8 things YouTube Music still needs one year in

One year ago, I wrote that YouTube Music was a mixtape full of promise, with predictive algorithms that are scarily good and selection like no other, but today, it's hard to defend the service when it is still missing so much. Granted, there have been advancements and meaningful features added in the last year, especially in the last six months as we got support for Android Auto, Google Clock alarms integration, and local music file playback.

That said, as someone who wakes up to YouTube Music every morning and has desperately tried to make it my only music player in a vain attempt to avoid hitting my device limit in Google Play Music — which YouTube Music is not replacing anytime soon — I find myself constantly hungering for so many things that I've never had to really worry about with other music apps. There's a whole lot out there still missing, but here are the most noticeable gaps and flaws that have been plaguing users for a year now.

Proper library management

Sorting your music library by most recently added/edited might make sense for Liked Songs or Recently Played, but having to browse your playlists and albums that way just makes you want to tear your hair out after a while. If you could at least sort alphanumerically while on YouTube Music's website, it could be a little easier to swallow, but no such luck.

This has been a complaint from Day One, and while it has been "coming soon" for months, it's still not here, which is almost a bigger problem: improvements have been very slow to come and for all the improvements that have been made, many, many more are still waiting to be fixed.

Saving and building queues

Queue management on YouTube Music isn't quite as demonically difficult as Spotify, but for a service that's supposed to (eventually) replace Google Play Music, YTM's queues leave a lot to be desired. When building queues, you have to start with a playlist or album: you can't build a queue from scratch because if you add a single song to the empty queue, it'll turn on a radio station based on that song instead. When adding songs, you can either add a single song or an entire album, you cannot select and add multiple songs the way you can on Google Play Music.

Now, building your playlist before you play it may not seem like a big deal to most, but I'm the kind of listener that will mish-mash the songs stuck in my head with songs I've been listening to recently, and then if the queue jams well, I'll save it as a playlist to come back to it later. You cannot save queues in YouTube Music — admittedly, you can't do it on Spotify either — which is unfortunate because saving queues as playlists would be extra insurance against our next flaw.

Casting that works properly

Casting sucks

I live in a small apartment, but I have four Google Cast speakers currently set up — and another two sitting in boxes — and yet when I'm listening to YouTube Music, I find myself reaching for Bluetooth because I don't want to gamble my carefully stacked queue on a Google Cast bug.

It's mind-boggling that Google's music apps suck harder at casting than third-party apps in 2019, but here we are.

Want to repeat or shuffle a queue? You can't do it while you're casting. Want Your Mixtape or a station to play for hours on end? Too bad, the queue isn't endless while casting the way it is during regular playback. On more than one occasion, YouTube Music completely deleted or scrambled the second a Google Cast connection was established. It's been like this for a year with absolutely no change, and that's infuriating as a heavy user of Google Cast's audio groups.

Shuffle all downloads

When you go offline in most music apps, there's usually an easy place to start shuffling all available downloaded music. In Google Play Music, it's the top option in the Home tab once you kick on Downloaded only mode. In YouTube Music, offline mode shoves you into the Downloads section of My Library, but weirdly enough, there's no big "Shuffle Play All" option at the top of the section, only a banner shortcut to Offline Mixtape — whether you have one downloaded or not.

If you have ten albums and five playlists downloaded, you'll need to play one, manually add the others to the queue and then shuffle them. This is a little easier for local music files — you go to Library > Songs > Device Files > Shuffle all — but that only works when on the device itself, device files aren't searchable or accessible when using Android Auto, meaning you better set the playlist before you start driving.

Cache while streaming

Speaking of downloads and their plethora of problems, one of the offline perks I miss most from Google Play Music on its supposed successor is "cache while streaming", one of the GPM's most underrated features. Cache while streaming takes the music files it downloads while streaming and saves them so that even if you haven't deliberately downloaded them, they're still ready for offline playback because you essentially download your library as you listen to it.

Cache while streaming is a small feature but a handy one when you tend to bounce around your library a lot. I'll come across a song in a mix and then listen to it on repeat for hours — shut up, I know I'm a freak — and cache while streaming ensures that I'll only ever burn data for streaming a song once because the cached version is used every time after. It's a small but handy trick, and one YouTube Music could use to help set it apart and save users valuable mobile data.

Unified Autoplay toggle

It may be too much to as for an account-wide toggle to turn off autoplay on all of my devices on all of YouTube's apps, but at the very least having one for YouTube Music would be a good start. While YouTube can be used for different things on different devices — watch instruction videos on your work computer, watch cartoon mash-ups and K-Pop remixes on your phone, watching our glorious AC review videos on your big-screen TV — YouTube Music has a singular purpose and if you turn it off on one device, you more likely than not want it off on all devices.

