RadioandMusic
| 25 Nov 2020
Replacing Google play to YouTube Music

MUMBAI: Even though Google stopped actively developing Play Music in favor of its new lovechild YouTube Music, a lot of people cling to the company's first attempt at a music streaming service, including me. Granted, I've been paying the new platform occasional visits to see if it managed to become a worthy replacement for Play Music, but some concerns haven't been addressed yet. With YTM receiving feature after feature lately, I've still decided to go hands-on with YouTube Music exclusively for a while to see if I'm able to switch to the new app in its current state.

1.Pricing

This is a simple point since YouTube Music, Play Music, and YouTube are intertwined. If you pay $12 for YouTube Premium, you'll get ad-free access to all three services, while you get both Play Music and YouTube Music for $10 a month.

YouTube Music manages to impress on the free front, too. You can stream anything you like as long as you keep your display turned on and the app in the foreground. On a laptop or desktop, you can even enjoy songs with the website in the background. The free tier is ad-supported, so if you're dealing with YouTube, you know what's coming at you. Google Play Music's free version, on the other hand, only lets you play mixes based on artists and songs on Google Home. On the web and in the app, you can listen to music you purchased on the Play Store or songs you've uploaded to the platform. The latter is also true for YouTube Music.

2.Library management

Google promised to create a solution that allows you to import your likes, uploads, albums, and more from Google Play Music to YouTube Music, but so far, the company hasn't delivered (it will probably do that once we have a deprecation date for GPM). If you want to take as much with you as possible without manually recreating everything, you'll have to use a third-party solution like Soundiiz. I personally chose to start over again, so your mileage may vary with that tool.

Those who use a tool like that also report that they're missing some content that's not available on YouTube Music at all. It looks like that situation has improved over the last year, but I can't promise that you'll find all of your albums and artists on Google's new platform. It's a weird situation, but since YouTube is technically a subsidiary, it might have different licensing deals than its parent company.

Both the YouTube Music and Play Music web apps don't give you custom sorting options for your library. Since I mostly use search anyway, that doesn't bother me too much, but it's a limitation you need to keep in mind. YouTube Music recently received sorting options in the Android app, so it'll hopefully come to the desktop interface sooner rather than later, too.

YouTube Music also features a "Hotlist" bottom tab that I touched only once — I just don't care too much for most songs that are currently popular. Other than occupying a spot in the bottom bar, it doesn't get in the way too much.

3.YouTube integration

While you can access some music videos via Google Play Music, YouTube and YouTube Music are way too intertwined for my taste. Your YouTube Music likes show up among YouTube video likes, your playlists are shared between the two platforms, and, most annoyingly, when you subscribe to artists on YouTube Music, you also subscribe to their YouTube channel. These things get even messier when you subscribe to channels focused on music: I don't want OK Go to show up in my music streaming service, but I do enjoy watching the group's videos.

YouTube playlists that include music videos will also populate your YouTube Music library. A test list I've created on YouTube consisting of one music video and an Android Police video shows up in YT Music, too. When you try to play the latter through the music service, an unhelpful toast appears: "Song is unavailable".

YouTube Music also introduces one of the more annoying YouTube features to music streaming: You're limited to a maximum of 5,000 titles per playlist. Liked songs are organized within a playlist, so you might not be able to see the earliest songs in it since they might be pushed off the end of the list. YouTube video likes also count against that limit, so you might reach it even faster than you'd think.

Google Play Music's library management isn't necessarily perfect, but at least it's not integrated with a video streaming service.

4.User interface

I much prefer YouTube Music's general interface over Play Music's, but that might just be because Play Music is hopelessly outdated. YT Music's bottom navigation makes it easier to quickly jump to my library while I have to open the hamburger menu to do the same in GPM. The now playing screen is also much prettier — you can see the full album cover, while Play Music cuts off the sides. YT Music's queue shows you fewer songs, but the list is easier to access. It's just a bummer you can't swipe left and right to skip back and forth in YTM. The native integration of lyrics almost makes up for that, though.

