YouTube Music: The Ultimate Guide [UPDATED For 2023]



An in-depth guide to YouTube Music, covering off EVERYTHING you need to know inside one article. Is YouTube Music worth it? Is it better than Spotify or Apple Music? Let’s find out…


Table of Contents

    With an extensive library of over 50 million tracks, comprised of the most popular artists and bands, YouTube Music – at its core, at least – has everything you’d expect from a modern music streaming platform.

    The only question now is whether it is better than the competition?

    Of course, in the world of music streaming apps there is A LOT of competition – you have Spotify and Apple Music, of course, but there is also other services like TIDAL and Amazon Prime Music.

    Given all of the above, choosing to go with YouTube Music exclusively over, say Spotify or TIDAL, isn’t exactly a simple choice.

    In a like-for-like comparison, sure, they’re all pretty similar: they stream music, have a gazillion songs, and work on your phone and desktop computer.

    But there are differences in how they all work and what they do, and this will be the focus of the article from now and we’ll touch on and explain all the following things:

    • Why you should and shouldn’t use YouTube Music;
    • What makes YouTube Music unique compared to Spotify and other music streaming sites;
    • The benefits of YouTube Music over Spotify / Apple Music / TIDAL;
    • How much YouTube Music costs;
    • And, finally, whether or not YouTube Music is worth it.

    What is YouTube Music?

    YouTube Music Guide
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    YouTube Music is a music streaming service launched by YouTube in 2015. It provides both ad-supported and subscription-based music streaming services, allowing users to access their favorite songs, albums and playlists on their phones and/or desktop computers.

    Before it was called YouTube Music, the app was known as Google Play Music. It was launched in 2011 and allowed users to store up to 50,000 songs on the cloud and access them from any device with an internet connection. In 2018, Google announced that it would be replacing Google Play Music with YouTube Music.

    YouTube was made for watching, which meant fans have had to jump back and forth between multiple music apps and YouTube. Those days will soon be over. On Tuesday, May 22, we’ll begin rolling out YouTube Music, a new music streaming service made for music on top of the magic of YouTube: making the world of music easier to explore and more personalized than ever. Whether you want to listen, watch or discover, it’s all here.

    YouTube Music is a new music streaming service made for music: official songs, albums, thousands of playlists and artist radio plus YouTube’s tremendous catalog of remixes, live performances, covers and music videos that you can’t find anywhere else – all simply organized and personalized. For the first time, all the ways music moves you can be found in one place.

    Google

    As part of YouTube Music’s promotion push, Google began bundling it in with YouTube Premium subscriptions. This is how I got my YouTube Music subscription in the first place. I use YouTube all the time, so paying for a premium subscription was a no brainer.

    Getting access to YouTube Music for free was just a nice bonus.

    I’m still very much a Spotify fanboy, though; I’ve used it for years, so completely switching you YouTube Music, for me, is not something I would do – I just have too many saved playlists and curated content on their.

    But as part of my job, I like to have subscriptions to all the most popular streaming services. This means I have a paid subscription to Apple Music, Spotify, TIDAL, and YouTube Music. But I am not your average user; most users have one or two music subscriptions.

    For instance, if you use iPhone, chances are you will have an Apple Music subscription and, perhaps, a Spotify one too, as Spotify came out before Apple Music. Where things get interesting, though, is that with YouTube Music, you could potentially ditch your Spotify subscription.

    Why? Because you can get YouTube Music with YouTube Premium for free, and YouTube Premium – if you use YouTube a lot – is 100% worth getting. There are no adverts, you get access to exclusive YouTube content, and it will pretty much revolutionise how to use and consume content on YouTube.

    If I didn’t already have a Spotify subscription, however, I would be more than happy to use YouTube Music exclusively. It has all the same features as Spotify as well as few unique things that it doesn’t.

    And this, for me, is what makes YouTube Music kind of special – it does a few unique things that really set it apart from the crowd.

    Additional Resources:


    How Does YouTube Music Work?

