Moving to YouTube Music: A Mini-Review

Posted on August 9, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Google Play Music, YouTube Music with 26 Comments

Some transitions are straightforward and seamless while others are disruptive and unwelcome. On that note, my experience moving from Google Play Music to YouTube was somewhere in-between those extremes. But having now lived with YouTube Music for almost two months, I like some of its unique features and have grown more accepting of the change.

As you may recall, Google has been plotting the move from Google Play Music to YouTube Music for years, but things really heated up over the past year: YouTube Music (YTM) replaced Google Play Music (GPM) in Android starting with Android 10 last fall, and this past May, Google announced that it was starting to transfer existing GPM libraries and accounts over to YTM.

As a paid G Suite customer with a custom domain, I knew that I wouldn’t be among the first wave of subscriber transitions—that’s how these things always work—and sure enough, I wasn’t. But I was surprised when I finally saw the invitation to transfer my GPM library to YTM pop-up in the GPM app in mid-June.

I immediately accepted the offer because I’d been very curious about how this process would work and I knew that I could continue using GPM and YTM side-by-side for months to come if the latter app wasn’t really ready for my needs right away. According to the wizard that jumpstarts the cloud-based transfer, Google would copy my music recommendations, playlists and stations (the latter of which would be converted to normal playlists), liked and disliked songs, uploads and purchases, and the albums and songs in my library from GPM to YTM.

Furthermore, my subscription was transferred over to YTM, so I now I have an individual YouTube Music Premium membership instead of a GPM membership. (This still grants me ad-free YouTube, as well, which I really rely on having.)

When I triggered the transfer, the app noted that the process could take “a few hours,” and I had pretty much expected that given the size of my library, so I didn’t even try to babysit. Instead, I checked the phone the next morning and saw a notification alerting me that the transfer was complete. (That said, you’re able to transfer multiple times if you want, so you can do this again in the future too if you’re not satisfied with YTM now and keep using GPM.)

With the transfer complete, I set out to use YTM, which, yes, I had dabbled with in the past. But the app takes on a whole new dimension with my music collection copied over, and it provides me with a better basis for comparison.

For anyone familiar with the GPM mobile app, the transition to YTM can be a bit rocky at first. The apps use completely different user interfaces with different navigational models, and GPM does a better job of leaving you in the part of the interface—Music library, in my case—that you most often use. YTM, meanwhile, dumps you in the default Home view each time you open the app, so I have to manually navigate to Library and then whatever content I want (usually Playlists). That’s not a big deal, since YTM’s top-level UI displays three tabs—for Home, Explore, and Library—but it is an extra step or two.

My many playlists, which consist mostly of subscription-based music (from Google’s cloud-based library) but also contains dozens of songs that I had uploaded to the service because they were not available there, appear to have all correctly made the transition, and that was my number-one worry. I’ve used various third-party services to do things like transfer my GPM music library to Spotify for testing purposes (and before that, transfer from Groove Music too), and have had only sporadic success. This transfer seemed to go well.

So that’s good. Also good is how YTM handles what I’ll call the Now Playing experience. The actual Now Playing screens vary a bit between GPM and YTM, of course, but both look and work well enough, and support familiar swipe-based gestures for advancing to the next song and so forth. And aesthetically, I find the YTM display to be more attractive. (It also lets you easily access lyrics and music videos when available, plus related music.)

Maybe this is just a personal thing, but when I’m actively listening to music—for example, when my wife and I sit in the sunroom and enjoy a night of music via the Sonos speakers there—I often find myself scanning the list of songs coming up next and modifying it. This takes two forms: Removing songs that I’m just not in the mood for at the time and rearranging the order of songs. In GPM, both of these actions are very easy: You can swipe on a song in the list to remove it, and you can touch and hold and then drag on a song to rearrange its place in the list.

And yes, both of these actions work similarly in YTM. The problem is that YTM lacks a capability that I rely on with GPM: You can’t control Sonos from the YTM app, as you can with the GPM app. So I have to use the Sonos app to start playlists and then manage the Now Playing list. And in the Sonos app, you can’t remove or rearrange songs in the Now Playing list without first entering a special Edit mode. It turns something fun into something tedious. So I’d like to see Google add Sonos control to YTM.

