What Is YouTube Music? Google’s Music Streaming Service Explained
Is YouTube Music free?
The app is subscription based, similar to Spotify, and will be going toe-to-toe with the larger music apps on offer.
YouTube Music is available to download and use for free, with users able to listen to their tunes with ads dispersed between tracks.
The free version will also stop music from playing when the app is offline forcing users to upgrade to the Premium version to listen to music whenever they like.
The upgrade to Premium will cost £9.99 on a monthly subscription.
This will stop adverts from interrupting your songs and will let you download songs for listening when you are traveling and not connected to the internet.
Users can also upgrade to YouTube Premium, which has all the previous perks but will allow users to download all Youtube content without adverts infant of videos.
This upper premium tier will cost £11.99 a month.
This will also allow you to download YouTube Originals and movies, including Cobra Kai, Impulse, F2 Finding Football, and The Sidemen Show.
Do I have to sign in to use YouTube Music?
No, you don’t. At least, not if you’re happy to use the web version. If you head to music.youtube.com, you can listen to the ad-supported version of the service. If you do sign into the web version, you’ll get access to any music you’ve saved into playlists, and your own preferred artists in the ‘Home screen’, plus access to music you transferred over from Play Music in your browser too.
If you want to use any of the streaming sides of the service through the smartphone app, you’ll have to sign into your Google Account. The app doesn’t even show any of the streaming content without signing in. But once you do, you’ll be able to access the free service with no subscription necessary. That will let you listen to the tracks and watch the videos, with occasional adverts. If you don’t have a subscription, you won’t be able to have background playback either, i.e., as soon as you turn off the display, the music will stop.
There is a workaround, however.
How to play YouTube Music in the background without a subscription
There’s a small loophole that will let you play the free version of YouTube Music on your device without having a subscription. It’s essentially the same process needed to play YouTube in the backgound, which we detailed for the iPhone here.
Here’s how to do it:
- Head to music.youtube.com in your device browser.
- Open the settings and select desktop mode.
- Press play on the music you want to listen to.
- Turn off the display.
- If the music stops, wake to the standby screen on Android and look for media controls, and it play. On iPhone, swipe to the control centre and press play.
- The music should then start playing again.
To be honest, it’s a bit of long workaround and Android phones handle music in slightly different ways, so it might not work on all models, or you might have to find or enable the playback controls on your lockscreen.
What happened to Google Play Music?
Google started shutting down Play Music in September 2020, retiring the old service and suggesting that users move themselves over to YouTube Music instead. That sees the end of music purchases from Google, moving to a streaming offering instead. Google did provided a method for moving your previous Play Music purchases over to YouTube Music initially, but now Google Play Music has completely shut down, so you can no longer do that.
This is a better way to browse the web.
How much does YouTube Music cost?
YouTube Music is available as a free ad-supported tier, much like Spotify. But there’s a catch for the mobile app, because you can’t use it to play music in the background (although, see above). For most people, subscribing is going to provide the best experience.
You can lose the adverts and gain offline listening with a YouTube Premium subscription, but here there’s a little bit of a convoluted tier system. You can subscribe to just YouTube Music Premium or YouTube Premium. The latter costs more, but also means you can watch any video on YouTube without ads, and can keep audio from any YouTube video playing in the background.
YouTube Music Premium:
- Student: $4.99/£4.99
- Standard: $9.99/£9.99
- Family: $14.99/$14.99
- Student: $6.99/£6.99
- Standard: $11.99/£11.99
- Family: $17.99/£17.99
If you are a new user, there are lots of trial options – you can get free months or there’s a two-week no-risk trial too. Just keep clicking around and you’ll be offered these trials.
What’s the YouTube Music app like to use?
The YouTube Music app is remarkably simple in layout and ease of use. Its home screen is tailored towards your personal artist choices – which you select during your first visit – and is clearly laid out so you can find recommended playlists and videos instantly.
The main unique feature is that because its tracks are gleaned from the entire gamut of content available on YouTube, there are thousands of performances you cannot get anywhere else. And they are all available to view as video too.
There are controls within the app to adjust the streaming quality, through low, normal, high and always high and these values can be selected for both mobile and Wi-Fi streaming. You can also opt to play lower quality video on mobile and HD only on Wi-Fi.
There’s a restricted mode to reduce explicit-flagged songs, although this isn’t protected, so the user can always turn it off – and it relies on the artist having flagged the content as explicit.
You can also download music for offline listening, either individual tracks or entire playlists or albums. This will mean you can listen without streaming either to save data or for when you’re traveling – and there’s an option to limit streaming to Wi-Fi only.
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