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YouTube Music is a bad product in desperate need of improvement before anyone will care to use it

YouTube Music on a Pixel 3 XL
YouTube Music on a Pixel 3 XL (Image credit: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

YouTube Music as a service has been around for about three years now, though it really only existed in earnest once the revamped version of the YouTube Music app and dedicated website, as we know it today, launched in May. Whether you look at it as three years or just six months old, one thing is clear: YouTube Music isn't finished yet, is filled with issues and is incredibly frustrating to use on a daily basis considering it costs the industry-standard $10 per month.

YouTube Music is so unfinished and lacking features that I question whether Google has any intentions of following through with its vision of replacing Google Play Music entirely. Put simply, I can't believe Google thinks anyone will pay $10 per month for it when all signs point to Google itself not caring about YouTube Music's success.

YouTube Music effectively doesn't work with Google Home. Yes you can select "YouTube Music" as your music provider in the Google Home app, but that only gives you access to a music catalogue when you ask for specific songs or artists. You can ask any way you want, but a Google Home won't play your YouTube Music "Mixtape" or any custom playlists. It'll try its best to play some music from YouTube on your Chromecast instead, but that's not helpful. And most times when you think you do get a Google Home to play YouTube Music, it isn't actually playing YouTube Music — it's playing Google Play Music, of course, so there's a good chance it'll start pulling your old GPM playlists and sending listening history there instead. Great.

YouTube Music also still doesn't work with Android Auto, which is just as inexcusable as not working with Google Home. Android Auto and YouTube Music apps have both been updated at least half a dozen times since the music service re-launched with this new direction, and I still can't use it to play music in the car. You can start up YouTube Music and then open Android Auto to at least get a player for play/pause/seek, but it won't show up as a media choice in the app.

YouTube Music doesn't integrate with Google's other hardware or services, so why should I care?

Then there's the Music app and website, which are just rudimentary. Building playlists is clunky and feels tacked-on. Search is an odd mix of actual songs, tracks from compilation albums, and a weird sprinkling of YouTube videos. I want music, not music videos or weird tracks uploaded at low fidelity to YouTube then transposed over to the Music side. Nor do I want my YouTube history and home page filled up with "YouTube Mixes" suggestions. I want YouTube to be where I go for video content, and YouTube Music for just music. Stop trying to make this cross-pollination happen, because it just adds a bunch of cruft and hurts both services.

The YouTube Music Android app is updated regularly, and actually has a good rating on Google Play. And that's somewhat justified — it works well enough for the basics, is stable, and has a good amount of customization in the settings. Unfortunately, it's not getting appreciably better or fixing any of these major compatibility gaps.

This whole situation is complicated (and actually alleviated) by the fact that Google Play Music still exists. Play Music will be around for some time yet — likely until 2020 — as YouTube Music takes its sweet time integrating into all of Google's other products. Play Music is still the music service backbone for Google, even though YouTube Music is the brand it's pushing externally. GPM has more features, better device compatibility and fewer "gotcha" shortcomings — and most importantly, it has lots of customers that have their own music library uploaded, have been paying $10/mo for years, or both.

Play Music's existence is also the reason why many of these complaints with YouTube Music are in vain. So long as you don't have problems with device de-auth limits (which I do, but recognize it's not a big deal for most people), Google Play Music is still available and a better overall product than YouTube Music.

YouTube Music has little benefit over Google Play Music, but several shortcomings.

YouTube Music is really good at one thing: automatically generating a never-ending playlist of songs based on your listening history, and letting you "like" or "dislike" songs as they come up to tailor the suggestions. Sound familiar? It's precisely the experience YouTube has honed over the years, so it's no surprise that YouTube Music is exceptional at this one thing and very little else.

Outside of this, YouTube Music basically has two things going for it. The first is cost: YouTube Premium, which removes ads from YouTube and gives you background listening and downloads, is $12 per month and includes YouTube Music. You can easily justify YouTube Premium at $12 per month on its own, making YouTube Music effectively "free," and making Spotify or Apple Music a tougher sell. The only other benefit is that YouTube Music isn't saddled with the same de-authorization limits of Google Play Music — there are limits on how many devices on your account can download content, but not how many can stream.

I'm paying $12/mo purely for ad-free YouTube, and getting Music for $0. Because that's all it's worth.