Autoplay is ten times more annoying with YouTube Music because the toggle for it isn't front and center the way it is on YouTube's main site or mobile app. There isn't even a toggle for Autoplay in the YouTube Music Settings page: you have to start playing an album or playlist, open the queue, and then scroll to the bottom to toggle it off.

Visible, simplified device policy

Did you know that YouTube Music actually does have a device limit? You'd be forgiven for not knowing that because while the device limit only applies to the device you've used for downloading content for offline playback, there's no mention of the device limit — and no easy place to reference the authorized device list — in either the YouTube or YouTube Music apps or websites.

Even worse, the 10-device limit for YouTube Music is the same 10-device limit for YouTube Premium. If you download videos in YouTube on your iPad for your kid to watch in the car, that counts towards the same 10 devices as your phone that you have an Offline Mixtape downloaded for. If YouTube Music is going to have the same stupid "10 authorizations, 4 de-authorizations per year" nonsense GPM does, the least it could do is let you see the device list somewhere in the app's settings.

Above all else, YouTube Music needs stability

YouTube Music needs stability now

In the year since YouTube Music's relaunch, the thing YouTube has lacked most noticeably has been stability. Casting's only consistency is that you should expect one bug or another to plague your playback. The app randomly pauses at least once a day for me while I'm playing while out and about in the parks. YouTube Music's offline music will vanish at random, whether you're on Wi-Fi to redownload it or not.

I love Your Mixtape, but the endless mixtape dies when casting it from a phone to a speaker. You can't summon personal playlists on Google Assistant speakers, only public playlists. YouTube Music still has a lot of potential, but one year on, it's hard to keep waiting on improvements when there's still so much to be done.

YouTube Music's offline playback policies aren't just a nuisance, they're a disgrace

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.

