The days of having vast collections of vinyl, tape, or even CDs and thousands of files on your hard drive are over. The advent of streaming has changed the way we access and view music forever.
Streaming is a giant music library in the sky, one that we all can access and share no matter where we are. Furthermore, hundreds if not thousands of streaming services across the world allow instant access to a plethora of content.
Arguably, the most popular streaming service in the world is YouTube…
It’s free, simple to use, and has a library of content that defies logic. YouTube later became so popular that music lovers began using it as their main source for new music content.
This encouraged the developers to begin evolving their platform. Thus, YouTube Music was born in 2015. This is a free and paid service that allows access to everything that falls under YouTube’s “Music” banner.
The service is geared toward those who want to take their music with them wherever they go without signing up for another music streaming service. Everyone uses YouTube, right?
Why bother with anything else?
Well, that’s what I decided to spend the last couple of weeks finding out. In this article, I will be giving you the pros and cons of YouTube Music Premium, how it works, and everything in between.
Let’s get started with my in-depth YouTube Music Premium Review.
What Is YouTube Music?
YouTube Music is essentially a “Does What It Says On The Tin” solution. It is YouTube’s dedicated streaming service for all content classified or tagged as music.
The service came about for two reasons…
Firstly, more and more people started using YouTube as their primary streaming service. Not just videos but music. Secondly, YouTube needed to start competing with the tons of free music streaming services that were popping up, like Deezer, Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music.
The thinking behind it is sensible. People like to keep it simple as much as possible in the 21st century. Having a centralized account through which you can satisfy all your music, podcast, and video streaming desires makes perfect sense.
So, what do you get?
YouTube Music gives you access to all the content that falls under the music banner for YouTube’s algorithm and tagging system. This can include official and unofficial content like amateur recordings and personal releases by artists. Everything is easily streamable and without ads (paid version).
The service allows you to create and like playlists as well as channels, just like standard YouTube. When YouTube Music started, the likes and playlists on your two YouTube profiles were automatically linked.
If you like an artist on one platform, you will also like them on the other. But YouTube later changed this to make the two accounts independent.
In December 2020…
Google announced that YouTube Music would officially be replacing Google Play Music. Subscribers of Google Play were given some time to back up and transfer all their profile content to the YouTube Music Platform. Some users were happier than others about this change.
Like most streaming services, there is a free and a paid option. The YouTube Music paid option has some perks. One of them is the ability to download content for offline listening. That way, you don’t have to waste your precious mobile data when you are not on a WiFi Network.
Special Note – Owners of Sonos speakers will be delighted to hear that YouTube music is directly accessible from most Sonos Speakers.
YouTube Music Premium – How It Works
The interface is essentially identical for desktop and mobile versions of YouTube Music. The only main differences might be in scaling and icon placement. But navigation and functionality will be the same.
When you open the app/webpage, you will likely be greeted with a message saying “Hi” and your name next to it. This will depend on whether you are already signed into an existing Google or YouTube account via your browser.
As you begin to scroll, the algorithm will generate suggestions for songs, genres, artists, and curated mixes that you might be interested in. This can go on for a long time which s what makes this service so enticing.
At the top…
You will find your main navigation tabs – Home, Explore, Library, Upgrade, and the Search bar. These function mostly as you would expect.
When you click on a song and start to listen, you’ll see a lot of the familiar controls to play, pause, skip, rewind, look at related material, see the lyrics, and view the queue. There are also buttons for like, unlike, shuffle, loop, volume control, and mute.
Clicking on the small white arrow in the bottom right of the screen will minimize the player. Leaving you free to continue browsing or adding to your queue while the track plays in the background.
The “more” option…
This sits on the far right and looks like three dots on top of one another. This can be used to tune into a radio station, move the track to a playlist, like, dislike, go to an artist, album, share, and the ominously named “Stats for Nerds.”
YouTube Music isn’t devoid of video material either…
You can see all the newest music videos and live performances on YouTube Music. You can also just listen to the audio versions.
