Whether you're leaving Spotify with the Neil Young/Joni Mitchell-led boycott or you're just tired of Spotify killing features you like and failing to fulfill its promises, looking for a replacement is always a daunting task. No other music service has the magic of Spotify Connect, but there are plenty of great music streaming subscriptions out there with tens of millions of songs, robust features, and reasonable rates.
Most leaving Spotify will turn to either Amazon Music or Apple Music, but there's a dark horse candidate that could just win you over once you give it a try. YouTube Music is the music service I've used for the last four-ish years, and a number of my colleagues have likewise been users since the Google Play Music days.
We may not always be 100% happy with the YouTube Music app, but we will never, ever, ever let our YouTube Premium subscriptions lapse for one very big reason.
YouTube Premium comes with ad-free YouTube and YouTube Music
Okay, YouTube does an absolutely terrible job naming these services, but YouTube offers two premium-branded services: YouTube Premium and YouTube Music Premium. YouTube Premium eliminates ads on both YouTube and YouTube Music, unlocks all YouTube Music app features, and offers offline playback and background playback on Android/iOS. YouTube Music Premium only unlocks the full features of the YouTube Music app. This means you can pay $10 for just a music service or $12 for music and ad-free videos on the largest video platform in the world.
YouTube Premium often gets lumped in with streaming video services like Hulu, Netflix, and HBO Max, but considering YouTube Originals are dead, it doesn't really fit there. YouTube Premium does make sense when searching music services because it's a music service on top of getting rid of YouTube ads and lets you watch them offline. Until the Disney+ bundle, YouTube Premium was the best deal in streaming.
Of course, it doesn't matter if a music service is basically free — after you've experienced ad-free YouTube, you never want to go back — if the service isn't worthwhile. Back when YouTube Music was relaunched in 2018, it lacked many features, and performance was uneven.
These days, things are much different.
YouTube Music combines official, unofficial, and personal music
While YouTube Music's official, contracted-through-record-labels catalog had some noticeable gaps when it first launched. Over time, YouTube has made deals with record labels, allowing YouTube to go toe-to-toe with Spotify when it comes to major and indie music. Even international music is available like never before, and my J-Pop anime songs playlist grows every day.
YouTube is also the biggest video platform on the planet and the de facto homeplace of live renditions, music videos, remixes, mash-ups, lyric videos, and covers by both professional and amateur artists. Do you love Ariana Grande's No Tears Left to Cry but prefer the music video to the album version — or maybe her live rendition at the Billboard Music Awards? All three are available and ready to be added to your playlists.
And then there's the final two types of music on YouTube Music: unofficial and private uploads. When I say unofficial, I'm talking music that isn't available for purchase or streaming other places, albums that are out of print and impossible to find, and music that will never get streaming rights anywhere due to pre-streaming agreements. For instance, there are decades of Disney Parks music that isn't available for streaming or purchase (outside of a random estate sale) I stream on YouTube Music because it's the only place you can find it.
YouTube Music also remains one of the very, very few that allow you to upload music to it, meaning I can mix my personal collection of Disney Parks music and out of print soundtracks with the YouTube videos and the latest pop anthems. This unbeatable selection — and the ability to augment it with any music you upload from CDs or digitized vinyl — makes YouTube Music truly irreplaceable in my mind, even if Spotify Connect is pure magic and Spotify is where most people share playlists and mixes.
It already knows what you like
Give YouTube Music a chance to prove itself. You won't have to start completely over from scratch; it remembers every time you've searched YouTube for a music video, lyric vid, or what that one song from the 80s was. It can extrapolate that with your initial artist likes to nail your tastes pretty quickly. Even four years ago when YouTube Music was just relaunched with its souped-up Supermix, it was resurfacing osbcure pop favorites of mine within two hours, and that was before I took the time to set up my full library.
Of course, this also means that YouTube remembers every fad song or viral music video you've watched in the last decade (or more), but that's what the dislike button is for. I'm betting you won't need it very often though, YouTube Music got my tastes down pat, and I have some pretty bizarre, globe-hopping tastes.
Best deal in music
No ads, unbeatable selection, and offline awesomeness.
YouTube Premium is the bigger, much better deal than YouTube Music Premium alone, offering ad-free YouTube videos that you can download for offline viewing or listen to in the background, plus the full-featured, super-wide catalog of YouTube Music.
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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.