36 Comments
  • Don't worry. I'm sure Google will discontinue this experiment soon. Or just rebrand it again.
  • Stability stability stability. The number of times it pauses is driving me nuts - to the where I'm considering an alternative. I don't use Bluetooth speakers at home, but I did discover on vacation this past week where I was using BT speakers, that if I played YTM for the family, and then went to review my Discover Feed in the Google Launcher, an autoplay video would turn the sound off of YTM even if my autoplay didn't have sound on. Terribly annoying. YTM would keep going as if it were playing music, but it was silent.
  • I be the team has probably moved on to something else like launching Stadia which streams faster and more data - fusking circus of losers.
  • Amen. I couldn't agree more with all of this. YTM needs to put it in another gear and actually start fixing and developing for this app. With their apparent apathy regarding this, and their total lack of any urgency, it's almost like they want to lose users at this point.
  • How about the lack of casting in the web app? I guess I'm supposed to cast the tab itself and not forget to close Chrome, but I've been able to do it from directly within the GPM web app forever. That's my pet peeve, but it's a complete non-issue compared to the fact that new releases are frequently missing from YTM, even though they still show up in GPM. I don't know if that's because there's an issue with the licences or because YTM is such an afterthought that music isn't being submitted, but why should keeping track of that be my problem as a user?
  • Still using Google Play Music on my iPhone. :)
  • That algorithm that was in place when YT Music first launched that would auto suggest new tracks and even download to the offline mix tape doesn't seem to work anymore. I always just have the same songs in my offline mix tape and the regular mix tape doesn't seem to expand beyond the common list of songs.
  • So it's not just me, I guess that's nice. When it first re-launched it actually did a pretty good job of finding new stuff, the last few times I tried it it was literally the same list over and over, only about 20-25 songs deep and then it would repeat, if it hadn't crashed at some point.
  • Same here, I noticed a few months ago that the "Your Mixtape" playlist now only plays music I've already listened to, and doesn't seem to introduce new songs or refresh very often. The last few months when I click on it, it just shuffles through my most frequently played songs. I wish it was more of a music discovery algorithm that brought up new music I haven't heard. As to all the other things mentioned in the article, I agree with all of them. The only ones I haven't experienced is the casting bug (no issues casting to devices or groups), and the offline downloads, I haven't had any issues with my downloads not being there when I want them. I agree though, I really miss the "shuffle all downloads" option.
  • The day they discontinue Google Play Music and make me use Youtube Music is the day we switch back to Spotify. Nobody in my family likes Youtube Music. It just doesn't even make sense to exist. Why do all of these big companies think they have to create a new product to add new features? Microsoft is the worst of them. I wouldn't rely on Microsoft for my media needs for anything. I can't tell you how many different music and movie services they have abandoned.
  • Oh, Lord....preach! I remember loving the Zune music app when Windows 8 and Windows Phone 7 first launched. It could've been AMAZING, but Microsoft rarely marketed it. By the time they shed the Zune label and started stripping features, Windows Phone and Windows 8 were circling the drain anyway. I jump to Android, fall in love with Google Play Music....and here we go again.
  • One thing that I think is missing in this article at least from an Android users prospective is the lack of a persistent widget. When pausing YM to go into a restaurant to order lunch, the YM app will quit itself, when you go to turn the music back on it wont because the app is no longer open, even though you never closed it. Another thing is that if you quit all apps this effectively kills YM as well, vs with GPM if you quit all apps while music is playing, the GPM widget in the notification shade will stay, and music will keep playing. The second one is a smaller gripe but the issue with the app closing itself just because I paused it for 5 minutes is very frustrating. I've spent a lot of time trying to build my thumbs up playlist on YM in anticipation of when they take away my beloved GPM but honestly i hope they just re-brand GPM because the YM app is bad, and Google should feel bad, especially after having done GPM so right, it's YM is the opposite of progression.
  • Are you sure it's not your phone killing the app when it's not in use?
  • How about the ability to import playlists from GPM? Without that, I'm sunk! I have 2000 songs that are in my "Thumbs Up" list. I do not want to have to listen to all 8k or so songs in my library to get the 2k I love thumbed up again. For that matter, what about the 8k songs I have in my library? Are they going to export to YTM? As usual Google, poor implementation of a poor idea. Improve GPM! Don't sunset it for a less useful alternative...
  • Only Spotify for me.
  • What it needs to do is stop pestering me with advertisements.
  • On Point! (Plus still no ability to cross over my current GPM likes, playlists, no feature to upload my music). I HATE YTM. I'm so dreading the loss of GPM that I tried out Spotify and I was little shocked.. just listing the 5 most popular tunes for an artist? Head to Head features GPM matches and exceeds Spotifys - the only two shortcomings of GPM are the lack of users generating great playlists (Spotify's user base really helps here), and the radio feature always needed more help than Songza ever provided, but after that, the minimal look, the features - the best for just adding tunes to a cue!... just everything. Google Play Music IS awesome. Google should just promote it instead of this YTM nonsense. Google is killing my confidence.
  • I could not agree more about the current, profound inadequacies of YTM -- particularly when considered as a 'replacement' for the full featured, flexible interface of Google Play Music on the desktop. I also could not agree more about the utter clunkiness of the Spotify interface. I did a three month trial of Spot a while back and it was utterly unrewarding and uninviting to use -- particularly for someone like me -- who, apparently like the author -- sees the music queue as something that often evolves over the the course of a listening session. I'm always throwing in new songs -- as well as making big shuffle mixes of stacks of albums. That's the kind of user experience and flexibility I 'signed up for' 13 or 14 or so years ago when I took up with my first streaming subscription. And that's what I will cling to bitterly, as long as I can. If anyone knows a service with a desktop app as good as GPM -- please, please let me know...
  • Oh, yeah, one more thing: GPM would be all but perfect if it had a lossless tier. The 320 algo they currently use is not as good as 320 kbps can be.
  • Most people can't tell the difference in audio quality.... Try the NPR test https://www.npr.org/sections/therecord/2015/06/02/411473508/how-well-can...
  • I have always found the audio quality argument somewhat funny. 8 tracks, cassetes, or the worse, radio have terrible audio quality and for the most part no one complained, especially paired with the cheapest headphones possible. 48kps maybe. Then came mp3 players but we had to stiff as many songs in that 900mb storage so we ran it at 128. iPod was the same, we still used super cheap headphones. I had the 20gb u2 edition and that was huge. I ended up buying a $50 pair of Sony earbuds, and those were awesome. Music was still 32bps. No one cared
