Quite recently, Spotify made a quiet launch in India while still involved in a legal battle. Now YouTube Music is here as well, launched just as quietly, along with YouTube Premium. When Spotify launched, it was quite obvious that it isn’t worth subscribing yet. Especially if you’re already subscribed to something which has a more extensive catalog like Apple Music, Google Play Music, Gaana, JioSaavn, etc. Now that YouTube Music is here, is it worth subscribing to?
Where YouTube Music excels
There have been video streaming services, there still are, but Spotify is the clear winner for now, at least outside of India. A lot of it is not just the availability of content but the discovery. Countless users creating well-curated playlists, Spotify’s algorithms suggesting things you’d like, it’s just great. I’ve used Google Play Music, Apple Music, JioSaavn, and while they had more content, it is Spotify where I still go to when I want to find something new.
YouTube, the video streaming platform, is already home to countless creators, videos, and playlists and that includes music videos. Content is clearly not a problem for YouTube and neither are users. YouTube already has everything Spotify has, except that it is a video platform. YouTube doesn’t allow background playback and similar features that are very important for a music streaming service. YouTube Music though looks to provide an interface that is more suited for listening to music.
It’s very much Google Play Music with a fresh coat of paint. Like Google Play Music, it also returns a list of songs and videos when you search for something. The darker interface is a lot better than Google Play Music. The Now Playing screens are the best because you get to watch the music video as well if you so prefer. I think nobody can disagree that sometimes you do want to watch a specific music video rather than just listen to music.
YouTube playlists are nowhere near where they have to be. YouTube Music does help a lot. It does add options to Play next in addition to the Add to queue option already present on YouTube. It sounds little but if you use YouTube for listening to music, you would know it’s a huge deal. So is the ability to re-order playlists.
Furthermore, YouTube’s recommendation engine has been around for a lot longer and it’s just as great as Spotify’s if not better. Like Spotify, YouTube Music can generate a never-ending list of songs based on the ones you’re listening to. Therefore, it makes total sense for Google to try and create a music streaming platform out of YouTube.
Where it fails
For all the content and algorithms in the world, YouTube just sucks as a serious music platform. It is not a lot better or even in competition with other services like Spotify or even Google’s own Play Music. Although it does make a world of difference compared to YouTube. First off, the interface is just… messy… it’s hard to pin where the problem lies really. It’s simple enough, it’s dark, but it just doesn’t feel right. Maybe that’s just me.
Perhaps it is the indistinguishable nature of videos and songs on the platform. The videos actually distract from a very important aspect. YouTube may not have a lack of music videos but when it comes to simple music, it lacks some. YouTube isn’t a platform where entire albums are released. Sure you can find a video for almost anything but not necessarily the entire music album. Try looking for any movie soundtrack albums, for instance. You won’t find them.
YouTube’s music service still feels like browsing YouTube but with a slightly more music-centered interface. I don’t see why anyone would want to pay ₹99 a month for YouTube Music when Google Play Music is already out there. It has all the features one will need, unlike YouTube Music along with YouTube videos. You can watch a video of any song you want but the interface itself is very music-centric. On Google Play Music videos and audio have a very clear distinction. Plus, YouTube Music has nothing for the desktop at all in addition to missing all the power user features.
For ₹129 per month, YouTube will give you background playback, picture-in-picture, ad-free videos, more downloads, access to YouTube originals and a YouTube Music subscription. This is merely a ₹30 difference and you get so much more. As a standalone paid service, it is a tough sell but with YouTube Premium, it is literally free. YouTube Premium is also worth on its own so YouTube Music is just a bonus you may or may not even use.
If you do want to subscribe, YouTube Premium is the service worth subscribing to. For ₹99 per month, YouTube Music is just not good enough compared to the competition.