At this point, I'm paying $12 per month purely for an ad-free YouTube experience, which I feel is absolutely worth the money, and getting YouTube Music as a side benefit. And as it stands, I'm going to keep using Google Play Music instead, because the YouTube Music experience is so bad there's no way I'd pay for it independently. YouTube Music does a couple things well. It's not a complete failure. But the fact that I can't use it either at home or in the car, despite using Google's own hardware and services in both, is baffling. The app and website aren't yet ready for prime time, and the half-baked integration with YouTube just gets in the way of both services.

Look, I understand why Google's transitioning its music efforts to YouTube. An incredible number of people already use YouTube for music, and it's clearly a stronger brand than "Google Play" — particularly outside of the Android world. Moving to YouTube Music is an attempt to leverage that strong brand to start making consistent subscription money off of everyone who's currently listening to music videos in a browser tab. But that brand isn't worth anything if the YouTube Music experience is severely lacking as a standalone product. As soon as Google shows me that it cares about YouTube Music, I'll start caring about it too.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

59 Comments
  • It doesn't matter whether Google cares about it (at one point they cared about Google Reader and they shut it down regardless). The users should care about it (so it makes money) and I don't think they do. Apart from the better know brand, I do not understand why Google are transitioning from GPM to YTM, it completely mixes up video and music which are different media. I realise there is loads of music on YT but the huge majority of content is focused on video.
  • It seems like they started from scratch when they already had a great code-base with Play Music and they should have just built on top of that with the Youtube recommendation engine and re-branded it. Per the Q&A a while back, it's most of the same GPM team working on YT Music, so why are they trying to reinvent the wheel and what is taking so long? Probably an unpopular opinion at this point, but I almost wish they would just buy Spotify unless they can pump out some amazing updates in the short term. I'm not sold on the whole video integration either as 99% of the music i listen to doesn't have a video so I just keep audio-only on all the time, but I'm with you on the whole ad-free youtube paying for itself and it's the only reason I don't go to Spotify right now.
  • They really should have just given GPM the makeover that is YTM and changed the name of the app.
  • If/when GPM goes away and YTM is still a **** show I'm moving to Spotify.
  • YTM is a huge disappointment. So many bugs. It is inexplicably missing many albums that are still available on GPM. The only real issues I've had with GPM is the metadata not detecting my uploads being the same as those already on the service (resulting in duplicate tracks). The YTM app itself is basically unusable for offline listening. Since launch I have barely seen any updates/improvements.
  • It plays music when I want music.
  • This is true.
  • As long as your not too picky about what music you want played.
  • Alot of your gripes are pointless at this point for the people who listen to music with the best sound quality possible, which is by actually connecting it to a system with a CABLE. That said, the biggest issue I have with YTM at the moment is that it just simply forgets the playlist you're listening to and drops songs out of the queue. For example, the 1,800 songs playlist that I have shouldn't be ending after 180 songs (can you imagine this happening when driving on the interstate). The Mixtape has this same issue as well. As for your other gripes, I've had no problems finding music when I wanted it or music videos when I wanted. This brings me to my next gripe, the audio within the music videos is still limited to 128kbps AAC and not 256 nor opus like on the full site. Because of that, I can't get into watching videos with the app.
  • I think if you've been driving for 180 songs straight, you could stand to take a break and stretch your legs. Or maybe just go to bed, you've been on the road for 9 hours already.
  • You're missing the point entirely. I could have listened to 175 songs the previous day then have to go to work the next day and my playlist cuts off after 5 songs. The cut off sometimes is much shorter for example today, I started that same exact playlist and it ended after only 40 songs or so. Point is this should not be happening.
  • I have been with Google music since the beginning, once they released youtube music I switched over.. and while they had great music recommendations.. all that was quickly overshadowed by how buggy and wretched the app was to use. I gave them months and months.. finally last month I made the switch to Spotify. I cannot believe I hadn't made the switch earlier.. Spotify is on another level. Google can burn to the ground, I've lost all hope in them.. ending beloved products all the time and not putting out quality.
  • Except the audio quality on Google Play /YouTube music is superior to Spotify even on premium. They seem to be doing some re encodes or something.
  • Eric, you absolutely right. And Google Play / YouTube music doesn't cut out when I am driving, like Spotify and Pandora does, either.
  • Loving Spotify premium here in Canada. Six family members have their own accounts for one reasonable price. Great write-up Andrew.
