Apple Music for the web is now accessible for anyone to stream tunes in any browser on a Mac or PC. If you already have an Apple Music subscription and have been using iTunes to play your music, your transition will be seamless—just head over to music.apple.com, log in with your Apple ID, and the browser version will be synced with iTunes. If you’ve been looking for a reason to stop using iTunes but still keep your music history, here it is.
But if you’re thinking about making a switch to Apple Music now that the web player is officially live, it’s a bit complicated getting there.
If you already have an Apple ID, but haven’t signed up for Apple Music and don’t have iTunes installed on your computer, you can’t simply sign up from the website. If you try to log in with your Apple ID, you’ll get this wonderful message:
This will happen if you are trying to access the site from a Windows PC via Chrome, Firefox, or Edge. You won’t get the same error message if navigating to the site on a Mac via Safari or Chrome, but you still need an Apple Music subscription to use the web player, which brings me to the second step of this quadratic equation.
You need iTunes installed to sign up for Apple Music and stream songs on the Apple Music web player. That’s the reason that error message pops up; there’s nothing to import to the web player if iTunes isn’t installed. Apple requires a subscription—even if it’s simply the free trial—to use its music service. And you can’t just head over to the Apple Music website to sign up, either. It still wants you to have iTunes installed. You’ll get a nice pop-up asking you to open iTunes, if you already have the software installed on your PC.
If you’re on a Windows machine, you have to download iTunes from the Windows Store to sign up for an Apple Music subscription. Mac users don’t have to worry—iTunes comes preinstalled with macOS on every version but the latest, Catalina, which includes a stand-alone Music app.
With that big of a hassle for Windows users, there isn’t much incentive for people who don’t subscribe to Apple Music to switch from a rival service like Spotify. I’ve been using Spotify for years and have given its algorithms enough data to understand my tastes with scary accuracy—plus its web player plays nice in every browser on every platform. Apple Music does have advanced features compared to Spotify, such as human-written album descriptions, but you don’t need any extra software just to sign up for Spotify or get it to play music. (You also don’t need to pay for Spotify if you don’t care about listening to ads—Apple Music doesn’t have a free tier.)
There is one silver lining to this whole ordeal: Once you have your Apple Music subscription set up and iTunes synced to the web player, you can uninstall iTunes without it affecting the web player. That’s good news for anyone who would rather die—or use Winamp—than keep iTunes.
We’ve reached out to Apple for clarification about our difficulties setting up an Apple Music account on the web and will update if/when the company responds.