When the old YouTube Music app launched back in 2015, being able to access this vast trove of music was the best thing about it. Combining that with a full-fledged streaming service means you don't have to keep jumping between apps, so that's a big win for the new YouTube Music. The old app also let you search for audio-only songs and albums if you had a Google Play Music or YouTube Red subscription, but the app itself was clearly optimized for video. That's not the case anymore, which makes it easier to live your entire streaming life inside YouTube Music.
Unfortunately, YouTube Music has many quirks that could be deal-breakers for some users, so don't go canceling Spotify just yet. As I mentioned earlier, YouTube Music, like Google Play Music before it, has a great collection of curated playlists that span genres, decades, moods and activities. In fact, Play Music let you use those four categories to browse all those playlists. In YouTube Music, you can access these playlists only through your homepage. If you're looking for a new workout mix or want to find the best '90s playlists out there, you'd better hope YouTube's algorithms put them on your homepage.
It's a bummer because I particularly enjoyed digging into the many different classifications in Google Play Music. Of course, you can search "workout" and then check out all the playlists that surface, but it's not nearly as elegant a solution.
Similarly, YouTube Music doesn't make it easy to find new releases. There's a "recommended new releases" section on the homepage, but there are only 10 albums in it. There's no way to simply see new albums from the week, something basically every music service offers. Play Music lets you see all new releases or sort by genre, and it also offers a constantly-updating New Release Radio station personalized to each user. That's all absent here. There is an "offline mixtape" customized to each user that can be automatically downloaded to your phone, but it's mostly just a selection of things you've already listened to and liked.
YouTube Music doesn't even offer you a way to click through to specific genres. Apple Music and Spotify both feature robust genre pages that pull together new releases, classic albums, videos and a wide range of playlists. There's nothing comparable here -- yet another thing that makes the service feel incomplete.
Finally, using YouTube Music can add some annoyances to the standard YouTube experience. Remember all those artists you subscribed to so that they'd show up in your library? Well, they'll all show up as subscriptions over on the video-focused YouTube as well. Perhaps worse is how every album you've added to your library shows up as a playlist in the standard YouTube library -- having dozens of albums obscuring the actual video playlists you've created or subscribed to is a definitively bad user experience.
Should you sign up?