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Friday 5: How to get the most out of YouTube Music

The transition from music streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora and even Google Play Music to YouTube Music might seem confusing and daunting, but it’s actually pretty straightforward once you understand just how the system works.

We just spent a month with YouTube Music — comparing it directly with rivals Spotify and Pandora — and here are the five things we did to get the most out of Google’s latest streaming offering. For the love of lyric videos, make sure you do these things once you’ve signed up.

Start liking music now

The entire recommendation system for YouTube Music relies on your listening and liking habits from standard YouTube. That one song you happened to like in 2011 may come back to haunt you in the form of meme-music in one of the auto-generated playlists pumped out by the player.

If you don’t already listen to songs or watch music videos on YouTube, then I suggest you start doing so before you download the app and subscribe to the service. By doing so, you’ll have supplied information for the sound-sensing algorithm to throw up tracks you might want to give a try.

Should you be a Google Play Music user and want to switch — before the inevitable transition of the original Google streaming service — then a tool like Soundiiz might come in very handy for recreating your playlists en masse.

Either way, you really should start liking Kanye West’s back catalogue. Like yesterday.

Try the web player

You don’t have to use the plain old YouTube and it’s redesign to enjoy your favourite tunes. Like Play Music before, you can utilize a dedicated web player, that strips the video element and plays just the audio portion of your playlists and individual tracks.

The interface takes more than a few design cues from Google Play Music and YouTube, merging them into a darkened theme with an even simpler operation. I actually really like the theme, but wonder if it is in some way a response to Spotify’s interface — the market leader that YouTube is clearly looking to challenge.

The Hotlist section lists a series of tracks that are either recently released or being listened to en masse by other users. I found that the more I use YouTube Music, the more it evolves to proactively preempt my listening, something that I’ve found only Spotify able to do with its Discovery playlists.

The web player and dedicated mobile app navigate and look— size differences aside — in the same way so you’ll feel right at home wherever you listen.

Delve into the world’s biggest music libraries

Remember that one summer megamix you listened to for what felt like all of 2007? Yeah, that is now back in your life thanks to YouTube Music’s insanely huge library. Anything that the ‘system’ recognizes as music is now fair game for your listening pleasure.

What that means is things that might have needed to be hosted on platforms like Soundcloud — such as DJ mixes — can now be plonked right into your regular playlists with everything else.

It works for freestyles too. As a resident Brit, I listen to a huge array of British artists that don’t have record deals or will never see a label. Finding their tracks on Spotify is often difficult and frustrating as their entire back catalogue just never gets uploaded there. Now I can listen to some of my favourites and have them in playlists with the most established artists, thanks to the accessibility (and free hosting) of the YouTube Music system.

To be honest this could be the change for independent music creators that Spotify has so far failed to achieve.

YouTube is also littered with live music and recordings of live music from all over the globe. This means that you can tap into some of the best concerts ever recorded, from The Beatles to The Rolling Stones, it’s all there waiting to be played with or without the accompanying video footage.

Although not all live music is recorded equally, it opens up a new avenue of music to explore if you want to enjoy even the same music in a whole new way.

Listen beyond your own playlists

Once your playlist ends the music doesn’t just stop – which as far as I know – this is one of the only players that does this. It works just like the Autoplay feature on ‘video YouTube’, but instead of queuing up the next 9to5Google video, it adds an artist or track that fits into the playlist you’ve just been enjoying.

Hopefully, you’ll be pleasantly surprised like I have, I’d say nine times out of 10 I get something that I would likely listen to or something that I do like and just haven’t thought to add yet. That isn’t to say it’s perfect, far from it, you need to tweak your likes and dislikes accordingly to really have that refined listening experience you’re looking for.

Search by lyrics

Remembering song titles or the artist (or both!) sometimes is frustrating if you only have that one hit wonder in your head. Being able to search for tracks using just lyrics is a great way to find music you can recall but can’t quite remember.

Google’s ability to pull from song lyrics means that if you just remember the chorus or a specific verse, it’s easily recognized and then served up as you so desire.

So that should just about cover it. One thing I would add is, if you’re in the market for a new set of cans or earbuds, then I’d recommend investing in some to take advantage of the higher-quality audio downloads that should hopefully be arriving soon.

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Avatar for Damien Wilde Damien Wilde

Damien is a UK-based video producer for 9to5Google. Find him on Twitter @iamdamienwilde. Email

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