    YouTube Music works in pretty much the same way as other music streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music. You can search for your favorite artists and bands, browser all their albums and singles, and download songs and albums for offline listening.

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    On top of this, YouTube Music’s algorithm can create personalized playlists based on your listening habits which is a great way of finding and exploring new bands and artists you might not have heard of. You can also follow your friends and see what they’re listening to – just like on Spotify.

    It also has a personalized radio station too and it works by creating a custom playlist based on what you’re currently listening to. The app will then play songs that are similar in genre and style, as well as songs from artists that you may not have heard before.

    It also takes into account what your friends are listening to which makes it a great tool for discovering new music and bands. This is one of the features I tend to use most – I’ve found loads of new, cool bands with it.

    Additional Resources:


    Does YouTube Music Have Ads?

    In order to maintain its competitiveness with more dominant streaming apps like Spotify, Google offers two core subscriptions for YouTube Music. You have a paid-for version which starts from $9.99 per month and a free-version which comes with ads.

    The free version of YouTube Music, just like Spotify’s free version of its app, is ad-supported which means you can listen to songs via the app but they will be paused for adverts every 10 minutes or so.

    Bottomline: YouTube Music does have ads if you DO NOT pay for the premium version. My advice? If you’re interested in getting YouTube Music, get it as part of YouTube Premium – it’s only $2.99 more a month for YouTube Premium and you get full access to YouTube Music without ads for no extra cost.

    How To Download YouTube Music

    Here’s a quick overview on how to download YouTube Music on various devices, including Android phones and tablets, iPhones and iPads, and Macs and Windows PCs:

    Additional Resources:


    Number of Songs Available on YouTube Music

    Can anyone ever listen to all the music available on modern streaming platforms? No. You definitely cannot. It’d take approximately 144,290 hours (or 6011 days) to listen through 50 million songs.

    And while you might have plenty of time on your hands, no one has THAT amount of free time. But music choice is obviously an important decision when thinking about switching or getting a new music streaming subscription.

    So, how many songs does YouTube actually have? In total, YouTube Music has an impressive catalog of over 50 million tracks which is actually significantly more than some of its nearest competitors, as you can see below:

    • Spotify – over 50 million songs
    • TIDAL – over 60 million songs
    • YouTube Music – over 50 million songs
    • Apple Music – over 70 million songs

    As you can see, when it comes to the sheer number of songs available on a music streaming platform, Apple Music and TIDAL are the best with 70 million and 60 million respectively, while Spotify and YouTube Music have in and around 50 million tracks, give or take a few here and there.

    Additional Resources:


    Features and Benefits of YouTube Music

    When it comes to the overall number of songs available on its platform, Google has matched Spotify with respect to raw numbers. But what other unique features and/or benefits does YouTube Music have over Spotify, Apple Music, and TIDAL?

    For me, there’s actually quite a few things that YouTube Music does better than other music streaming apps. And they are as follows:

    • YouTube Music Does Search Brilliantly – Google KNOWS search, it is basically the company’s bread and butter, so it is no surprise that YouTube Music’s search functionality is extremely powerful and very informative. YouTube Music’s search results are organized into categories such as Popular Videos, Artists, Albums and Playlists. You can also refine your search by genre or mood. Additionally, you can use voice search to access what you’re looking for quickly and conveniently.
    • Personalized Recommendations –  All the main music streaming apps do personalised recommendations but for me, keeping in mind that I use TIDAL, Spotify, and Apple Music, YouTube Music’s works the best. I’ve found more new bands and music on YouTube Music that any other music streaming platform (and this, again, is down to Google’s command of search and how it handles and understands your data).
    • The UX is great – I like how Apple Music sounds but its UX is terrible. Ditto TIDAL. Spotify’s is good but I do think YouTube Music has the best designed UX of any music streaming app currently available. Its super intuitive, easy to use, and places everything you need under your fingertips.
    • Its Radio Station Feature Works Better Too – Again, this might be down to Google’s command of algorithms but I do tend to find its radio stations way more useful for finding new music and bands. I don’t know how Google does it but whatever it is doing works really well. Personalised radio is brilliant on YouTube Music.
    • Live performances regularly streamed inside the app – Thanks to YouTube Music being part of YouTube, Google snags the rights to loads of live performances which you can stream via the YouTube Music app. If you like watching live music, YouTube Music has Apple Music and Spotify beat hands-down in this context.

