When it comes to streaming music services, there’s a lot on the market. Each big tech company is trying to get a piece of the action. A lot of music services have come and gone – remember Twitter Music? Google has tried several times to get its Music service going with various branding and feature sets. It has seen names like Google Play Music and YouTube Red. Now the company has rebranded its service to YouTube Music and it is completely redesigned. Here’s a look at what you can expect.
The new YouTube Music service allows you to create playlists and favorite all music that’s currently in the YouTube library including music videos and live performances. The layout is simple and easy to use on both Android and iOS. There are three tabs that include Home, Hotlist, and Library. The Library is where you will spend most of your time as it is where you find all the music you’ve liked and subscribed to.
When you start, sign in with your Google account and then swipe through and pick out artists you like. Sometimes if you pick a band or artist, similar ones will be suggested. I recommend just picking a few artists to get started (you could spend all day just picking bands) as you can refine your choices later in the app. You are offered to turn on history which will keep track of the music you’ve listened to and help provide better personalized playlists and suggestions. If you’re concerned about privacy you can pause search and watch history and location-based recommendations.
The Home tab is what you’re presented with each time you launch the app and it displays music and video recommendations based on your prior listening. It also includes what is called “Mixtapes” which is similar to Spotify’s Daily Mix. It’s a feature that uses Google’s algorithm to play a stream of music all day based on your preferences. You can, of course, like, dislike, or skip songs as they come up. The Hotlist display’s what trending on YouTube at the time.
When it comes to sound, it’s important to note that there is no option to upgrade the audio quality. So, currently, you’re stuck with a standard AAC 128kbps bitrate with a good network connection. It will dip to 64kbps if the connection quality is poor. The company says that there will be an update “soon” that will allow a higher 256kbps bitrate option. In comparison to other music services, Apple Music streams at 256kbps, and a premium Spotify subscription allows up to a 320kbps bitrate.
The pricing tiers for this are unnecessarily complex, too. There’s a free ad-supported version. For $10/month you get the ad-free version named YouTube Music Premium. And for $12/month you get YouTube Premium (formerly YouTube Red) which includes YouTube Music Premium and YouTube Originals like Cobra Kai. Note that if you’re already a YouTube Red or Google Play Music subscriber, you’ll get YouTube Music Premium and the price will remain the same.
The service started rolling out in the U.S., Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea. It’s not perfect yet and there is room for improvement. The subscription plans need to be simplified and the bitrate needs to be bumped up. Still, if you already use YouTube to listen to music, you’ll enjoy the new format. If you’re already using Spotify or another service, it’s worth trying out at least.
It’s free for the ad-supported version and provides a trial for the premium tiers. If you don’t have access to the service yet, head to the YouTube Music site where you can sign up for an announcement when it’s available.