iTunes vs Apple Music: How are they different?

For years, iTunes was the main way for apple users to purchase and enjoy music. However, in 2015 that all changed when the company launched Apple Music. On the face of it, it may seem strange that Apple has two services available to customers that revolve around playing music – however, when you look into both products it’s clear to see that they are actually completely different entities.

In this article, we are going to take a look at both services and see how they differ from one and other. For some of you, having both services could make sense, while for others neither of them could be worth your time or money. Let’s get into it.

iTunes vs apple music – In summary


  • iTunes is a media library where users are able to purchase individual pieces of media and thus owning them like property.
  • Able to use iTunes to buy more than just music – for example you can purchase podcasts, tv shows and movies.
  • You can stream your purchased media using their built in media player.
  • No subscription costs – you only need to pay for any media that you decide to purchase.
  • Can burn your purchased media on to CD’s to create hard physical copies of your music.

Apple Music

  • A streaming service similar to Spotify where you have no ownership of any of the media you stream.
  • Able to create your own playlists and listen to other users’ playlists.
  • The service works on a subscription basis where users pay a rolling monthly fee to gain access to their entire catalogue of music.
  • Download your favourite tracks and listen to them offline via the apple music app.
  • The option to stream live radio shows as part of your monthly package.

Let’s take a look at both products and the features which make them different to and other in greater detail:

Content ownership

One of the main differences between the two platforms revolves around content ownership. In years gone by, a big thing for music lovers was the ‘collecting’ aspect when it came to their favourite artists’ singles and albums. As vinyl, cassette tapes and CD’s have been phased out to make way for digital assets, this side of things has become less popular and more difficult to do. iTunes, though, does still allow users to ‘own’ their favourite music while Apple music does not.

This is because with iTunes, users are purchasing individual tracks and albums meaning that they then ‘own’ the said single/album. This allows users to do what they want with their purchase, for example they could burn it on to a CD and make themselves a hard copy to add to their physical collection of music memorabilia.

With apple music, the situation is very different. This is because with apple music, users pay a monthly subscription to gain access to their huge catalogue of music, playlists and radio shows. Once you decide to stop paying for your apple music service then none of the music you have listened to or downloaded will be yours anymore. So, if you’re bothered about ‘owning’ music then apple music, or any other music streaming service for that matter, isn’t for you.

The fees involved

As touched on above, there are fees involved when it comes to both products. Songs on iTunes are sold for anywhere between £0.99 and £1.99 while apple music offers customers a flat rate each month to enjoy as many songs as they like for £9.99 a month. Alternatively, you can sign up to a family account for £14.99 a month which gives you and 5 other people in your family access to everything the service has to offer.

An advantage apple music does have over iTunes is the fact that it offers promotional deals to their customers. For example, at the moment, users are able to sign up to a three month free trial, allowing them to see if they enjoy the service before parting with any money. It’s difficult for these offers to be implemented on iTunes, however you can buy iTunes gift cards for friends and family so they can enjoy ‘free’ music on your behalf.

If you are keen to financially support up and coming artists who aren’t mainstream yet, then we would suggest that you use iTunes to do so. On average, an artist will receive £0.09 from every purchase on iTunes, whereas they only receive £0.01 every time one of their songs is streamed on Apple Music. These fees are then split with their label meaning that smaller artists make very little money off streaming apps such as Apple Music.

Music and more

Although both of these services are widely associated with music, they both offer more than just endless pages of songs and albums. iTunes has a wide scope than Apple Music, offering its customers the ability to purchase tv shows, podcasts and movies while Apple Music stays within the world of music, but offers its customers more than simply track after track after track.

One of the best things about Apple Music is its collection of playlists. If you search for playlists via the app then you will undoubtedly find something that takes your interest from their impressive catalogue. You are also able to create your own playlists within the app and make them available to the public so others can enjoy what you’ve put together.

Online and offline access

While both services rely on internet access for a large part of their functionality, they are both usable offline too. With iTunes, we go back to the point of content ownership here – if you purchase something on iTunes while connected to the internet then that piece of media will then be yours to own whether you are online or not. Usually, iTunes purchases will be stored on the PC that you made the purchase on, but you can change this.

The deal with Apple Music is different because as we mentioned earlier, you own nothing on this app. However, that doesn’t mean to say that downloads are impossible and that you can only stream music while online. You can download your favourite songs through the app and they can even be saved to your iPhone. However, when your subscription ends you will no longer have access to these songs. But, while you are a paying member, you will be able to listen to all downloaded music whether you’re connected to the internet or not.

Common questions about iTunes/Apple Music

Do I need an account to purchase things on iTunes?

Despite it not being a subscription based service, you do still need an account to be able to access iTunes. It would perhaps be easier if they offered a guest service but unfortunately, they don’t. To access iTunes you will either need to sign in with your Apple ID or create one if you don’t have one yet.

Is there still a need for iTunes now that iPods are old tech?

When iTunes was first created, it was made with iPods in mind. You could store all of your purchased songs and albums on your iPod and listen to it through there. Since streaming services became more popular, though, iPods have died out and people now just listen through their phones. There may no longer be a ‘need’ for iTunes but it’s still there for those who like to take ownership of their purchased goods.

Can you only get iTunes on Apple devices?

Absolutely not. You can download iTunes on all popular platforms including Windows and Android and use it just as you would on a Mac or iPhone.

Are you tied into any sort of contract with Apple Music?

Apple Music works on a rolling basis meaning that you can cancel your subscription at any point if you don’t think you are getting value for money.

If I unsubscribe but then re-sign up months later, will I regain access to my previously saved/downloaded music?

Providing that you sign up using the same Apple ID as you did the first time around, then you will have access to everything you saved or downloaded last time you had the app. This means you can jump straight back in to your favourite playlists, saving you the hassle of searching for them all over again.


To conclude, both iTunes and Apple Music both have a place in the current market in their own right. As we’ve explained, despite both products being created by Apple and revolving around music, they are worlds apart in what they do and who they are for.

We hope that this article has helped you to gain an understanding of what both products do and helped you to decide which app, if any at all, to go ahead and use. There is also a very real chance that both apps could be of use to you!

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Andy is a Professional Content Editor with expertise in a whole host of areas (or so he tells us anyway). His main interests are sports, tv/film and social media. He has reviewed over 100 apps so far for Apps UK.

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