While it undoubtedly drives the rest of my family crazy, I sure love Christmas music and don’t mind one bit that it takes over radio stations on November 1st. FM radio is okay in the car and I’ve used Pandora and iHeartRadio the last few years to find a variety of Christmas music, but ads and skip limits are no good when you’ve got access to a streaming music catalog everywhere you go. This year I’m all in with Apple Music and finding it terrific as my own personal Christmas music station.
Apple Music does a pretty good job of serving up a variety of ad-free Christmas music through stations and playlists … if you know where to look. Here are a few tips to set you in the right direction if you want to feel festive and spread the Christmas mood:
The easiest way to just press play and start enjoying some Christmas tunes is through the Radio tab within iTunes on Macs or PCs or the Music app on iPhones, iPads, iPod touches, and new Apple TVs. Radio with unlimited skips is included for Apple Music members, and without a membership you can still listen for free but with limited skips.
Apple has made a Christmas Classics station that it’s currently promoting under the Featured Stations section under Radio. Look for the vintage phonograph and candy cane record. This station is probably most like what you expect to hear on FM radio, but without the ad breaks and station promotion. You can also heart or favorite songs you like to improve For You recommendations or add them to your library or playlist if you subscribe to Apple Music. Here’s a Christmas Classics station link that should open on your device.
Apple also has created a collection of other Christmas stations found under the Radio tab that you may enjoy. These include Holiday Hits, Soulful Holiday, Latin Holiday, The Sounds of Christmas, Classical Holiday, Rockin’ Holiday, Country Holiday, and Swingin’ Holiday. Each station has its own festive cover art, too, which I really like.
Radio is easy to start and doesn’t take much managing, but playlists let you know which songs are playing next and you can download the tracks for offline listening if streaming isn’t an option. Offline playlists are best for playback away from Wi-Fi for anyone with cellular data caps.
For Apple Music members, the curators at Apple have created several Christmas music playlists that I’ve enjoyed this year. These can be found under the New tab on iTunes or Music for Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and 4th-generaion Apple TVs. There are a few places to look from here to find the right Christmas playlist.
The front page of New will list everything that Apple Music is currently promoting across various genres. Swipe or scroll down to Hot Playlists and you’ll likely find a few holiday playlists to get started, but there’s also one place to find all of Apple’s curated Christmas playlists.
From the New tab, look for Apple Editors Playlists then the Holiday section. The Featured section promotes albums, radio stations, playlists, tracks, and music videos while the Playlists section includes 16 different playlists with music from the ’50s to ’00s, a jazz collection, folk and indie playlists, and more.
For even more Christmas music recommendations in Apple Music, head back to the front page of the New tab and change All Genres to Holiday. This changes the promoted albums, singles, stations, and playlists to focus on everything Christmas including an Essential Albums section with must-listen picks like A Charlie Brown Christmas by Vince Guaraldi Trio. (I started playing this one a week before Thanksgiving which did not thrill my wife.)
If you want to create your own giant Christmas music radio station with lots of variety, my personal tip is to create a single playlist called Christmas Music then add a few of your favorite Apple curated playlists plus albums and singles to it, then hit play with shuffle turned on. (This works from iTunes on the Mac or PC, but Music on iOS doesn’t seem to let you add curated playlists to your own playlist.)
This year I’ve got a Jawbone Big Jambox connected to an AirPort Express placed behind my Christmas tree and hidden by the presents around it with my Christmas music playlist wirelessly AirPlaying to it from my Mac. (Starting tomorrow December 15th, Sonos will start rolling out Apple Music playback in beta, which will similarly let you create an out-of-sight setup with wireless speakers.) I’m looking forward to impressing my family with this setup (which includes Siri-controlled lights) when they visit, and it’s made my own living room feel more festive even if it’s 75º outside.
Not an Apple Music subscriber or just want some cheap Christmas music to own? Check out 99 Must-Have Christmas Classics ($2.19), 99 Must-Have Christmas Chillout ($1.09), and Amazon’s other digital holiday music collections with popular albums and bundles with loads of MP3s that you can play anywhere or upload to Apple Music.
You’ll be dad-dancing like Eddy Cue in no time:
Have any of tips for using Apple Music to discover and playback Christmas music or want to share your playlist with others? Let us know in the comments below! Don’t forget: Apple Music includes a free, three-month trial for first-time subscribers, plus for the next few weeks select Beats products include a $60 credit (and pro tip: follow 9to5Toys for iTunes gift card deals all year long).