Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system sometimes doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Of course, there are a lot of changes that can be found on devices with Windows 8, but there are also benefits and features that completely change a user’s experience: like Xbox Music.
One of these changes is Microsoft’s approach to music and video. Although users can still access Windows Media Player and download the currently half-working Zune software client in Windows 8.1, Microsoft has laid its eggs in two new baskets, Xbox Music and Xbox Video. It’s Xbox Music that will define the audio experience going forward.
Xbox Music is not as robust as the software it replaces. Users cannot edit the metadata of individual songs and automatically create playlists. The currently playing screen is not as attractive as it used to be and there is no way to rate individual songs. If you can get past these issues though, Xbox Music does something very important, something Windows Media Player and Zune never did: Xbox Music allows Windows 8 users to listen to music for free.
Here’s how to listen to free music on Windows 8 using the new Xbox Music client.
Before we begin, it is important that you have the latest version of both Windows 8 and the Xbox Music app on your device. The latest version of Windows is Windows 8.1 and includes a completely revamped Xbox Music client. Most devices should have already updated themselves without your help, but it might be a good idea to go to the Windows Store and search for the “Windows 8.1 update thread”. If you don’t see it, you’re ready. If you see the title, it’s a good idea to start the update once you have some free time and a good internet connection. Usually, the update takes about an hour. After the update, your device’s apps will be updated automatically.
You must also have signed up for or signed in with a Microsoft Account when setting up your device. Typically, Microsoft Accounts end with email addresses with an Outlook, MSN, Hotmail, or Live address.
Read: Windows 8.1 Review
Go to by pressing the Windows key on your keyboard or the Windows button next to your device’s touchscreen. On most tablets it is located just below the screen, but on some smaller devices it is located on the side.
Look for the Xbox Music tile on the Start Screen. Orange and just “.” labeled. Tap or click on it to open the app.
Now wait a few seconds for the app to catch up with you. During this time, it searches for the Microsoft Account associated with your device. If you already have a $9.99/month Xbox Music Pass, it will now let you play anything you want from the Xbox Music Store. If you have already created any playlist or started a collection on a Windows Phone using Xbox Music, it will also recognize it.
Tap or click the tab to reveal the Xbox Music catalog. Now double tap or double click with your mouse to start selecting songs to play. Xbox Music streaming is free on devices running Windows 8 and online at Music.Xbox.com. Users who stream for free via Xbox Music will see ads automatically added to their playlists, just like Spotify.
Just like Spotify, these ads will start to look familiar after hours of listening to music. You are not limited to playing individual songs either, users can create automatically generated playlists by tapping the radio buttons located below the profile of different artists and albums. Typically, these playlists last a few hours, not as long as Spotify, but long enough for you to enjoy wherever it takes you.
Creating a collection on any version of Xbox Music will make those songs available in your collection on other platforms, as long as you have Cloud Collection turned on in the Xbox Music App’s Settings.
Xbox Music also includes other goodies. For example, users can configure Xbox Music to identify songs available on their devices and then make them available for streaming on other devices. Essentially, Microsoft is trying to ensure that users don’t have to manually transfer files between devices. It’s great for users who can usually find a pretty good internet connection to stream music. Of course, this feature requires an Xbox Music Pass subscription.
Today, Xbox Music for iPhone, Xbox Music for Android, and Xbox Music on Xbox One and Xbox 360 are only available to users with an Xbox Music Pass.
A version of Xbox Music is available for those with devices running Windows Phone. Unfortunately, this also requires the user to have an Xbox Music Pass.