • Watch music videos
  • Share music and playlists with friends

So iTunes acts more as a traditional digital music store and management tool, while Apple Music offers an all-in-one streaming experience.

What is the Difference Between iTunes and Apple Music? – In Summary

  • iTunes lets you purchase and download music to own, while Apple Music offers unlimited on-demand streaming through subscription.
  • Apple Music has a much bigger catalog of over 75 million songs compared to the 43 million previously on iTunes.
  • Apple Music can be used on more platforms like Android, while iTunes is limited mainly to Apple devices.
  • The cost per song on iTunes is usually $1.29 compared to a monthly subscription fee for Apple Music.
  • Key features like curated playlists, music discovery, and radio are only available on Apple Music.

Hopefully this breakdown gives you a better understanding of the key differences between Apple’s two music services. The choice between the two depends largely on your listening preferences and budget. But for most music lovers today, the unlimited streaming model of Apple Music provides better overall value.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Here are some common questions about iTunes vs Apple Music:

Can I access my iTunes music in Apple Music?

Yes, any music purchased on iTunes will be automatically available within your Apple Music library.

Do I still need iTunes if I have Apple Music?

iTunes is being phased out, but is still useful for managing any music you’ve purchased and downloaded. For streaming, Apple Music can fully replace iTunes.

What devices support Apple Music?

Apple Music is available on all Apple devices, Mac, PC, Android phones, Amazon Echo, and in new cars with CarPlay.

Is Apple Music better value than buying on iTunes?

For most people, Apple Music provides better value with unlimited streaming access to a huge catalog for $9.99/month. Buying individual songs on iTunes adds up over time.

Can I listen to Apple Music offline?

Yes, you can save any music on Apple Music for offline listening when you don’t have an internet connection. Downloads are managed in your library.


We’ve covered all the key differences between iTunes and Apple Music here – from purchasing vs streaming to compatible devices and main features. Overall, Apple Music tends to provide most users with greater value thanks to its huge on-demand music catalog and seamless compatibility across platforms. But iTunes still has a role for purchasing and managing owned music libraries.

Hopefully you now have clarity on which service best meets your needs. Try out Apple Music with their free trial to experience the streaming service first-hand.

Let us know in the comments if you have any other questions!

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