Today, YouTube officially launched YouTube Music, a free iOS (and Android) app built just for music to directly compete with existing streaming services such as Apple Music, Spotify, and others. Its availability is currently limited to the US, but we can expect it to reach other countries soon.
YouTube Music is available as a free download, but if you are willing to pay a monthly price of $12.99 (iOS: due to Apple’s 30% cut, Android users pay $9.99) for a YouTube Red subscription, you will get an ad-free and more powerful experience. By the way, you can sign up for a free 14-day trial of YouTube Red when you download the app.
As The Verge’s Ben Popper points out in his review, the app doesn’t allow you to create playlists, but it does create a daily playlist for you, combining tracks you’ve listened to and liked and some new music videos it thinks you may want to hear or watch.
It also includes a slider to adjust your stream’s variety, but there is a trick it uses, as explained by T. Jay Fowler, who heads up the development of music products at Youtube:
Over the last decade, users have made hundreds of millions of playlists, an explicit act of curation that allows YouTube’s machine learning algorithms to understand what songs sound good together and what tracks belong in a genre-specific playlist. Along with input from users and structured metadata added by the music labels, “we’re a search engine so we have lots of data sources and pointers from the open web.
Besides algorithms, YouTube also has a small human-curation staff who builds playlists and checks the results of algorithms.
It is worth mentioning that while you can use the main features of YouTube Music for free, the Red membership will allow you to listen to music offline on your mobile device, enjoy music while using other apps or with your screen off, and listen to audio without needing to load the video.
YouTube Music is available for free in the US App Store.