April 22, 2021
YouTube is testing new music controls for Premium members who won’t use the YouTube Music app.
Google has tried for years to get Premium users to switch to the YouTube Music interface. They even killed off Google Play Music to make YouTube Music the default music experience. But it appears music listening controls that resemble a music app are coming to the YouTube app for Premium users.
9to5Google first spotted the change that appears to be in limited testing for now. The feature was not reproducible with my version of the YouTube app. Android Police also experimented with trying to enable music controls in the YouTube app and couldn’t find it.
Tapping the button pulls up controls that resemble a streaming music service like Spotify. You can see the name of the video in a large font, with the channel below it and a range of controls. Notably missing is the dislike button, which appears in the regular YouTube interface. Also on the list are save to playlist and playback speed control buttons.
It’s interesting to see Google trying to placate those who still listen to music primarily via YouTube. It is desperate for its music-listening audience to subscribe to YouTube Premium, which is growing at a good clip.
Using data from an October 2020 financial call with investors, YouTube reports around 30 million Premium subscribers. That’s far below Apple’s estimated 60 million Apple Music subscribers and Spotify’s 113 million paying subscribers.
It’s hard to recommend any music streaming service Google offers, considering how wishy-washy the company has been with consumer-facing products. It shut down Google Play Music in favor of YouTube Music, alienating around 15 million users. YouTube Music didn’t even have feature parity with GPM when the service died – and it’s just now playing catch-up with new features.
“YouTube Music only makes sense if you never download music, don’t need to manage a library, and just listen to streaming music,” one user says of the service. That’s mostly true since its library curation features leave much to be desired. But that’s because the industry at large overwhelmingly prefers streaming music over one-time paid downloads.
Digital Music News predicted that paid music downloads would be dead by 2021. That’s mostly true, as Google killed its music downloads a year early. Downloading music for offline playback is now how most people manage their libraries, rather than owning the files outright.