How to Listen to the Radio on Your Surface

By Andy Rathbone

Even an empty Surface can dish out just about any song you want to hear. Those songs come from an Xbox Music Pass, a service Microsoft entices you with when you open the Music app.

The Music app refers to the Xbox Music Pass as Radio because it’s a similar concept: Music you don’t own comes streaming into your Surface, just as if your Surface were a radio. It’s free for a limited time, supported by built-in ads. When your trial period expires, Microsoft limits your listening time to ten hours of ad-supported music per month unless you pay up.

If you have no interest in Microsoft’s Xbox Music Pass, stick with your own music, where you can simply play your own tunes.

But if you’re curious as to Microsoft’s way of letting you listen to more than 30 million songs for free, follow these steps to turn on the Radio and sample the Xbox Music Pass.

You need an Internet connection to hear the Music app’s Radio. When you’re out of range of a Wi-Fi connection, the music stops streaming.

  1. Load the Music app with a tap of its tile on the Start screen.

    The Music app loads, showing its three categories along the left edge: Collection, Radio, and Explore.

  2. Tap the Radio category from the Music app’s left column and tap the Start a Station button.

    A window appears, prompting you to enter an artist’s name.

    image0.jpg

  3. Type a musical artist’s name into the Enter Artist box and then press Enter.

    When you type the artist’s name and press Enter, the Music app begins playing a song either by that artist or by an artist with a similar style.

    To see the list of songs that the Radio will play, tap the Now Playing link from the app’s left column; the list usually contains about twelve songs.

    The Music app’s usual playback controls work with the Radio, letting you pause or skip between tracks.

You’re now free to listen to millions of songs by thousands of artists simply by tapping the Radio category and typing the artist’s name.

You can also launch the Radio while browsing your own music collection by artist. Click the Radio button next to the artist’s name, and the Radio begins playing songs based on that artist — for free.

Now, a moment for the fine print:

  • If you haven’t signed in with a Microsoft Account, the Radio feature eventually stops. At this point, you need to sign in with a Microsoft account to continue playing the Radio.

  • When you listen to the Radio with a Microsoft account, Microsoft plays ads in between the songs. Sometimes you just hear a voiceover, at other times, the Music app plays a fullscreen video ad. And after six months, Microsoft limits your ad-supported-but-free streaming to ten hours each month, which is about 20 minutes a day.

  • To see how much of your monthly streaming limit is left, fetch the Charms bar, tap Settings, and tap Preferences from the Settings pane.

  • To bypass the ads and the ten-hour monthly limit, you must sign up for a free 30-day trial. After 30 days, Microsoft begins automatically charging $10 a month to your credit card.

  • During that 30-day trial (and if you subscribe to the service), you can play the music on your Surface, a Windows Phone, a Windows 8 or 8.1 PC, or an Xbox game console (provided you’re an Xbox Live Gold member, which costs extra). Those platforms all run Xbox Live Music, and you can play the songs through Xbox Live only by signing into the service.

  • That 30-day free trial also lets you stream any of your own “matching” music you’ve stored on your Surface, Windows Phone, a Windows 8 or 8.1 PC, or an Xbox game console.

  • If your subscription lapses, you can no longer play your music, including music you’ve downloaded — unless you’ve bought the music, that is, which costs extra. After they’re purchased, however, those individual songs are yours to copy to CD or play on other PCs and music players.

  • Xbox Music Pass isn’t cheap, and it’s filled with fine print. But if you pony up $10 a month for the service, it’s very convenient — until you stop paying, that is. Then your unlimited music disappears, and you’re back to ten hours a month of ad-supported music.