    Outside of a few audiophiles people still don't care. Low quality streaming and whatever earbuds came with the phone or $8 scullcandy they got at a gas station.
  • I am giving it 6 more months. I am so tired of music stopping for no reason when I am driving and if I pause the music and after a few minutes I want to resume it the app has disappeared from the notification drawer. I keep going back to Google pay music for that reason. If I did not have that alternative I would be an ex-user a long time ago.
  • I've had other apps doing the same thing. I don't remember what it's called, and I can't check because I'm using my GS3, but some apps I downloaded would be killed if I didn't take them off a list of apps that would be killed.
  • Google is hell bent on using the YouTube Music name because it is a huge brand and marketed across Apple, Windows, and Android. Were I running the show, I would have simply rebranded Google Play Music as YouTube Music and bolted it on to YouTube. I'd have simply made it possible to add traditional YouTube content to the rebranded GPM bolt on I mentioned earlier. I still pay Apple the one annual fee to keep my uploaded music and healthy presubscrion service purchased music in the cloud in case I wanted to return.....not to Apple, but iTunes on Android. I ditched Apple after a contract expired in a 4S. I subscribe to GPM and it is awesome... You can't get podcasts on the Canadian android iTunes app, and I never liked the Spotify layout. GPM is very clean looking and does everything I need... I have about 130GB of music stored on my mobile micro SD card... Music is my micro SD cards only purpose. YouTube music.... Google could not have made it much worse.... Why release it in its state.... And now one year in! Google has destroyed any benefit their may have been with the YouTube branding.... It's doingpermanent damage to the YouTube music brand.
  • Hey. I am listening to music only occasionally. Maybe 1-2 hours a week. And maybe I am in the minority here, but I prefer Youtube Music versus Google Play Music. Why?
    1. The dark UI and larger items/icons are nicer
    2. Recently played playlists is a nice feature
    3. It seems to have a better algorithm to find music I like.
    Some nice things for migration:
    1. It activated my YTMusic account automatically, being a GPM customer.
    2. It looks like my likes and dislikes (thumbs up/downs) were imported from GPM just fine. All in all, I am pleased with it, and to be honest none of the features mentioned in this article are important for me. I didn't even know about some of them. I just created a few playlists, selected a few artists I like, and let it play. I rarely if ever want to play a specific album or song.
    Maybe my stile of listening is a better target for their application. If I were a power user/listener, I'd certainly understand your concerns.
  • Not surprising considering it's the same company that gives us a fractured messaging experience.
  • I deleted the app a month ago. I have a fully developed library and management method on GPM. This long into YTM's disastrous run I can't possibly conceive it will ever be better than GPM.
  • Long live GPM! It's one of the few music apps you can still download your own music to.
  • Alphabet Inc. needs to decide to keep Google Play Music or YouTube Music and shut down the other one. Then they can focus on making the one that keep as good or better than Spotify and Apple Music. Otherwise, they're just going to continue to cede market share and mind share mostly to Spotify and the remainder to Apple Music. I will launch the general YouTube app from time to time and play songs, other people's public playlists and my own playlists. I have no need for a paid streaming music services. The nice thing about Spotify Free is that it just works so it's my go to app for streaming and I just put up with the ads, just like if I'm listening to an FM station.
  • Google should change the color scheme of Google Play Music, add some videos, and rename it to YouTube Music. Problem Solved.
  • Better than that, Google should simply add to GPM what YTM offers - mainly music that is only on YouTube - and the problem would be solved.
  • YouTube music has been a mess since it was introduced in 2015..
    Glad to see your finally off the Google can do no wrong train.
    All your previous articles praising YouTube music, were border line nauseating. YouTube music, (YTM) as I've been claiming for well over a year, is a finished product. The music locker, as predicted. Is not coming.
    Music app 101 features like: sorting albums alphabetically, new music sélection by genre and Many others simplistic features. Are Not coming..b if they were, they'd be here by now!
    If any of you remember, they were removed from GPM before the heralded , over hyped "reimagining" of YYM. In case you all forget YTM was introduced in 2015! It doesnt take 5 years to add features. As I said over a year ago and now many are parroting. All Google had to do was simply rename GPM to YTM. Fix the years old issues with it and be done with it. YouTube already has the exact same functionally as YTM. GPM has had videos integration for years now. So why push another version of YouTube on people. As many have said. I want my Music AUDIO Listening, Completely separate from my Video Watching. And YTM is still using stuff like guitar instructional virus add the basis for what it thinks I like! The best thing everyone can do, as I said a year ago. Is to degree YTM and never use it or the horrible version of YouTube that Google is trying to pass off as a website. YTM, with it's so Auto generating playlists is a joke
  • Somebody should tell Google to either do apps right or don't do them at all.
  • The real question is, what is so wrong with GPM that they feel they need another "service"? Seeing that YouTube and GPM are Google services, couldn't they simply migrate whatever YTM offers to GPM, if there really is something?
  • Longtime GPM user. IMO YTM is nowhere close to being able to take over. Sadly the 3 Songza founders (who became part of the GPM/YTM team after Google's acquisition) left in May. Those guys were pretty close to development of the app and feature roll-out, so to me that can't be a good sign.
  • They need a proper filter explicit content . I work at a gym and sometimes I wanna play my music but I want it to play the censored versions, which I know exist because when I want the version with cursing I always seem to get the censored version, but that's another complaint for a different comment, anyways YTM has a restricted mode but it doesn't work that we'll, we know it's never 100 percent but it feels like theirs isn't even a passing grade percent of working. I think it only restricts music videos and not songs, so I find myself using GPM for the gym playlists because their censored mode works leaps and bounds better.
    The problem is GPM lets me start a radio based on someone else's playlist , so even if it has cursing it will find clean versions and songs similar to that playlist, but it won't start a radio based on a radio, which YTM does let me do , which is why I wish to use YTM because I want a radio based on the vibe of the playlist , no the artist or era. For example if I play a fast JLo song I'm hoping to get more fast songs by artist like her but on GPM it will just give me songs and artist similar to her whether it be fast or slow. Where YouTube will give based on party radio give me party songs