One very interesting benefit of YTM is that you can access songs—and really, videos of songs—that appear only on the YouTube video service. For music lovers such as myself, this is an incredible advantage: YouTube houses what has to be the single greatest collection of what I’ll call non-standard music anywhere. You get live versions of songs (and entire concerts), leaked song demos, and all kinds of other content you’ll never find in Spotify, Apple Music, or anywhere else. And these songs can be added to your playlists, giving you yet another avenue for music. So in addition to subscription-based music and my own uploaded music, I now have access to music that’s only on YouTube.

Furthering this concept, any playlists you make on YouTube show up in YTM too. My wife and I are big fans of the live/gig music that musicians have been supplying since the beginning of the pandemic, and so I created a Quarantine Music playlist to collect them all for later enjoyment. We can watch this playlist on the TV, of course, using the YouTube app. But I can also listen to this music via YTM, and I can mix and match individual songs into my playlists.

I like that a lot. But now that I know I can make playlists in YouTube for later YTM consumption, I’ve approached the former service a bit differently too. For example, Def Leppard recently released a live album from its Las Vegas residency which is available on GPM/YTM and all the other major music services here in the U.S, and so I have access to that in YTM. But the band also released a similar live album from its O2 residency in the UK, and there are some additional songs we didn’t get here in the U.S. So I can add those songs to a playlist in YouTube and then access them via YTM. Nice!

(Less effective. Non-music YouTube playlists also show up in YTM. It’s unlikely I’ll ever want to listen to, but not watch, my Web Dev playlist, for example.)

Because I’m a paying customer, I’m shielded from some of the problems, or at least the uncertainties, that face free users of GPM. For example, that service allowed anyone, even free users, to upload tens of thousands of songs, for free, to the service so that they could access them from the cloud anytime. With YTM, it’s unclear if this capability will continue.

But even paying customers no longer have access to the Google Play Music extension for Chrome/Edge that provided a nice music library uploader utility. With YTM, you just get a standard File Open dialog, so those with extensive collections to upload face a daunting task. (And it’s not clear if free users will retain this capability.)

YTM offers segregated tabs for personal (uploaded) and subscription-based songs in the library views—Playlists, Albums, Artists, Songs, and so on—which is ridiculous. But one thing I do like is that these library views can be sorted alphabetically (in either direction) or by “Recently added,” which of course puts new music right at the top. GPM doesn’t offer this capability.

Since making the transition about two months ago, I’ve stuck exclusively to YTM and have added new songs to existing playlists and created new playlists. In doing so, I’ve pretty much ensured that I can’t go back to GPM, even temporarily. But that also forced me to make peace with the user experience differences and just get used to how YTM does things. I’m still mixed on the respective UIs overall—there are things about GPM I just prefer, still—but the transition is doable. I feel like it’s sticking.

That said, I know I’m going to run into device limitation issues soon, as I did each year with GPM: Google allows you to connect your account to up to 10 devices (mobile and web/PC), which is fine, but you can only remove (deauthorize) four devices per year. Because I review so many devices each year, I run into this limit all the time and have to basically beg Google support to reset it. So far they’ve done so each year, but these limits remain with YTM, and I dread this support session.

Anyway, it’s not perfect, but so far so good.

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Comments (29)

29 responses to “Moving to YouTube Music: A Mini-Review”

  1. Paul Thurrott

    We had a self-inflicted site glitch this afternoon that deleted all four of my posts today, including any comments you may have made. I've republished the posts, but there's no way to get the comments back, sorry. --Paul

  2. awsquared

    Everything went smoothly, and didn't take hours. But I have found one minor annoyance: a CD I listened to often on GPM is not available in YTM. I can find it on Amazon Music and Spotify. (River of Life - The Manticore Years Anthology - P.F.M.). I realize that 1970's Italian progressive rock is not high priority, but has anyone else noted an entire CD missing from YTM after using it on GPM? (This was not an upload on my part.)


