A new year is a sign of new beginnings and starting fresh. For 2020, I decided to finally give YouTube Music a fighting chance after being a Spotify customer for years. You might remember me talking about this in an editorial back in January, in which I stated that I wouldn't be going back to Spotify after using YouTube Music for a month.
Well, a little over a month after I published that editorial, it turns out I am going back to Spotify 😅.
I stand by a lot of the praise I gave YouTube Music, but as I continued to use it day in and day out, my annoyances began piling up more and more to the point where it just didn't make sense to keep fighting with it. There are a few key reasons I ended up changing my mind, with it ultimately boiling down to three things — music discovery, Spotify Connect, and the generally unpolished feel of YouTube Music.
Repeats, repeats, repeats
I'm not sure how you listen to music, but for me, it usually comes down to throwing on a playlist and letting that play throughout the day while I work. I'll go and seek out a specific song or artist when I'm in the mood for it, but the majority of my listening boils down to playlists I can set and forget.
This is something Spotify's basically perfected over the years, offering six Daily Mixes (each with its own group of artists and genres), Your Release Radar, Your Discover Weekly, On Repeat, and more. I tend to stick with the Daily Mixes, which are updated every day with a varied collection of songs Spotify knows I'll like. I've never not been happy with the songs Spotify serves in these Daily Mixes, which in my experience, offer a wide variety of artists I know, along with some new suggestions that are spot-on with my listening habits.
YouTube Music should excel with recommendations, but it's honestly really bad.
YouTube Music doesn't have nearly as many of these personalized playlists, only offering Your Mix, Discover Mix, and New Release Mix. Your Mix is YouTube's take on Spotify's Daily Mix, and while it started strong, it didn't take long to realize that it's nowhere near the same quality.
My biggest issue with Your Mix is how repetitive and reactive it is. YouTube likes to fill it with a handful of artists based on my most recent listening, seeming to completely forget a lot of the music and artists I listened to a week or so ago. It jumps the gun if I start listening to a new artist, deciding to flood Your Mix with them and a few others and ignoring older songs I've listened to and Liked.
Spotify obviously has an upper-hand in these regards as it has years of my listening history while YouTube Music is limited to a couple months, but my initial days with YouTube Music were spent Liking as many songs as I could and Subscribing to artists I'm particularly interested in. I did my best to give it as much data about my music taste/preference, but it didn't do much with it. Instead, it looks at what I listened to in the past week and thinks that's a good enough representation of what it should play. Coming from Google, a company that prides itself on algorithms and machine learning, it's a little shocking that YouTube Music is so dumb when it comes to these personalized playlists.
I underestimated Spotify Connect
If you've never used Spotify and experienced the magic of Spotify Connect, I am deeply sorry. If you have, you know it's one of the most magical things ever to grace the music streaming landscape.
I didn't realize how much I use Spotify Connect until I didn't have it anymore.
For those that may not be familiar, the tl;dr of Spotify Connect is that you can start listening to music on one device and control it from anything else that's connected to your Spotify account. I can send a song from my Pixel 4 to the Sonos One speakers in my office through Spotify Connect, jump on the Spotify web player on my computer, and control the playback without having to do anything extra. I even have full control of what's playing from the Spotify app on my Apple Watch without having ever touched my iPhone. This works almost flawlessly across virtually any device that you're logged into Spotify on, and the end result is nothing short of amazing.
YouTube Music (or any other service for that matter) doesn't have anything at all like Spotify Connect. I was warned by friends that I would miss having Spotify Connect, but I pushed those words of caution aside and thought they were making too much fuss over the service. It turns out, they were right.
Spotify Connect is one of those features I've always used but never thought much about. Since Spotify is the only music service I've ever really spent a lot of time with, it's something that's just always been there for me. Once it was removed from my workflow, I realized exactly how much I rely on it.
Clearly a work in progress
The lacking playlists and absence of Spotify Connect are the two most significant standalone issues I have with YouTube Music, but then there are all of the little inconsistencies that ultimately piled up enough to help me reach my breaking point.
YouTube Music resolved the duplicate artist pages for Sub Urban shortly after my previous editorial was published, but then I discovered something else. I recently started listening to Ashe, and for her EP Moral of the Story: Chapter 2, none of the song titles matched the song that played when you selected it.
After complaining about this on Twitter and submitting a feedback request in the YouTube Music app, it was fixed — kind of. The song titles now match the song that plays, but the order of the songs for the EP is now all jumbled up. I also submitted a feedback request for this, but at the time of publication, it's yet to be fixed.
There are a bunch of other small issues, too, including but not limited to:
- Born In The Slumber, a song by Flora Cash, is credited to "Various Artists" and doesn't appear on their artist page at all.
- AJR's album The Click (Deluxe Edition) isn't readily available on their artist page. Instead, you have to tap on the non-Deluxe album and then find it at the very bottom under "Other versions."
- It's on Us is a single by AJR, but you won't find it on their artist page. That's because it's title in YouTube Music is AJR's New Single "It's On Us" with the artist being credited as "It's On Us." 🤦♀️
Issues like this aren't deal-breakers on their own, and in my last editorial, I said that they're "reminders that YouTube Music still has work left to do before it's as polished as its many competitors." I thought I could overlook these quirks, but the fact that I keep coming across them — on top of the other complaints mentioned above — made it be too much.
Every app/service has bugs, I get that, but it'll have been two years this May since YouTube Music's big overhaul. The fact that problems as big as this are still a regular thing is unacceptable — especially when YouTube Music is owned by a company as large as Google.
I'm glad I gave YouTube Music a shot, but it's time to part ways
In the end, I'm glad I gave YouTube Music a shot. While it's not the right fit for me, I still believe it's better than a lot of people make it out to be. If you value having an ad-free YouTube experience, paying $11.99/month for YouTube Premium + YouTube Music Premium is an insanely good deal.
For my workflow and listening, unfortunately, I just can't make YouTube Music work. I wouldn't say that I dread or despise the service, but there's also no denying that Spotify is the better all-around music platform.
I'd love to see Google take the time and effort to make YouTube Music as great as it has the potential to be, but for now, I'll watch from a distance rather than as a paying subscriber.