  • I gave this a run for several months straight and had to go back to Spotify. YouTube Music needs needs better playlists for discovering music. Discover Weekly and Release Radar are game changing features that I can't give up.
  • 6 months on and the offline mixtape is still the only thing I use YTM for. I keep trying it every few weeks but a lot of Andrews complaints are the same reason I use GPM much more often than YTM. An agreed that no Android Auto and Google Home support is just absurd this far along.
  • I have been using YTM since I got my Pixel XL, 2 years ago, and I love the service. I have access to remixes that are not available on other streaming services, plus I love how well it does with suggesting me different music based on stuff I have been listening too.
  • I used GPM for years, switched to spotify and hated it then to YTM. I still have GPM since you get all 3 for same price, so don't see the problem. It plays what I want when I want it.
  • The issue is that Google intends to kill off GPM in favor of YTM which is not up to the same standards.
  • Thank you, Andrew, YOU ARE MY HERO. Well-written. As someone that used to be a Google fanboy myself...when did you become so out of touch, Google? :'(
  • Usually use GPM, but YouTube Music whenever I want to listen to Tool. Works well enough for that.
  • The offline playlist is actually really good, it's definitely a flawed product but not bad.
  • Yeah the mixtape is good. As noted, it's really all YT Music does well.
  • YTM is a horrid mess right now compared to GPM. I'm not about to switch until they fix it.
  • If GPM is killed in favour of YTM, then I'm switching to Spotify.
  • Don't think you'll be alone.
  • You can save 2 bucks by subscribing to Google Play Music, which includes a free subscription to YouTube Premium.
  • YouTube Music is absolutely useless. On another note...when is "enable Dark Mode" coming to the Google Fi app :)
  • Never? I don't think Google expects people to spend much time in the Fi app.
  • I believe any Music or Video App needs to respect the tastes of the users. If I want to listen to Classical Piano it should show Classical Piano on the Home Page or selections from my Library.
    Rather Youtube Music shows whatever Music Videos that is trending, inappropriate, distasteful, whatever is popular.
    I do not like Music Apps that have irrelevant suggestions all over the Home Page.
    Google Play Music is a much better product than the Youtube Music offering. As was said, just add a Youtube Video Feed to it as an option in Google Play music and problem solved. Or make the Home Page more like the Youtube.com Video Site where the suggestions are custom tailored to the user and there is a "not-interested" button to train the system as to what videos you like and dislike.
  • Someone had to say it lol. Good on you Andrew.
  • Yup. You're welcome.
  • This is so true. Exactly how I feel Andrew. I've tried giving YouTube Music a chance but I agree it's so lacking. Just as Google Podcasts app is. I want to use them but can't because of missing key features.
  • I don't really understand the point. They keep saying it's in desperate need of changes but I've used it & to me it seems to be a great app & works well. In my opinion, it's no different than Spotify & Pandora. My opinion is it's actually better but that's my opinion, I'm just tired if all the posts about how bad it is when it's actually not....
  • YouTube music is an unfinished mess. It is a black eye on Google as to how slowly any improvements continue to take. It is a bad concoction of user uploaded video & audio, plus a near equivalent of Google Play Music quality offerings. Several articles articulate the present state of YouTube music. If YouTube music is unable to present a clean audio only interface and actually eliminates Google Play Music, they will have effectively destroyed their monthly music subscription service and it will be time for me to move to Spotify (which I do not prefer to Google Play Music). In fact, music is important enough to me that I'd even consider a return to the dark side, Apple, after 9 years on Android, or at least the Android iTunes app. Keep it simple Google. I enjoy downloading music albums. I'm a bit old school... I'll listen to albums or create play lists. For now and the foreseeable future, there is not a snowballs chance in hell Google Play Music is disappearing any time soon.
  • I never have problems finding official music on YouTube music, that part is good as well as the sound quality. My issues are noted above.
  • I can usually find official stuff. But very often I find random bootleg uploads from YT videos or tracks from compilation albums rather than originals.
  • Trying to use YTM more, but my library is still not integrated. It's FINE, just not great like GPM is.
  • What I find most interesting in this article is that YouTube Premium is more expensive than Google play music yet is included in Google play at no extra cost. Google is a mess.
  • It is still a mess but that is why Google Play music is still around and included when you buy YTM so you have a developed music service until the YTM is where it should be. Also I might as well mention that when you buy a YouTube premium subscription you get ad free YouTube as well as full access to YTM and GPM so Google is giving ya a pretty good deal right now.
  • Yes, but as mentioned in the article, it's worth the subscription for YouTube alone just to lose all the ads. Google knows very well that nobody would pay for YT Music, 'cause it's such a $h¡t product.
