It is in all ways a great thing that Apple Music includes the ability for you to download music to listen to when you don't have an internet connection -- or you don't want to use the one you've got. If you're away from Wi-Fi and have a limit on how much data you can download without surcharges, Apple Music can eat through that like nobody's business. Plus whatever your plan, streaming much just kills your battery. So being able to have one big downloading session before you head out the door is brilliant. It's also ridiculously confusing.
The key to it all seems to be that we should relax and trust Apple but that's hard to do when you can't see that it's downloading and you can't fathom out what music is downloaded and which isn't. It's even harder because the truth is you can see what's downloading, you can see what you've got and what you haven't – if you know where to look. It is a contender for the least-obvious part of Apple Music.
We'd say that it's worth sweating through figuring this stuff out but now you don't have to. We did the sweating. We figured it out. There are going to be other ways to do this and hopefully Apple will make clearer ways but for now, do what we did and you'll be fine.
This was all tested on iOS 8.4. Just typing that to you, we realise we didn't even look at OS X and have no idea whether it works there or not. Yet if it does, that's just academic interest whereas filling up your iPhone with tracks is as close to essential as any of this can be.
One thing. During our setup of Apple Music we got asked the question about merging music or replacing it. We chose merging as it sounded the least destructive and we were right about that but not everyone agrees. There is concern and confusion over DRM: the protection that used to be for preventing people pirating music but slowly faded away since it didn't deter pirates and it seriously inconvenienced the rest of us. Now it's back, presumably as part of the negotiations between Apple and music labels and there are situations where you can find your DRM-free music replaced by this DRM-laden type. However, if you've uploaded music to iTunes Match and not then deleted it from your device, you're fine.
This is something that's going to become clearer, if indeed it doesn't change completely, as Apple Music continues but for the moment
You could just find some music, tap on the ellipses button to the side of the album or track and then tap on "Make Available Offline" but that's exactly what they expect you to do.
It's not that we want to fool Apple in some way but if you do just that, you end up uncertain whether it's worked and with no clue where to look to find out.
So instead of starting with the music you want to download from Apple Music, go to your own music and create a new playlist. In our screenshot here, the very top playlist, Beth Orton, is freshly created and completely empty. It is waiting.
Now go to Apple Music
If you're not already used to this, you're going to become very familiar with tapping on the red bar toward the top of the screen to choose between your own music library and Apple Music. Tap on the latter, then knock yourself out searching for something you like. We searched for Orton, picked an album or two, and in each of them tapped the ellipses toward the top.
This is what you get, a long list of options including Make Available Offline. Guess which one you need to tap. It's not the one you think. Rather than Make Available Offline, tap on Add to Playlist instead. Then when prompted, pick that new playlist you created.
Now tap on My Music, find the playlist and tap on the ellipses button. Now you choose Make Available Offline and your iPhone will go download everything in that playlist for you. You get a big tick saying the artist or album has been added, and then over the next few minutes the downloading will work.
What's happened is that the first step, adding to playlist, was a bit like telling Apple Music you want to listen to all these songs and the second step was telling it to copy those down to your iPhone.
Doesn't sound so bad
Thank you, we tried. We also ended up with an awful lot of albums downloaded when we'd pulled this off yet couldn't be sure which combination of taps did it. That's not a brilliant thing, the fact that we had to get here through experimentation. Yet we got here and it's a good place to be. Go get yourself some music.
Isn't it good that we can say that, that everyone can do this? In three months time or so, we'll all have to make that decision about whether to pay for Apple Music or not. If you download a bunch of albums and then choose not to pay when subscriptions start, that music will vanish, by the way.
-William Gallagher (@WGallagher