What is YouTube Music? Everything you need to know

Google used to have its own dedicated music player called Google Play Music — and if you’ve looked at that streaming option lately, you’ll see that it’s been shut down. As you probably know, people regularly use YouTube to play music, find new songs, and create playlists of their favorites. This prompted Google to release a new, revamped service called YouTube Music, a music-only source for streaming your tunes.

Is YouTube Music competing alongside apps like Spotify, Tidal or Apple Music? Well, it might depend on how often you use YouTube to find music and how important music videos are to you. Here’s everything you need to know.


YouTube Music is a dedicated music player with a free tier (with ads) that works through your Google Account. Imagine if YouTube was just songs and music videos, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of ​​what to expect. This is a major update to Google Play Music, the previous player offered by Google.

The interface is fast and noticeably more minimalistic than Google Play Music, allowing you to access your favorite songs and related music videos as quickly as possible with simple, direct controls. There are sections for the home page, Explore to find new albums, Library to view your listening history and favorite artists or playlists, and an Update section if you want to choose a subscription.

This all applies to your Google Account information and history, so if you’ve been using YouTube for music for a while, you’ll see plenty of prompts for adding your favorite musicians and creating a recommendation profile (a step you can skip if you want). Left to its own devices, YouTube Music will continue to play past favorites that you’ve enjoyed.

Music library

YouTube Music currently has around 60 million tracks available for streaming or download. That’s fewer choices than Amazon Music Unlimited’s 75 million, Apple Music’s 90 million, Spotify’s 80 million, and Tidal’s 90 million. That said, it’s a huge amount of music and should suit most people.

Sound quality

YouTube Music offers three different audio levels that you can switch between depending on what bandwidth you’re comfortable with. These levels also determine how much audio will be downloaded to your device and the size of these files:

  • Low: This sets the bitrate to 48kbps AAC.
  • normal: This sets the bitrate to 128kbps AAC.
  • High: This sets the bitrate to 256Kbps AAC.

You can switch between them at any time in the YouTube Music settings. Downloads for offline listening provide you with standard audio files. YouTube Music doesn’t offer the ability to listen to or download high-res audio files, which is one area where features like Apple’s High-Resolution Audio options and Tidal’s Hi-Fi levels, among others, can fall outside the capabilities of YouTube music. . If sound quality is your main concern when subscribing to the service, YouTube Music isn’t the best choice, but if you’re interested in reliable streaming, it’s a very competitive option.

YouTube Music with background playback.

Cost and levels

The basic level of YouTube Music is free, but you will see ads. They’re not as blatant as YouTube itself, where ads can interrupt your music before each song if you skip it often enough, but they’re there. If you want to pay for a higher tier, you have several ways to remove ads and add extra features.

  • YouTube Music Premium: Fees here start at $10 per month or $100 per year. This updated service allows the app to play when your screen is locked (important for listening on phones) and stops ads. It also allows you to download songs for offline listening.
  • Family plan: Starting at $15 per month, this option allows you to add up to five family members age 13 and older to your family. It can also be used to manage YouTube TV services.
  • Student plan: This discounted plan offers a three-month free trial and starts at $5 per month. Students will need to verify their educational status each year to continue using this plan.

Platform compatibility

YouTube Music offers a web browser that will work with your browser of choice. This is a good option if you use a desktop or laptop computer. However, there is also a YouTube Music app that you can download to use the service independently. It works on Android, Google/Android TV and ChromeOS, of course, but is also available on iOS and WearOS for the Apple Watch. You can also easily cast it with Chromecast to any compatible screen if you want to download a music video and more.

Create a new playlist for Youtube Music.

Additional features are important

YouTube is, after all, YouTube: music videos are integrated into the music player and play automatically if they’re available with a song (otherwise, you get the album art). Videos will shrink and stay in the corner if you go elsewhere in the YouTube Music app. In addition, there are options for special searches for live performances and similar categories. This makes YouTube Music one of the best options if you like music videos or need a visual component in the background while listening to music.

You can also create an automatic playlist based on music videos you’ve liked and listened to before, or create a new custom playlist and add songs – with options to make it public on your YouTube channel or set to private. You can also do a lot with any individual song you’re browsing. Select Drop down menu to a song and you’ll see options to play it next, add it to your current queue, add it to a playlist or songs you’ve liked, learn more about the artist, and more.

YouTube Music will create automatic mixes based on your favorite artists, as well as recommend radio stations with artists you like to listen to. You’ll also find recommendations from widely popular playlists, current chart leaders, specific genres, and more. If you’re into playlists, you’ll find plenty here, but there aren’t any human-made options on YouTube, so you’ll have to trust the algorithm.

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