  • I like the look of YouTube Music on Android compared to Google Play Music (orange and white, seriously?) if Google would just work on overhauling GPM's looks with dark theme and make it a bit easier to thumbs up multiple songs and a few dozen other features and ditch YouTube Music, that would be great.
    I've been with GPM from the beginning and have a family plan with YouTube Premium so I don't really want to make all six of us have to use some other platform...
  • I immediately didn't like YTM when I used it. It was just weird and awkward to use compared to GPM. They need to leave YouTube alone and just build on GPM.
  • I have made three remixed music videos that appear in YouTube Music so I know that could look unprofessional. I'm not an Official Artist Channel. Perhaps YouTube shouldn't allow these videos in YouTube Music?
  • It's a nice freebie with YouTube premium. I usually just have it on in the office and it's good at guessing what I like.
  • YTM has promise, Google just need to get off their A$$ and fix the issues.
  • This article is so true, it's very irresponsible from Google, plus just few countries are available.
  • They should do what Microsoft did and just partner with Spotify instead.
  • Except that Spotify has inferior audio quality and no music videos.
  • I use it everyday. works fine for me.
  • Finally some clear words!
    I subscribe to anything said in the article, youtube music is just not usable as your only service.
    What i wonder is....you already have google play music, why don't you just start from that code and add the new features of Youtube Music? I mean, do you want to rename it? Sure, do it! Do you want to change UI? sure! why not, GPM is dated already... but damn, at least give the benchmark GPM has already reached.
  • I too am questioning Google's commitment to making YTM a competitive service like the Spotify. I can't believe the service is still in this state months after they went on the roofs to announce it. This being said, I like GPM, especially the fact that the subscription includes YouTube Premium, and even more, as an early adopter, I only pay $7.99 for the package of GPM, YouTube Premium and YouTube Music.
    As a stand-alone Music service, Spotify would be my choice but the deal I have with the Google services is too good to forsake.
  • "GPM has more features, better device compatibility and fewer "gotcha" shortcomings — and most importantly, it has lots of customers that have their own music library uploaded, have been paying $10/mo for years, or both." YUP. This right here.
  • And thats why It is being eliminated - Its a money loser for google - They dont want to store your music for you, they dont care about what you like, your playlist, integration with other apps or services (especially ones that are NOT theirs) etc...
    None of those features, contrary to rumors, tweets or wishful thinking or the prevalent,"i spoke to google and they said...
    - are coming to YTM. YTM"s only purpose is to get more data they can sell. The monthly subscription fee, for the handful that will end up paying it, is just a rounding error to google. They dont care about pittance income like that. but they do care about the huge expense of storing every ones music going back 7 years now!
    Any income they got off that data is long gone and dried up
  • And let's not forget about the missing Sonos integration. You cannot use Youtube Premium Music with Sonos at the moment. They keep promising it's right around the corner - more like 'the cheque is in the mail'...
  • Your criticism of Google is well-founded (and refreshing), but take care to not expect Google to be something it isn't. Google has no experience with customer service because it has never provided service and, therefore, never had customers. Google is a sandbox. It might let you play in it, but it makes no commitment to you. Consider Google's projects - search, GMail, Blogger, Voice, Reader, Hangouts, Drive, Docs, Earth, etc. - and there is not ONE where Google has ANY obligation to the user - any project can be here today and gone tomorrow, cancelled on a whim. For the most part, Google doesn't charge money - it charges you data, specifically your identity. Google doesn't sell you things, it helps others sell you things and those "others" pay Google. The point is that Google has seen users as no more than data points for years - and it continues to do so because those users continue to subsidize it. You mention your dissatisfaction with your Google subscription product, YET YOU CONTINUE TO SUBSCRIBE - and this is COMMON. What motive does Google have to be responsive to its users if they still pay? Google is not going to expend effort or resources unless it can see a way to profit - and it will abandon efforts that are deemed not profitable enough. This is not about whether Google is good or evil; it's about what Google IS.
  • I use Spotify Free and GPM free. Spotify's main product is streaming audio which means they'll only make necessary changes over time & be careful about implementing them. GPM searches bring up YouTube video results which is the only time I remember that there's a product out there called YouTube Music. I'm glad to see I'm not missing out much other than headaches by not subscribing to YouTube Music.
  • YouTube music is so far the laziest Google product I've seen to date it's worse then Google play music app web and mobile, which is pretty hard to do. The teams working on these products must be just a few people at most. Google realizes that there's little money in music subscription services, and it shows. Their offerings have been dumpster fire status for years. Yet I'm stuck using it...