    Exclusive Content on YouTube Music

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    YouTube Music has a number of exclusive songs and videos that are not available on any other service. For example, Taylor Swift released a new version of her single “ME!” exclusively on YouTube Music prior to its release anywhere else.

    This approach to exclusive music tracks, paying prominent artists for exclusive access to their music or new tracks, isn’t a new tactic. Spotify paid Joe Rogan $100 million for the exclusive rights to stream his JRE podcast. With YouTube Music, the focus tends to be more on music, though – hence the Taylor Swift deal.

    I wouldn’t view this aspect of YouTube Music as a “deal breaker” though; all the current music streaming platforms have “exclusive” deals in place with artists and bands and most of the time they’re limited-time deals.

    But what YouTube Music does that is really cool, and isn’t available on other platforms like Apple Music, is that it can and will pull in content from YouTube, so you can quickly access music videos for your favourite bands and artists inside the YouTube Music app.

    Pros & Cons of Using YouTube Music

    • Access to a vast library of over 50 million songs
    • Free with YouTube Premium subscription
    • Ability to create and share playlists with friends
    • Regular exclusive content from popular artists
    • User-friendly interface for easy navigation
    • Music videos available directly from the app.

    YouTube Music Streaming Quality

    The quality in which music is streamed from a company’s servers to your phone is very important – especially if you’ve invested in decent headphones.

    YouTube Music has a maximum streaming quality of 128Kbps Mp3 and AAC+. All other services offer higher quality audio. Spotify, Apple Music, and TIDAL all provide better sound quality than YouTube Music, so if high fidelity audio is important to you, you’ll want to go with either TIDAL or Apple Music.


    How Much Does YouTube Music Cost?

    Here’s a quick overview of how much YouTube Music costs compared to other popular music streaming apps:

    • YouTube Music is free with a YouTube Premium subscription and costs $9.99/month in the US and £11.99/month in the UK.
    • Spotify has two plans, Free & Paid (Premium). The Premium plan costs $9.99/month in the US and £9.99/month in the UK.
    • Apple Music costs $9.99/month in the US and £9.99/month in the UK.
    • TIDAL has three plans, Premium ($9.99/month), Hi-Fi ($19.99/month) and Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) ($24.99/month).

    Alternatives to YouTube Music

    Given all the stuff we’ve covered so far, it is now probably best to outline what the best YouTube Music alternatives are right now. Based on our testing and experience, the following music streaming apps are the best options for those that do not want a YouTube Music subscription.

    • Spotify – Pros: A large selection of music, podcast integration, and user-friendly interface. Cons: Some exclusive content is only available to paid members.
    • Apple Music – Pros: Easy navigation, radio station feature, and comprehensive library. Cons: Lacks some features found in other streaming services such as playlists and social sharing.
    • TIDAL – Pros: Lossless audio streaming, exclusive content, and high-fidelity sound quality. Cons: Limited selection of songs in comparison to other music streaming services.

    Additional Resources:


    Is YouTube Music Worth It? Wrapping Up…

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    YouTube Music is a great music streaming platform that offers users access to over 50 million songs and videos. It provides exclusive content from popular artists, a user-friendly interface for easy navigation, the ability to create and share playlists with friends, as well as regular exclusive content from popular artists.

    Its radio station feature works better than its competitors’, and it’s free with YouTube Premium subscription. YouTube Music stands out for its unique approach to music discovery and its intuitive search functionality and design. But it definitely loses ground when it comes to overall sound quality – it is WAY behind the competition in this regard.

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    Richard Goodwin

    Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.
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