What I Use: Xbox Music with Xbox Music Pass

Posted on March 17, 2015 by Paul Thurrott in Groove Music with 0 Comments

Xbox Music with Xbox Music Pass is perhaps the most unheralded Microsoft solution that I use regularly, and while it is decidedly unpopular—or perhaps just completely unknown—outside of Windows insider circles, it’s still my favorite music service. Here’s why.

Long story short, Xbox Music with Xbox Music Pass provides exactly what I need from a music service. Your own needs of course may vary. I’m not here to convince you otherwise, per se, just explain where I’m at.

I previously explained the full Xbox Music feature set in Understanding Xbox Music, but when I look over that list, I can pull out the stuff that matters most to me.

A subscription service that makes music better. While you can use Xbox Music without a subscription, it really shines with Xbox Music Pass. This opens up the ability to stream or download almost any music from the entire Xbox Music Store collection, meaning I can augment my own music with music from the cloud.

This album is not in the Xbox Music Store, but I ripped it from CD and copied it to my phone.

Inexpensive. You could spend a lot of money on Xbox Music Pass if you wanted to—the normal pricing is $30 for three months ($10 per month) or $99.90 for one year ($8.35 per month), which is comparable to Google Music or Spotify. But I routinely wait for sales and then buy in bulk. For instance, last weekend you could have purchased Xbox Music Pass for $31.41, which is just $2.61 (!!!) per month. I bought four (as others in my family also use Xbox Music Pass). Yes, they stack.

It also works with my own music. Xbox Music will happily integrate any music files you copy to a PC, phone or other device into the music collection on that device, giving you the best of both worlds: everything from the cloud plus your own music. I keep a folder full of music that isn’t in Xbox Music Store synced via OneDrive so I can access the music I own that I can’t get elsewhere. And now it syncs to all of my Windows devices (and the web)! Amazing.


This album is not in the Xbox Music Store, but I ripped it from CD and copied it to my phone.


It works with the devices I actually use. While everyone has their own strategies for managing music collections and so on, I generally only use my Windows Phone—a Lumia 930—for this purpose, especially when I’m traveling. So I download a bunch of music to that device, and to another lower-end phone that’s sort of a backup media player. But I could download to any of my PCs, other Windows Phones, and Android phones or iPhone, though the experience on the latter two devices is a bit less full-featured. Which doesn’t matter, since I use Windows Phone.


There’s been a lot of complaining about Xbox Music over the past year. The Windows Phone 8.1 version of the app originally was pretty terrible—Microsoft later conceded it should have been marked as a beta—but it has gotten a lot better over time, and I’m pretty happy with it overall today. Yes, the store experience is pretty laughable, and it’s almost like they don’t want you discovering new music at all. Which is kind of fine, since I discover new music outside the app as it is.

Today, Xbox Music is quite usable on Windows 8 or newer, on Windows Phone, and on the web if you’re on another device. Which I’m not. It just works.

So while it’s possible to really overthink things, Xbox Music works well for my own needs, and works on the devices I actually use every day. I use it regularly at home, in the car, and on trips, and while I would really like to see true music match capabilities happen, I’ve never seriously considered switching to other services, though I routinely test them.

Again, you may have different needs. Sonos, perhaps. Some in-car system that isn’t compatible with Windows Phone. Maybe you use Android or iPhone and prefer something that is more full-featured on those systems. I get it. But I think Xbox Music works great. And that’s especially true if you’re heavily invested in Windows as I am.

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