So, obviously, YouTube is a streaming service that really needs no introduction. It is, by far, the largest video streaming platform in the world, with billions of active users and countless video uploads, YouTube just keeps growing by the day (by the minute even!). In some ways, you could probably say that YouTube is the original video streaming site.
It opened the doors for just about every other video streaming site that is in existence today – at least in terms of putting video streaming on the map. Okay, so, YouTube did not invent video streaming, not by any means, but what I mean is that they were the first site to capitalize on it in a major way.
By combining the advent of video streaming technology shortly after it became accessible to the masses with some of the things that made people originally gravitate to social media, YouTube managed to create something brand-new when it first launched. And it seems as if the digital media giant has been showing absolutely no signs of slowing down. Their more recent endeavors tell the tale of a website that is willing and able to adapt with the times, as well as expand their reach into other digital spaces, such as music streaming and cord-cutting online takes on cable television.
If you’re anything like me, then you have been turning to YouTube for years now in order to access tons of musical content. YouTube has, essentially, grown into something of the modern-day equivalent to MTV. In other words, when an artist drops a new music video, YouTube is the site that, more often than not, people tune into in order to watch it.
Although music videos for artists do not have quite the same cache that they did in the 80s, 90s, and early aughts, they are still an integral part of musicians’ album rollouts and promotion. And YouTube has been central in providing a platform for these music videos to be seen.
But even outside of official music videos, I have also been navigating my browser to YouTube for over a decade now when I want to hear music that I cannot find on any of the other standard music streaming services … this is because people (read: YouTube users) will often rip and upload audio content as YouTube videos, making it possible for anyone to access it – be it a leak, an exclusive release, or anything else.
YouTube has also been a rather reliable source of listening to music from lesser-known artists, as many of them, regardless of how independent or underground they may be, have their own YouTube channels from which you can access their music when Spotify or Apple Music may fail you.
I guess what all of this amounts to is the fact that it makes a lot of sense for YouTube to capitalize on the fact that they have been used as a sort of de facto music streaming service for years by making their own official music streaming service in the form of YouTube Music. But how does YouTube’s streaming service stack up to their competitors like Spotify or Tidal? Well, let’s take a look and see, shall we?
The YouTube Music app was announced in October of 2015. The app officially launched the following month along with its much-promoted streaming service, YouTube Red. Although YouTube Music has been criticized for being too similar to the already existent Google Play Music service, it was meant for people like me who have been taking advantage of YouTube specifically for most of their music listening needs. So, imagine Google Play but with the branding and iconic layout of YouTube instead.
A few years later, on May 17th, 2018, YouTube announced that they would expand their YouTube Music service, now offering a desktop media player site in addition to the already established YouTube Music app. The expansion also resulted in a total redesign of the app, including a new and improved algorithm and, thus, more accurate and dynamic recommendations based on users’ listening habits.
The new algorithm took advantage of Google’s artificial intelligence, allowing for YouTube music users to search songs based on lyrics and descriptions – a totally new and revitalized way of suggesting music to listeners. Plus, with this whole rebrand, YouTube Music also repositioned itself as a solo music streaming service, putting itself in direct competition with services like Spotify and Apple Music. YouTube Music, with this change, is still available as a portion of YouTube Premium (formerly YouTube Red … another smart rebranding, if you ask me), as well as a part of Google Play All-Access.
Of all of the various services that YouTube offers today, YouTube Music might be the best example of site and app design that YouTube has put together. It is sleek, user-friendly, easy to use, and easy on the eyes. Many people have gripes, for contrast, with the way that the traditional YouTube site is designed. Complaints range from the site being too cluttered to a lack of intuitive app layout.
YouTube Music, however, does not appear to suffer from any of these problems. Searching and browsing songs is simple, as it should be, and the site looks very good. In fact, it looks as if YouTube Music has taken quite a bit of their inspiration from Spotify for the design. So, if you are familiar with Spotify (or Tidal, even), chances are you will have no issues with the way that YouTube Music functions or looks. In fact, even if you have never used a music streaming service in your life other than this one, you will be able to use YouTube Music like a pro almost immediately, thanks to the streamlined and intuitive design.
This is one of the areas that sets YouTube Music apart from its competitors, in my opinion. Because not only do you get to choose from about the same number of songs that can be found on Spotify (30 million and counting), but YouTube Music is also fed right into your YouTube views, too, meaning that it gets smarter at a much faster rate. Plus, in addition to 30 million+ songs, YouTube Music provides quick access to all of the official music videos on YouTube as well – a level of content that no other music streaming app can really boast.
Add to that the fact that YouTube Music has tons of playlists put together by experts and algorithms alike and you have the makings for one of the best bangs for your buck when it comes to music streaming services. Plus, depending on your subscription package, you can also download and listen to music offline and fully integrate YouTube Music with Google Play and Google Home devices.
The most exciting feature, though, as far as I’m concerned is the ability to search songs by lyric and even description of the music. This is truly the next level.
Desktop and Mobile Experience
As I’ve already touched upon, I love the way that YouTube Music is designed. It looks great, the whole experience is streamlined with your Google Play and traditional YouTube usage, and the desktop player is flawless and intuitive. So, you can be assured that the desktop (and mobile web browser) version of the site is excellent.
But what of the app? Well, it turns out that this platform of the service, for both iOS and Android devices, is just as good. For an idea of how good, one need not look any further than the Apple App Store reviews of the app. Of a whopping 239 thousand ratings, the YouTube Music app has received an average score of 4.7 stars (out of 5).
Pricing and Plans
There are three options for subscription levels with YouTube Music. It is technically a freemium service, which means that you can utilize the service without paying a dime. However, if you go that route, you can expect to contend with ads, limited offline listening options, and the inability to play in the background (meaning that, like the frustrating nature of the original YouTube app, when you close the app to do something else, the music will pause).
YouTube Music Premium, however, provides unlimited online, offline, and background listening at a better sound quality with zero ads. This will run you the industry standard, $9.99 per month.
Lastly, you can access YouTube Music by signing up for YouTube Premium as well, for $11.99 a month. This will get you everything that YouTube Music has to offer, as well as completely unlock your general YouTube experience (no ads, background play, etc.).
Suggestions that I have for YouTube Music
In the future, I would like to see YouTube Music expand their horizons a bit when it comes to what music that they allow to be streamed on their app. In my opinion, if an artist has music on YouTube in video form, those songs should be easily accessible in audio form. This could, of course, be a contractual nightmare, but it would be great for lesser-known, up and coming artists.
YouTube Music truly is a game-changer. The things that they are doing with smart search and AI algorithms will surely inspire their competitors to step it up as far as tech is concerned in the years to come. And for the price, you really can’t go wrong.