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How to get started with YouTube Music

YouTube is one of the most-used video sites in the world, and a great many of the videos that we flock to on the platform center around the music that drives our lives. Whether you subscribe to a music streaming service or not, chances are you've gone to YouTube to find that one song that's stuck in your head, or to check out a cover by some up-and-coming artist, or to watch the latest mind-blowing music video.

YouTube is now leveraging its uniquely unparalleled music and music video selection to offer the completely-revamped YouTube Music, a music app that brings the best music on the most popular video platform in the world together with traditional album and songs from top labels.

And since it's all powered by YouTube, setting it up is almost embarrassingly easy.

First, download it

The new YouTube Music is only available in five countries right now:

  • U.S.
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Mexico
  • South Korea

If you're in one of those countries, you can head to the Play Store to download the app (opens in new tab) and get started using the instructions below.

Download YouTube Music (free) (opens in new tab)

How to set up YouTube Music

The beauty of YouTube Music is that since it's tied to the same YouTube search and watch histories that you've built up over the life of your Google account — which for most of us is upwards of a decade — YouTube Music doesn't really need to ask you which artists you like or what genres you're into. It already knows. In fact, even if you've never used YouTube Music before, for most users opening YouTube Music for the first time are really only going to be asked a few things:

  • If you're not already a YouTube Music, Google Play Music, or YouTube Premium subscriber, Google will ask if you'd like to start a free 30-day trial of YouTube Music Premium.
  • Tap Let's go.
  • Tap the artists you'd like to follow.
  • Tap Done.
  • Regardless of if you're a free or paid user, YouTube will ask to access your location in order to offer up activities-based suggestions, such as energetic music at the gym or calming music at the airport. Tap Allow if you want to get activity-based recommendations on the Home tab of YouTube Music.

You'll immediately be served up a plethora of suggested playlists based on your artist preferences, your YouTube history, your location, and the latest music trends on YouTube. From here, you can select something on the Home tab to play or go search for whatever earworm is stuck in your head right now.

How to search for music in YouTube Music

Search is something Google does better than anyone when it puts its mind to it, and they have certainly put their mind to it in YouTube Music. When you tap that search icon in top bar of the YouTube Music app, you can search for songs, artists, albums, and music videos, but that's really just the beginning.

  • Tap the microphone at the right edge of the search bar and sing out some lyrics. Singing "Oh, baby give me one more chance" immediately brought up Jackson 5's "I Want You Back".
  • Ask for a song from a particular movie. Ask for "the song from Big Hero 6" and Immortals by Fall Out Boy will top the search results, with the movie's soundtrack lower in the results.
  • Search for collaborations by naming the artists. "That song with Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jennifer Lopez" resulted in "Love Make The World Go Round" and "Almost Like Praying", musical team-ups they've done for charity in the last two years.

The one search feature YouTube Music doesn't quite seem to have yet is scatting a melody for it, which is a bummer since sometime we can't remember the lyrics, only the melody. I guess that's what Shazam is still around for.

How to control playback modes in YouTube Music

The playback screens on YouTube Music are a little different from traditional music apps. On the main playback screen, you'll see a toggle in the top bar; this is the toggle that switches between playing video and playing audio only. This allows you to switch back and forth if you come across a video on a station or playlist that you want to watch the video for, like a totally sweet music video or a lyrics video. To the left of the track information is an info icon that will pull up quick links to the artists and album for the song. To the right is a three-dot menu icon, which you can use to add the currently playing song to your library, playlist, or start a song radio station.

Where are the shuffle and repeat buttons, you ask?

Swipe up on the main playback window and the controls will move up to sit on the of the video/audio only thumbnail, revealing the queue below the playback screen. The repeat button will appear between Queue and the currently playing video, along with the shuffle button when listening to a playlist or album. On stations, such as the songs stations that start when you tap a search result, shuffle isn't available since stations are always on shuffle.

No matter what you're listening to, Repeat One or "Listen on repeat", is available, which is great news for those of us that will listen to a song 30 times in a row while learning the lyrics. If you tap shuffle on an album or playlist, you can watch the songs shuffle around with a nice little animation.

How to add a song to your YouTube Music library (add to Liked songs)

If you want a song in your library, adding it to your library is as easy as hitting the thumbs up button in the playback window. Every song you give a thumbs up to is added to your library in the "Liked songs" playlist. If you want to add a song to your library that you're not currently playing, it's easy to do that, too.

  1. Tap the three-dot menu icon next to a song in a search result, list, or album you want to add to your library.
  2. Tap Add to liked songs.

Adding individual songs to your library is good for singles and YouTube videos that aren't part of a traditional album, but if you like multiple songs in an album, you can add the whole album to your library to make them easier to find.

How to add an album to your YouTube Music library

Adding albums to your library is almost easier than adding a song or a playlist, and while album availability seems oddly spotty for some labels right now, we're expecting things to get more consistent as YouTube Music continues to roll out and establish itself.

  1. Tap the album you want to add, either from a search result or an artist page.
  2. Tap the Add to library icon between the album art and the download album icon.

How to follow an artist on YouTube Music

If you like an artist and want to hear when they release new albums or upload new videos, you can follow them, just like any of the music channels you've subscribed to on YouTube over the years.

  1. Tap the artist you want to follow in an album listing or search result.
  2. Tap Subscribe.

Subscribing to an artist will also subscribe you to their channel in the main YouTube app, so you'll be able to keep up with their latest content on either app.

How to create a playlist in YouTube Music

If an album or a station doesn't get quite the mix you want, you can build your own playlist in YouTube Music, and building them is a snap. The playlists you build in YouTube Music are visible in the main YouTube app, and playlists that have eligible videos in them appear in the YouTube Music app. Until YouTube Music's new desktop interface is available, editing a playlist on a computer is only available through the regular YouTube site.

  1. Tap the three-dot menu icon next to a song in a search result, list, or album you want to add to your library.
  2. Tap Add to playlist.
  3. Tap Create new playlist.

  1. Name your new playlist.
  2. Public playlists are visible to everyone and accessible through YouTube and YouTube Music searches. Public playlists are also visible on your public YouTube profile.
  3. Unlisted playlists are only visible to other through the sharing URL. They do not appear in searches or your public YouTube profile.
  4. Private playlists are only visible to you. This is what you'll want to select for your Guilty Pleasures mixtape.
  5. Tap Create to create the playlist and add the first track.

Once a playlist is created, you can add songs, remove songs, and edit the playlist on YouTube Music, YouTube's main app, YouTube's website, and coming soon on the new YouTube Music website.

How to make YouTube Music your primary music service in Google Assistant

Among the many services that Google Assistant can control, music may be one of the most important. Your default music service in Google Assistant will be used every time you ask Google for a song, playlist, or album. If you're going to give YouTube Music a try, you should set it as your default music provider, so you can see how well it responds to your requests and commands, especially with albums and YouTube Music's fancy search skills.

  1. Open the Google Home app.
  2. Tap Menu (the three-line icon) in the top left corner of the screen.

  1. Tap Music.
  2. Tap YouTube Music.

Your turn

YouTube Music is an adjustment from traditional music services, but thanks to the Google's search prowess and downright uncanny predictions and recommendations, getting used to Google's newest music service should be as painless as possible. If you have more questions about new app, ask them in the comments and we'll try to answer them in our continuing coverage of YouTube Music.