Like Windows Phone 8, Windows 8 and RT integrate with Xbox Cloud Collection, Microsoft’s music storage locker service. This service is available through the Xbox Music apps and works with related online services such as Xbox Music Pass and Xbox Music Store.
Note: I wrote about Xbox Cloud Collection integration in Windows Phone 8 recently in Windows Phone 8 Tip: Use Xbox Cloud Collection. This article is an adaptation of that earlier effort, and it applies equally well to Windows 8 or Windows RT (including Surface with Windows RT).
As noted in the earlier article, Xbox Music is the umbrella brand for Microsoft’s set of online music services, and the replacement for Zune Music. It includes a la carte music downloads from the Xbox Music Store, music streaming and downloading courtesy of the Xbox Music Pass subscription service ($9.99 per month), cloud-connected playlists and radio-like SmartDJ playlists, and, via the new Cloud Collection service, a music locker.
Cloud Collection automatically makes available any music you’ve purchased from Xbox Music Store on any compatible device—currently Windows 8, Windows RT, Windows Phone 8, and Xbox 360, but iPhone, iPad, and Android support is coming soon too—allowing you to stream it over the Internet or download it to the device. (Xbox supports streaming only.)
On Windows 8 and RT, your Xbox Cloud Collection (i.e. previously purchased music) is displayed by default alongside music you’ve actually downloaded to the device, which can be confusing. When viewing your own music in Xbox Music, such as in the Albums view, you’ll see that some items have a small icon next to them: A small “radio” icon for Cloud Collection-based music, and a small “cloud” icon for Cloud Collection-based music that’s been downloaded to the device. Music that is in your personal collection on the device does not have an icon.
Assuming you’re online, you can stream any Cloud Collection-based music (or play any combination of device- and cloud-based music) normally. If you wish to make Cloud Collection music available for offline use, however, you can download it. To do so, select any song or album (or group of songs and albums) and select “Download” from the app bar.
Cloud Collection music that is downloaded is called “matched” music. (Remember that Cloud Collection-based music that is downloaded to the PC will utilize the cloud icon rather than the original radio-style icon.)
To disable the display of Cloud Collection music, view Xbox Music Settings (WINKEY + I) and select Preferences. Then, in the Preferences pane, change the setting “Xbox Music Cloud” to Off.
You can also use this Preferences pane to automatically download any purchased music to the current device. So if you buy music on another Windows device, or Windows Phone, you can make it available offline, automatically, on the devices you choose.
Note The current version of Cloud Collection only provides access to the music you previously purchased via Zune Marketplace/Xbox Music Store. Microsoft is adding a matching service, similar to what’s available on Amazon Cloud Player and Apple iTunes Match, in the future. This will let you store your entire music collection in the cloud, not just the music you purchased from Microsoft.