Seriously, you couldn’t switch to my downloaded songs…
For more than 3 years I was rocking an Android phone and proud of it. I loved the freedom that came with Android. One of the biggest things I miss was being able to put my app icons anywhere I want on the screen instating of having them auto-align with the top left corner. The widgets and app drawer were also a plus.
When I started using Android the default music players was Google Play Music. The subscription fee was reasonable and the player interface was a bit cluttered but really good. The problem (for Google) with Google Play Music is that it meant they had to pay separate licenses for the audio library on YouTube and on Play Music. That reality didn’t make good business sense. So they migrated users over to YouTube Music and I was one of those users.
The YouTube Music app launched with a limited number of features and its update cadence did not reflect the potential of one of the most developer-heavy companies in the world. It took years before they had a way to migrate playlists from one tool to the next.
YouTube Music is just bad. Here are a few of the scenarios that led to this justification. Now, if these never, ever, come up in your workflow then you will likely have a different opinion.
Like a music video on YouTube? It shows up in your playlist including the part where the artist says things like Hey guys, thanks for watching this video. Don’t forget to use the share button and Like/Subscribe. YouTube already has a problem if people have to prompt their audience to take action, but in my music app listening in my car I don’t want to hear the version of that song that includes the calls to action.
There’s an absolutely beautiful version of Dog Days are Over by members of Florence + The Machine. She sings to someone who is obviously struggling with a long term emaciating illness. It’s beautiful and moving. But, under no circumstances should you like the song. If you do it’ll show up in your playlist. It’ll train the algorithms to give you more songs based on other humanitarian renditions. It so screwed up the algorithm for song suggestions that to undo it I had to unlike the song. So, now this absolutely powerful and beautiful song has another unlike on it. I’m sure the uploader wonders why, the commenters certainly do.
Most music apps will let you download offline content. Google’s a real pro at this with their Maps app on Android, which will let you select a wide area for it to have available for offline use of their maps. That feature is super slick, but the Google Maps guys and the YouTube Music guys seem to be in different buildings. When you get to an area with no cell coverage YouTube music will finish playing the existing queue and instead of switching to the downloaded version it will simply stop playing.
Which is odd because to save data, it’s playing the downloaded version of the song.
But it can’t switch to the next song in the playlist because it has to phone-home to Google’s HQ to be able to change a song.
Now, you can play your downloaded music, but you have to manually navigate to the downloaded section of the app and then start the playlist all over again.
The user experience leaves a lot to be desired.
There is one ginormous reason to be on the YouTube music app: The Library. It’s huge! Because of YouTube wanting to have versions of the songs available for videos they have one of the largest libraries of music of any streaming service. If you’re looking for something obscure, odds are you’ll find it on YouTube music. The team on the back end did a great job getting permissions…
Apple’s course to getting permissions to music libraries has been more curated over the years. After all these were the guys who provided the only viable alternative to piracy. Jobs had to explain that they were going to unbundle the album—a move which caused a lot of resentment to the industry moguls—a lesson that was not lost when the streaming service came out. Some library owners will flat-out not release their content to Apple because of the way they handled things in the past.
So, the reduced library is a bit of a dig but there is enough content to keep you in your comfort zone for at least a couple of decades. I’m able to build mixes of purely 1920’s songs and my top-favorites. That’s working pretty good.
When you get to an area that’s offline, your music instantly switches to the downloaded version—wow! Talk about innovative.
When you like a song on YouTube it doesn’t show up in your playlist. You get the music, not the fluff.
The biggest plus is one we probably all take for granted… a fully synced music library. Remember when we had to sync our music by plugging in our iPods? Now it’s all done in the cloud, but it’s seamless and every app is native. Which means they don’t unnecessarily kill your battery just to play a song.
The algorithms that provide music suggestions are both pretty quick to suggest good songs… YouTube’s is better, but Apple’s isn’t so far behind to really be a problem.
Making Your Choice
Your choice of music app will depend largely on your strategy for consumption. How do you consume your music? Are you always in the car? Do you ever get to a low-signal area? How diverse are your tastes?
I’m glad we have a plurality of options to match the plurality of perspectives we have on the earth. Each of use have a unique playlist for the way we live our lives and how we consume that playlist should be just as unique as the music itself.