Unfortunately, if you play a song’s music video or lyric video, you cannot lock your screen and put your phone in your pocket without the audio stopping. But, if you switch to the audio-only version, this is possible.
Being able to lock your phone without losing playback is one of the biggest advantages of YouTube Music. Of course, on a free YouTube Music account, you’ll still have to put up with ads every few songs.
Playlists and Collaboration
To create a playlist, you can navigate to your library and click on the big plus icon. Alternatively, you can click on the three-dot symbol on the play bar and then select “add to playlist,” where you can choose to create a new one.
For the moment, new playlists are still created for both your general and YouTube Music accounts. Hopefully, a future update will be able to take care of this.
YouTube recently did an update that allows for collaborative playlists. This means that you can add friends to a playlist, and they can also add, change, and remove songs with you. This is much like the collaboration feature in Spotify’s playlists.
Much like Spotify, YouTube Music’s biggest drawback is the audio quality. YouTube Music runs in AAC format only, and there are four options available:
- Low: 48kbps AAC (saves data).
- Normal: 128kbps AAC (the default setting).
- High: 256kbps AAC (highest quality).
- Always high: 256 kbps AAC (forces the highest quality even when connections aren’t good).
There are many competitors like Tidal, Apple, Amazon, and Deezer that support higher bitrates for lossy formats. And also support fully lossless formats like FLAC and ALAC for Apple.
A leaked interview with a former employee confirmed that YouTube has no intention of increasing the capability of its audio engine. That’s because it views lossless streaming as inefficient when it comes to potential profits.
Of course, any material you choose can be downloaded for offline enjoyment. All you have to do is select “download” from the drop-down menu when you click on the three-dot icon on the play bar. Make sure there is enough space on your device, and you will be good to go.
YouTube Music Premium Subscriptions
The individual plan for YouTube Music Premium is $9.99. If you are a student, you can get YouTube Music Premium for $4.99 a month. Finally, there is a family plan for $14.99 a month.
You can pay in advance for twelve months and only pay $99 flat. In total, you can use the service on ten mobile devices.
Family subscriptions allow for up to five additional devices. Student plans need to be re-verified yearly and can be re-verified for a maximum of four years. Once the four years expire, you are offered a three-month free trial.
The Main Differences Between YouTube Music and Premium?
First, there are no ads on YouTube Music Premium, and you can play music with your screen locked. You can also make use of YouTube’s explore algorithm, which will increase the accuracy of new suggestions as you like and subscribe.
Standard YouTube Premium offers more features…
When you get a YouTube Music Premium account, the add-free and algorithm perks only apply to content that is flagged as music under the tagging system. With Standard YouTube Premium, the features apply to all content, including normal videos, podcasts, trailers, and music.
P.S. – Those of you who remember YouTube Red can lay it to rest. YouTube Premium essentially is YouTube Red.
The same applies to downloads. With YouTube Music Premium, you can only download music-related audio and video (like music videos or live performances). With Standard YouTube Premium, you can download anything you wish, including standard video uploads and the content that falls under music.
Another great perk…
The background play. This minimizes the window to the bottom right of your device’s screen. So, you can open and use other apps while the video or song keeps playing.
Standard YouTube Premium understandably comes at a heftier cost. Individual plans are $11.99 a month and $6.99 for students. Family plans go for $17.99 a month, and if you pay for twelve months upfront, you can get it for $119.99.
Now that I’ve taken care of how much money YouTube expects you to give them, let’s get into how much they are prepared to give you if you are a content creator.
The truth is a sad one, I’m afraid. Like most streaming services, YouTube is notorious for not paying what you’d call a decent sum per stream. Although, I’m not sure you can count it as a negative when it is pretty much common across all streaming platforms for artists to make very little money.
That being said, among the low-paying streaming platforms, YouTube and YouTube Music rank among the lowest.
If you are serious about supporting an artist…
The best you can do is what fans have always done. Buy the albums and merchandise and go to their shows.
Almost every YouTube artist has an account on Patreon or a Paypal link. The truth is that streaming never has and probably never will sustain any artists on a practical level.