    • omen_20

      In reply to awsquared:

      Yes I have at least one song in every playlist that is greyed out. I have also found an album since switching that is not on YTM. I discovered the artist on Instagram, then did a Google search of them.


      One big annoyance right now is that Google Search and music search with the widget only gives GPM links and not YTM.


      Anyway, his whole album is missing from YTM, so I'm listening on GPM. It's the first of what will probably be many songs I won't be able to add to my 2020 playlist or genre playlists. I've not figured out what I will do about that.


      Does anyone know if we can still buy music through the Play Store and it show up on YTM?

  3. marmitesandwich

    I am surprised there is no mention of the differences in library management. If you have 10s of thousands of tracks in your library, it becomes important to be able to find them quickly and easily. In GPM each album, or track can have its title and genre modified by the user. Then you can browse via genre and album to your required tracks quickly and queue up the exact combination you feel like, which is far more flexible than just saved playlists, which is all that YTM offers.


    Also to date Bubble UPnP does not support YTM and there is therefore no way of streaming YTM to a DLNA device.


    For the serious music fan these limitations make YTM a serious downgrade.

    Marmite

  4. ommoran

    I actively dislike the fact that musical "subscriptions" - artists that I like and want handy access to - are lumped into my subscriptions on Youtube. I liked two discrete apps - and for the record, these are still two discrete apps. I think there should be a way, when looking at my TV, that my subscriptions for YT video content is separate from YTM content.


    Drives me nuts.

  5. MutualCore

    It's overall fairly decent, but lacking some polish. I've already tried it on iOS, macoS, Android Auto. Pretty good so far and almost all my 'uploaded music' transferred.

  6. bgoodbody

    No support for free use of downloaded music (owned) when no connected to data.

  7. supermarkert

    Friendly reminder that if you are a free (non-Premium) user, you cannot listen to anything in the YouTube Music app if your phone screen is off or if the app is in the background. You have to have your phone screen on and in the app at all times.

    Enjoy.

  8. kdjones74

    I noticed one irritating difference - in YTM on Android, I can sort my list of playlists A-Z, but on YTM website on my PC, I have no sort options. Instead, the list of playlists is only by most recently played.

  9. Funkimunk

    YTM will allow 100k uploads, apparently.

  10. red.radar

    Man that device authorization and removal limit is such a pain. You would think with their AI prowess they could stop sharing abuse in other ways that don’t interfere with how you manage your personal devices. Probably not googles fault but rather a contract limitation from the Recording industry

  11. saturn

    Thanks Paul, I enjoyed reading about your experience as I too was apprehensive about the transfer over to YM. My use-case specifically has always been more on the music locker service side of things, seeing as for some reason most of the music I enjoy either isn't on streaming services or are different versions than the ones I have.


    As a free user, I can say for sure that I do have the ability to upload thousands upon thousands of my tracks and access them (even with the screen off) for free! Technical users will know that GPM offered 320kbps MP3s for the cloud locker service (and purchases) so If you uploaded a lossless music file (such as a FLAC file, for example), it would be converted to a 320kbps MP3 file. With YM, the upper-limit that a user can select in settings is 256kbps using the aac format. This is not inherently a bad thing as the aac format is vastly superior to the older MP3 format. As a free user though, I don't have the option to select a quality setting and so I believe that it defaults to 128 kbps aac.


    If that is the case, that's a significant downgrade in sound quality for those that care and/or can hear the difference. Then, too, there's also the small iritation that with YM, I must select my music uploads every time rather than it defaulting to that view when accessing something like albums in the Ui.


    For me, these things are kind of a deal-breaker in the sense that GPM was a better service for me personally. It's a shame that it's going away for good.

    • solomonrex

      In reply to saturn:

      I used it as a music locker for free, as well, and I can't figure out why they're taking it away instead of developing it and growing it. Youtube Music will not make sense to most people. I will personally just subscribe to something better if I'm going to subscribe to anything. You can't count on Youtube playlists for years the way I could with my owned music, and I bet I can rely on Apple and Spotify.


