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YouTube Music: the streaming service for you?

The new offering from Google brings videos and live performances to the music streaming experience

YouTube Music, Google’s latest big push into music streaming, launched in the UK last week. We look at what it offers, how you can get it and how it compares with rival services such as Spotify.

YouTube Music is a music streaming service with more of a focus on video, combining elements from both YouTube and Google Play Music. It’s available both as a free app with ads, or an ad-free paid version. A paid version of YouTube has launched as well called YouTube Premium.

The paid version of YouTube Music costs £9.99 a month, and not only gives you music ad-free but also includes added features, including the ability to listen to music in the background while using other apps and the ability to download what you’re listening to. You can get a three-month free trial for the paid service on the YouTube Music website.

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The YouTube Music app aims to offer a broader music experience than rivals such as Spotify by combining a wide range of media beyond just the audio itself, including music videos, live performances, covers, albums and remixes. It contains thousands of playlists, official versions of millions of songs, albums and more, plus the music videos you expect from YouTube. There’s a brand new desktop player available for PCs as well.

It’s also looking to bring over all the popular features from Google Play Music, including a highly tailored experience, with the music it offers on the home screen changing all the time, plus personalised recommendations that suit the time of day and location as new content and live performances are release.

You also have the power of Google Search at your fingertips, with the ability to search lyrics and song nicknames, giving you a greater likelihood of being able to find the song you’re looking for.

YouTube Music is not a direct replacement for Google Play Music, at least not at the moment. However, if you have a Google Play Music subscription you will automatically receive access to YouTube Music Premium and can keep using Google Play Music as normal. The plan to launch YouTube Music began when Google merged its YouTube and Google Play Music teams around 14 months ago.

How does it compare with Spotify and other music streaming services?

YouTube Music, while simpler, works a lot like Spotify does, with the ability to browse songs and albums, save them to your library, find and create playlists and discover trending music. The app’s home screen is tailored towards your particular music artist choices, which you select the first time you install the app. Tracks are pulled from YouTube’s vast catalogue, so there are countless live performances and others that you will not be able to find anywhere else. Plus they can be watched in video form too.

However, YouTube Music’s simplicity means those used to Spotify will find there are fewer options, with fewer ways to find and discover music. Spotify is also the only service that gives you access to the vast array of audio products that support Spotify Connect, such as many wireless speakers, DAB radios and mini hi-fis.

Apple Music, on the other hand, has the advantage of being fully integrated with the music library on your Apple device and the unique benefit of being able to be controlled using the Siri voice assistant.

Amazon Music Unlimited is the only service to support Alexa voice control – via an Alexa button in the app in the UK, with speak-to-play support currently only available in the US.

Ultimately these services all have a very similar offering, and your preference will often come down to which you find most convenient to use, and how much you are willing to pay.

YouTube Premium

YouTube Premium (formerly known as YouTube Red in some countries) is the first time a premium YouTube service has become available in the UK. It costs £11.99 a month, and for that you get the ad-free YouTube Music service as standard plus a more powerful YouTube experience. This lets you watch YouTube ad-free, download videos and also play YouTube music from the app in the background while using other apps.

YouTube Premium is becoming a rival of sorts to Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, with access to original video content called YouTube Originals. Around 60 shows are currently available. One of the most popular shows is a Karate Kid spin-off called Cobra Kai. Some UK-focussed shows are also available at launch, including Sidemen, which is pitched as something between The Inbetweeners and Top Gear, plus the football show F2: Finding Football.

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