YouTube is not only a video portal, it is also the second largest search engine – second only to Google, which, you know, owns YouTube anyway. YouTube is also a streaming music service, if you think about it, and not only when it comes to music videos: many artists share their music through the platform as just audio over a still image, or lyric-video, and even more people re-share, legally or not, their favorite artists’ music.
YouTube Music is a new free app, also available in premium version by paying a Red subscription, probably designed to be a Spotify competitor. Weirdly enough, the app also serves as a competitor to Google Music, other than Tidal and Apple Music.
You can use the platform as a standard music service, looking for artists, songs and albums, but the service also offers live concert footage, karaoke tracks with lyrics or tutorials that you won’t find on Spotify or Tidal.
It’s not just a music service, it’s an experience optimized for music. You can find official music videos and a ton of related content to what you’re looking at. “It’s kind of a hybrid of browse and search” says T. Jay Fowler, head of development of music products at YouTube. “A mix of structured and organic results.”
Unlike Google Play Music, you can’t create playlist, but, like Spotify, YouTube Music creates a daily playlist for you “My Mix” combining tracks you’ve listened to, with similar songs. The free version of the app features ads, while the Red Subscription will make them go away, together with granting you offline features.
"It’s important for people to understand that this experience, when unlocked with Red, is deeply portable." Said Fowler while highlighting the importance of having music available while offline.
The free version will always play the official video of a song, when available, and replace it with the album artwork when listening to a song that was not a single. If you want to save some battery by simply listening to the audio, you’ll need to subscribe to Red.
You can start by listening to a song, and continue with generated playlist based on similarity. You can even adjust the stream’s variety by choosing how similar the songs in the playlist should be to the ones you’re listening too.
YouTube’s recommendations are likely to be pretty accurate, considering the platform’s machine learning algorithms can count on years of playlists being created by its users. If this wasn’t enough, there’s a hired group of people who’s job is to build playlist and check everything works smoothly.
“When someone uses your service and asks for a certain style of music, when they expect something to play, that is an important contract you have fulfill." Said Fowler.
And while that is true, and YouTube music is putting its best effort, the fact it’s not possible for users to create their own playlists, even after a Red Subscription, is very disappointing.
There’s obviously a “Trending” section, so you can keep up to date with what people are listening to, and the Red Subcription we’ve mentioned early goes for a fair 10$ a month.
All things considered, YouTube music might be missing something as a music streaming service, but, in its premium version, it offers a hybrid experience of music, podcasts and videos, with related videos, offline, that is unlike anything out on the market right now.