There are some other quirks, too. Google Play Music has a scrollbar that you can drag so it doesn't take ages to go through all of your songs, which isn't available on YouTube Music. You also can't like songs when you're offline in the YouTube Music app, which drives me crazy.

5.Recommendations and mixes

Recommendations and mixes are a pretty personal thing - some people prefer Spotify's Discover playlists that give you a playlist of songs you might like. YouTube Music is much more aggressive in narrowing your taste down to a certain genre once it notices you like it, evident from the recurring recommendations you keep getting on the front page. Google Play Music is similar in this regard and keeps recommending the same music (except for the "recommended new releases" radio, but that still consists of artists that I listen to anyway).

YouTube Music is improving, though. Google added features such as the Discover or New Release Mix, which have helped me find some new stuff to listen to already. I really enjoy that YouTube Music is becoming more like Spotify in that regard.

6.Search

Google Play Music's search function is still superior to YouTube Music's approach. You can start playing songs right from the search results, while you have to tap suggestions on YTM before to listen to them. I also feel like GPM's search is often more on point for me — YTM tends to recommend mixes and remixes, which I rarely listen to. Google Play Music also has a handy function that identifies songs right from the search interface, making it easy to add songs you hear while you're out and about to your playlists.

7.Downloads

YouTube Music nails downloads, in my opinion. While you have to actively choose what you want to download on Google Play Music (such as your liked songs or some albums), YouTube Music can take that burden off your shoulders. You can activate smart downloads, specify how many songs you automatically want to find on your phone, and YouTube Music will give you a selection. The automatic solution updates your songs every night, so you can listen to something new every once in a while. You can also manually select what to download if you prefer that.

Of course, Google giveth and Google taketh. Google Play Music automatically caches songs you play when you're online, which also gives you a variety of music to listen to. That doesn't seem to be the case for YouTube Music. At least cached songs won't appear among my downloads.

8.Uploads

Both services support uploading your own music, but it's incredible how differently they tackle the issue. We've explored the topic extensively in another article, so I'll say this much here: Play Music makes your uploaded files almost indistinguishable from content available on the platform while YouTube Music puts your uploads into their own section that's mostly sealed off from the streaming service portion of the platform. I prefer Google Play Music's approach - it makes it much easier to find music without stopping and wondering if you've uploaded that song or if it's available for streaming.

One more library gripe concerning uploads has been pointed out by one of our commenters: When you search for an artist in your uploads and tap them, you'll be thrown into a list of all their songs you've uploaded. There's no dedicated artist page with all of their albums.

9.Smart speaker integration

Play Music is still superior when it comes to smart speakers made by Google. The service lets you play uploaded music via voice on Google Home speakers, but YouTube Music won't do that — at least it will play the YouTube video version of a song if available.

I don't own a Sonos speaker, but I've heard that other people complain about the lack of proper integration with YouTube Music. You need to use to Sonos app to cast content from the streaming service. Google Play Music, on the other hand, natively integrates with the third-party system and lets you cast to the speakers right from the app.

While I was busy exploring YouTube Music from my perspective as a Play Music subscriber, my colleague Hagop Kavafian switched from Spotify to YouTube Music. He went for YouTube Premium and writes that while he has some gripes with the streaming service, it probably still suits many people's needs, and that you can save quite some money and time spent on YouTube ads if you watch a lot of videos. In the end, it comes down to a question of personal preference for him.

Unfortunately, the equation isn't that simple here because YouTube Music will replace Google Play Music one day. You have to accept YouTube Music's quirks if you currently use and love Play Music, or you have to switch to another platform altogether. I personally still can't stand the shared playlists and likes across YouTube and YouTube Music and could see myself switching to Spotify if Google doesn't give me an option to stop sharing data between the two platforms.

Since everyone values different strengths and weaknesses, I may be missing some other dealbreakers. Feel free to share how you feel about the YouTube Music/Play Music situation in the comments if you're caught between these two worlds, too.