Everything you need to know about YouTube Music

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Music videos are making a comeback thanks to YouTube Music.


What is YouTube Music?

YouTube Music is a music streaming service housed within the larger YouTube video platform. Available both as a mobile app and as a channel on the YouTube website, YouTube Music differentiates itself from traditional music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music by focusing on music videos instead of raw audio. YouTube Music curates these music videos from the grander YouTube catalogue, negotiating with record labels, publishers and artists directly to make their content available on the service.

Launched alongside YouTube Red in May 2016, YouTube Music comes in two forms: a free, ad-supported version and a commercial-free version bundled in with YouTube Red subscriptions.

What features does YouTube Music support?

YouTube Music offers a number of features designed to enhance your music-listening experience. These include the following:

Exclusive videos

In addition to regular music videos, YouTube Music also includes a variety of live recordings, concert footage and artist interviews unavailable on other music services. These videos span all decades of recorded music, from live black-and-white footage of The Beatles to comprehensive coverage of Coachella, Soundwave and other prominent music festivals.

Playlists

Different moods call for different music, and the easiest way to ensure you've always got the right mix for any occasion is to craft a selection of custom playlists. YouTube Music lets you build as many playlists as you want, and you can share them with friends by simply sending them a YouTube link.

Playlists also serve as a great way for discovering new music, and YouTube Music offers plenty of ready-made mixes to expand your musical horizons. In addition to trending tracks and genre compilations, the service also builds personalised playlists based on your listening habits, combining artists you know with similar ones you haven’t listened to before. This is particularly useful if you enjoy a very specific style of music that the general-purpose playlists don't cater for.

Custom radio stations

How many times have you heard that one perfect song and wished you could listen to a dozen more like it? Well, with YouTube Music's custom radio stations, you can. Whenever you play an individual song, artist or album, YouTube Music will build a station out of similar tracks and queue it up automatically. These tracks are chosen based on those you've Liked and Disliked before, and you can further customise each station by adjusting how varied its music selection should be.

Audio-only mode and background music

Subscribers to YouTube Red can take advantage of YouTube Music's audio-only mode, which plays a selected song without loading its video. This can be especially handy if you want to conserve battery power or reduce your mobile data usage.

Additionally, YouTube Red subscribers can continue to listen to music through the YouTube Music app even if they switch to another app or turn off their device's screen. For non-premium users, either of these actions will cause YouTube Music to immediately stop playing music.

Offline play

Internet coverage here in Australia might have improved drastically over the last few years, but it's still not uncommon to find yourself stuck in a network dead zone or plagued by slow download speeds. To help deal with this frustrating situations, YouTube Music allows YouTube Red subscribers to download music videos in advance and play them whenever and wherever they like, even without an Internet connection. Two options are available: you can either download individual songs, albums, or playlists; or you can activate your offline mix tape which automatically downloads music for you based on what you've been listening to recently. This way, you can discover new music even when you're offline.

If you're worried about YouTube Music clogging up your device with downloaded songs, you can set a storage limit on how many tracks the offline mix tape will automatically download. You can also choose whether to download full music videos or just the raw audio.

As convenient as offline play is, it's not without its limitations. You'll need to connect YouTube Music to the Internet at least once every 30 days to verify your YouTube Red subscription and keep listening to music offline. If you don't, you'll no longer be able to play your downloaded music.

Integration with Google Play Music

To complement YouTube Music's video-centric approach to music streaming, all YouTube Red subscribers get a free subscription to Google Play Music, the more traditional music streaming service operated by YouTube's parent company Google. Google Play Music functions much the same as Spotify, with a library of over 40 million songs and its own range of features, including the following:

  • On-demand streaming
  • No ads
  • Offline play
  • The ability to upload and stream your personal music collection

What music is available on YouTube Music?

YouTube Music includes over 30 million tracks in its catalogue, many of which are official music videos from popular artists like Bruno Mars, Macklemore, Kesha, Nicki Minaj and Ed Sheeran. There's plenty of music to suit more niche tastes, too, from gospel and meditation music to the latest hits coming out of Bosnia and Lebanon. And thanks to the vast amount of music already on YouTube, new tracks are approved and added to YouTube Music on a regular basis.

What devices are compatible with YouTube Music?

The biggest drawback to YouTube Music is its limited device support. Other than the YouTube Music website, which supports PCs, Macs and Linux-based computers running the latest version of the Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari or Opera web browsers, YouTube Music is only available on iOS and Android through the YouTube Music app. Furthermore, the YouTube Music app isn't available on tablets yet, so you'll need an iPhone running iOS 7+ or an Android smartphone running Android 4.1+ to get your groove on.

How much does YouTube Music cost?

YouTube Music is available both as a free service supported by ads and as a premium service included with YouTube Red. While both give you access to the entire YouTube Music library, their features differ greatly.

Free

The free tier of YouTube Music offsets its attractive price by playing ads before and between songs. The frequency and length of these ads varies according to YouTube's algorithms. Ads aside, YouTube Music's free tier gets you access to all the exclusive videos, custom playlists,

and curated radio stations available on the service.

YouTube Red

To get the full YouTube Music experience, you'll need to sign up for YouTube Red. Along with enabling audio-only mode, background music and offline play, a YouTube Red subscription gets you access to exclusive shows and movies from top YouTube creators like Vsauce, Rooster Teeth and DanTDM.

A YouTube Red subscription will set you back $11.99 a month.

Can I try YouTube Red for free?

If you're looking to take YouTube Red for a test drive before you hand over your money, YouTube is currently offering a one-month free trial of the service for anyone who hasn't tried it or Google Play Music before. You can register for the trial over at the YouTube Red website. Be aware, though, that you'll need to provide payment information in order to sign up, and if you don't cancel the trial before the month is up, YouTube will automatically charge you for the next month.

Other music streaming trials

Sign up for free 3-month Apple Music trial from Apple

Access millions of songs, get personal recommendations from friends and family and tune into Apple's 24/7 global radio station with Apple Music.

View details

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