      I find it baffling in the sense that they host photos, but without a social network to advertise around. Yet hosting music with music sales isn't workable? It will go away, I know, kids don't buy music thanks to things like Youtube, but in 2020 I'm not sure why they're choosing now to cut off long time customers. They're already losing to Apple in meaningful ways.


      The US tech indstury right now looks like there are storms on the horizon. Lack of options, rising prices, Chinese standoffs, trade wars, compatibility issues, Intel uncompetitive, IT shops revolting over the cloud. It looks very much like it will get worse before it gets better.


      Hopefully MS's announcements will be good, positive momentum in the market.

  12. ZeroPageX

    You mentioned all YouTube playlists being available in YTM. I have a ton, and most don't contain any music. Are they mixed in with playlists migrated from GPM?

  13. diaclasa

    I don’t like how it merges my YouTube’s “thumbs up” with my YTM “thumbs up”, will like to have these separated. Also music discovery is not great, prefer Spotify’s or Pandora, but continue to play with it.

    aside from those two things it’s a great app, main music player/ streaming service.

  14. miamimauler

    There doesn't seem to be a way to play our curated playlists on shuffle when using Android TV. Yes, we can cast from our phones but we prefer not to where possible.



  15. eeisner

    As I mentioned in Ask Paul, the segregation of uploaded and streamed music drives me crazy. I just want to hit shuffle and have ALL of my music play. I plan on using Play Music until it's dead just because of that one problem.

  16. krusador

    I just want to sort my uploaded albums by Year Released or Most Recently Added. YTM does neither. At least GPM had the Last Added auto playlist.


    Also, YTM has a performance issue when scrolling thru my uploaded music, either by album or artist: there's a constant delay in the scrolling that is just irritating has heck. At least GPM scrolled efficiently.


    YTM has a long way to go for me before it's acceptable.

  17. mestiphal

    My main use of GPM is to have all my own music uploaded to the cloud, and play it for free off my phone either to my car, or my collection of Google Speakers.


    With the same free subscription YTM will not let me cast to anything without a screen, rendering all the speakers almost useless

  18. ronh

    I use GPM on my Android phone. I use it to play on my IKEA smart speakers. on my PC in my office I use Groove. as I have all my music stored locally as well as in OneDrive.


    Does any know of a decent Android App that will let me paly my music one the phone (and the car), as well as send it to my IKEA speaker at home?

    I guess it would need to be compatible with Google Home, as that is how the IKEA (SONOS really) works now with GPM.

    • canadianbacon

      In reply to RonH:

      I believe that Plex could help you resolve that issue. I've had so many problems with YTM that I decided to resurrect Plex and pay the 50 dollars per year to be able to stream remotely.


      This isn't a replacement obviously but I can now play all my local content very easily with Chromecast and Fire TV's etc....Not only that but all my concert videos that I have.


      You can just use the free version to play local content but Plex Pass will allow remote and offline downloading of playlists. You can also share with your friends if you have unlimited bandwidth.



  19. robinwilson16

    I have tried Youtube Music but whilst I can now upload my own music library in bulk I cannot delete songs in bulk and must delete each song one by one which takes a while if I have 100. Aside from that whilst Google Play Music integrated directly into Sonos so I could play music on the Sonos speaker, Youtube Music requires me to purchase a premium subscription for this.

    I'll stick with Google Play Music for as long as I can and when it stops working I'll need to find an alternative. Google Play Music was nice whilst it lasted and replaced the functionality that used to exist between Sonos and OneDrive.

    All I want is to be able to play my music library when out via the iPhone and also whilst at home on the Sonos and this functionality does not seem worth paying a subscription or running my own Plex media server.

  20. brusinbruin

    My transfer over went well. There are a few small things that I feel are annoying but I think with time I will adapt but, the biggest issue for me is that I have a Family Plan for me, my wife and my three kids (we are a family that likes music) but my kids are unable to get YouTube Music due to it only being available to 13+.....so if this doesn't change I will go from 5 accounts to 2 for the same price. If this does not change I will have to find an alternative.

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