Skip to main content

Hands-on with the new YouTube Music app

Hands-on with the new YouTube Music app


The video service has a new music app that lets you listen in the background and offline

Share this story

YouTube announced its new subscription service today, YouTube Red, which costs $9.99 a month and lets you watch videos without ads. They also spent some time showing off their new music app, which has been in private video for a while under the name YouTube Music Key. It's now just called YouTube Music, and it has a bunch of interesting features that optimize search for music listening and discovery.

With or without a Red subscription, you can download and use the new Music app. If you're not paying, there will be videos before the ads, and you won't be able to listen in background mode, meaning the track will pause if you move into another app or your screen shuts off. You also won't be able to save videos to listen to offline.

For a deep dive into the making of YouTube Red, check out our exclusive feature

Still, the app is a nice way to watch videos. The search is optimized for music, so when you search for The Shins or Prince or some other keyword that might bring up a whole bunch of results on the regular YouTube, you will now get the artist you're looking for. Search results bring you the actual artist and canonical video first, but then below that will display related content like the lyrics video, live versions, cover versions, and remix videos. In our testing it worked really well, and brought you music you can't really find elsewhere, like the live concert where Def Leppard played with Taylor Swift.

If you are a paying subscriber, you get a couple power features in YouTube Music. Background mode is key for listening to music and going for a run or actually using your device. You can also toggle the video so it plays the image or plays audio only, a nice touch that will let you save on data consumption if you're in listen-only mode. Finally, when you "like" a video in Red mode, it automatically saves itself to play offline, up to a limit you set in terms of using up your device's storage space.

Unlike Red, YouTube Music does not have a clear launch date. We reported that YouTube is still negotiating with Disney to get its content licensed for use behind the Red paywall, and without all the videos and songs from the Disney catalog, the app is clearly a lot less compelling to many users. Still, YouTube says it has all the major and indie record labels signed, and 98 percent of its video content covered by agreements. YouTube Red will launch on October 28th, and YouTube says the music app should launch before the end of this year.