Below you will find a table of figures collected by the Website Digital Music News. Note that the payouts for YouTube also depend on whether you have a free, premium, standard, or music subscription.
|Digital Service Provider||$ Per Stream|
|Amazon Music Unlimited||$0.01123|
|YouTube Music/Premium (formerly YouTube Red)||$0.01009|
|Amazon Prime Music||$0.00426|
|YouTube Content ID||$0.00022|
If you have files that you placed in your device’s storage and you would like to listen to them, then the process is a bit tedious.
You need to navigate to the settings page and then go under the “library and downloads” section. Tick the box that says “show device files.” Next, go over to the “songs” section and swipe to the device files area.
Remember that these tracks can be played, but they cannot be shared or added to playlists like songs from YouTube. There was an update in 2021 that allowed for songs to be cast to other devices like speakers and smart displays.
YouTube Music Premium Review – The Pros
YouTube Music Premium stacks up quite well against the competition. The service is reliable, easy to use, and quite affordable. It offers most of the features that other services do. The biggest plus point of YouTube Music Premium is the sheer amount of content that is available.
The other services simply cannot match up to the number of live versions, obscure beat tapes, unannounced releases, etc., that YouTube provides. Furthermore, YouTube’s lyrics are more accurate than any other service.
The closest competitor would be Spotify. Their lyrics are generated by the Musixmatch website, and its track record for getting the lyrics right has been less than stellar. Conversely, the YouTube algorithm has been doing an excellent job.
YouTube’s social aspect also adds another dimension…
Communicating with an artist directly as they drop a new single or album makes it so much more visceral of an experience. Other services offer the same functionality, but they aren’t as popular.
And, with YouTube Standard Premium, you get the added functionality of tuning into live streams and joining the chat.
If you were a Google Play Music user, then you can also transfer all your content to the new YouTube platform without any fuss. This means you are already experiencing many of the perks of YouTube Music Premium.
YouTube Music Premium Review – The Cons
The service is far from perfect, and chief among its blunders are the “New Releases” and “Your Mixtape” areas. These actions contained songs that I had already placed in my likes or library. And it often also suggested tunes that I would never think of listening to.
The biggest Achilles heel for YouTube is, of course, the streaming quality. It’s one of the poorest of all the streaming services. And what’s worse is that YouTube and Google have confirmed that they don’t intend to do anything about it.
If quality is important to you, then you’re better off getting something like Amazon, Tidal, Apple, or Deezer. The future does, however, remain uncertain so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. YouTube might yet surprise us soon.
One last thing…
Probably the biggest reason you shouldn’t get YouTube Music Premium is that Standard YouTube Premium exists. If you weigh up the perks you get with a Standard YouTube Premium subscription, those extra one or two dollars a month are worth it.
If value for the money is important to you, just get the ad-free Standard YouTube Premium instead of YouTube Music Premium.
Need More Help Getting Music From YouTube?
If so, take a look at our detailed articles on the BEST FREE YouTube To MP3 Converter, the Best FREE Online YouTube To MP4 Converter Tools, and the Top YouTube Playlist Downloader for more information.
Of course, you need to listen to those songs. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones For Rock & Metal Music, the Best Headphones for Music, the Best Headphones for Hip-Hop, the Most Comfortable Headphones, and the Best Headphones Under $200 you can buy in 2023.
And don’t miss our comprehensive reviews of the Best Party Speakers, the Best Tailgate Speakers, the Loudest Portable Bluetooth Speakers, the Best Wireless Outdoor Speakers, and the Best Waterproof Speakers currently on the market.
YouTube Music Premium Review – Conclusion
YouTube Music Premium is one of the best music streaming options for everyday users. As far as content and lyrics are concerned, it’s probably the best on the internet. But that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice things like audio quality and cross-platform syncing of likes and playlists.
However, it’s a bit of a disappointing stripped-down version of normal YouTube. One that offers very little motivation to pay the monthly subscription. Getting a standard YouTube Premium will offer you the same and so much more for only two or three dollars extra. It’s a no-brainer, in my opinion.
Until next time, happy listening.