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Xbox Music 101 – A Service Overview

Recently, I gave a presentation for the Microsoft MVP V-Conference discussing the Xbox Music service. The goal, with the session, was two-fold: 1) For anyone interested in the service, I wanted them to understand what they would be getting into and 2) I wanted everyone to have a greater appreciation for what the service was, as a whole. I noted in the presentation that there seems to be more and more music services coming to life, every day (the most notable new entity is TIDAL), so I wanted to show that Xbox Music is just as credible and viable as any other service out there. At the very least, I wanted to show that Xbox Music is doing more than most may give it credit for.

I’m not the flashiest person, when it comes to using Microsoft PowerPoint, but there was one slide that I think offers the best summary of what Xbox Music is about:


So, for those who really want to understand why Xbox Music is such a viable entertainment solution let’s breakdown each of these components:

Music Player: First, and foremost, Xbox Music is a music player. Take your unprotected music files (MP3, WMA, AAC) and Xbox Music will present you a nice collection. Stream it, put it into playlists, and play stuff at random. Xbox Music also offers a visually pleasing ‘now playing’ experience that showcases artist art across your Xbox, tablets, and PCs. Phone ‘now playing’ is different, but pleasing nonetheless.

Music Marketplace: While most will admit they don’t purchase much music, anymore, Xbox Music does offer this capability. In fact, some labels/artists won’t allow their music to be available through a subscription, but rather they would want you to pay for their music outright. In addition, Xbox Music offers the “Music Deals” app, which gives you alerts to what’s on sale, without the need for hunting through the apps to discover them.

Cloud Locker: This is one of the key aspects of Xbox Music. You can store your music (up to 50,000 songs) in your OneDrive account, and that music will be available to almost every Xbox Music app you have. The current exceptions are the iOS and Android apps. The cooler part is, your OneDrive songs co-mingle right along with any music you get through the subscription service. From your viewpoint, it is all one big happy collection. Using the cloud locker (OneDrive) is also a free service. You do not need an Xbox Music pass to use this functionality. In that regard, I find it to be a great way for people to try out the Xbox Music service, without any financial obligations.

Discovery Tool: One of the great things about music is that moment when you discover a great new song or band. To that end, Xbox Music offers a ‘radio’ feature. With this feature, you simply tell the service a favorite artist of yours (i.e. Nicki Minaj or Foster the People). Xbox Music then proceeds to (with assistance from the major big data company Echo Nest) to create a playlist based upon that favorite artist. It’s a great way to expand your musical horizons. One thing to take note of is that the ‘radio’ feature requires a music pass subscription. Understandably, this is because it’s about discovery, and having an entire marketplace at your fingertips goes a long way with that.

Subscription Service: Of course, Xbox Music offers an all-you-can-eat subscription service. For $9.99 per month (or $99 per year) you have access to almost everything available in the marketplace. As with purchases, some labels/artists put restrictions on what is available for streaming via the Music Pass, but for the most part you’ll have a chance to dive as much as you want into the music you want. Plus, adding this to the “radio” feature means a greater chance to discover new songs.

Cross-Platform Application: Anyone who remembers Zune would ding it because it was only available on Windows. Xbox Music is bucking that by making itself available on the three major platforms: Windows, iOS, and Android. Currently the iOS and Android versions are bare bones, and they require the Xbox Music Pass to truly function. However, over time, all of these apps will offer feature parity and the same experiences regardless of the platform that you decide to use.

As you can see, Xbox Music has more to offer than many may realize. With the upcoming year, and the march to Windows 10, look for Xbox Music to take some things to new levels and really highlight why it deserves a seat at the music streaming table.

If you want some more information about Xbox Music, here’s some links: