YouTube Music vs Google Play Music: The Ultimate Comparison11 min read

YouTube Music vs Google Play Music: The Ultimate Comparison11 min read

04/10/2019 0 By Vasyl Tsyktor

YouTube Music is a music streaming service released in 2015. Despite Google announced about its plans to replace its older app Google Play Music and preinstall YouTube Music on Android 10 devices and higher, many users are in no hurry to switch to the new platform. However, the emerging Spotify competitor has both drawbacks and benefits. In this YouTube Music vs Google Play Music comparison, we will figure out whether the migration is worth it.

YouTube Music appeared as a logical continuation of the world’s most popular video streaming service since half of YouTube users visit the online video platform to listen to music. According to Statista, the weekly YouTube music usage in the United States has grown from 33% in 2014 to 50% in 2019. No wonder 40% of those users who preferred YouTube Music for enjoying music online explained their choice over its competitors with easier accessibility and compatibility with other devices.

Sound quality

Like Google Play Music, YouTube Music provides premium subscribers with music streaming based on the AAC codec with the sound quality of 256 kbps. Although, Google Play Music used to rely on MP3 with 320 kbps. Users complain that the difference in Google Play Music bitrate is clearly noticeable while Felix Beuster, the official YouTube Music Help Community member, claims that average users won’t feel the difference between the previous and current audio quality approach.

“Most people with average desktop/laptop/phone speakers or average headphones wouldn’t hear much of a difference between the 256 and 320 variants. With a trained ear and/or higher end speakers or headphones, that is a different story of course”, Felix Beuster

Another YouTube Music representative Brandon Belinski states that both variants are equal whereas 256 kbps AAC uses fewer data. In addition, the audio quality of tracks in YouTube Music varies. Unlike Google Play Music, the new platform contains live cuts, unofficial releases, etc. That’s why you should carefully manage your playlists to avoid tracks with low-quality audio.

User interface

YouTube Music user interface has a dark theme and block-based structure like Google Play Music. Home screens of both streaming services display various playlists but while Google Play Music offers playlists based on user preferences and listening history, YouTube Music often provides random track compilations that may have nothing in common with what you expect. To play any playlist, you should first open it and then tap on the Play button in a mobile app while the web app and Google Play Music mobile application allow you to play it right on the home screen with a single click.

On the bottom of the YouTube Music home screen, you can find three buttons that allow you to get back to the home screen, explore the hotlist the refers to the most popular music videos in your location, and open your music library. Music controls remain above these buttons regardless of which screen you visit, just like in the Google Play Music app. In general, both user interfaces are similar and intuitive.


Google Play Music and YouTube Music have over 15 million paid subscribers in total. However, they differ with a variety of features. For example, both music streaming services can identify tracks playing around you via a microphone, like Shazam, but YouTube Music made a step further it the search feature. It allows users to search for tracks through particular lyrics lines. Furthermore, you can describe what a specific song is about to find it. Just enter something like “song about Mary left for India” and the service will offer you to listen to Dido’s “Mary’s in India”.

Another difference in features lays in the capability to cache music and then listen to it when offline. This is one of the key Google Play Music feature which is though not available in YouTube Music. With the turned Downloaded only toggle on, the app will save the most recently played tracks on your device for a limited time. Thus, you will be able to avoid music stops and gaps when on a subway or in other locations with a poor Internet connection.

Google Play Music allows users to upload up to 50,000 tracks to the library and listen to them offline even with a free subscription plan. Although, this feature is available only in a web app. Furthermore, you can download whole albums right on your mobile device while YouTube Music has no such features. You should always stay online when you need to listen to music with YouTube Music.

Media library

According to different data compilations, Google Play Music has about 30-40 million tracks, while the exact YouTube Music catalog size is currently unknown, Instead, YouTube refers to “millions of tracks”. Like Google Play Music, the latter service also provides music videos but either the file identification system works improperly or its media catalog contains music videos with a static image instead of footage. That’s why when searching for specific tracks, you can find them in the video category rather than in songs.

Another frustrating fact about YouTube Music is that you can’t continue listening to your music when switching between different devices remaining in the same account. On the other hand, with Google Play Music, you can pause a song in a web app and then play it on your mobile device starting from the moment it has been stopped. YouTube Music offers only a list of the most recently played tracks and playlists in the Last Played section.


When subscribing to any of the services, you will have to choose preferred artists to help the system understand which music you like. Although, Google Play Music also asks for your selecting your preferred genres and allows to you edit your preferences at any time in the menu while YouTube Music has a corresponding section “Tell us which artists you like” on the home screen. Based on artificial intelligence, Google Play Music recommendations rely on time and location as well as your listening history. Thus, the app offers you music depending on your mood, for example, relaxing music in the evening, workout-styled tracks in the gym, etc.

YouTube Music recommendations are based on user activity. It means that the app generates recommended tracks and playlists using music videos played on YouTube, liked/disliked tracks, and previously created playlists. To improve your recommendations, you should use the app as often as possible, dislike tracks you don’t want to listen to rather than just skip them, and manually add more tracks to your library.

When listening to music with streaming services while driving, you can’t effectively manage tracks. Otherwise, it can be dangerous. The task becomes much easier with such in-car infotainment systems as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which, fortunately, support both apps, since you can use voice commands. 

This is where the older service leads the way in the Google Play Music vs YouTube Music comparison because it offers tracks that fit your preferences in most cases while YouTube Music often makes you whether skip a song or wait until another starts playing. Furthermore, it offers playlists with tracks that are totally different from your set preferences. The service often offers me local top charts, local artists’ songs, live performances, metal music I never listen to, etc. Furthermore, if you ever watched a particular music video at least once, YouTube Music would add it to “Your favorites” no matter you liked it or not.


YouTube Music and Google Play Music pricing is equal and it depends on a country. U.S.-based users will have to pay $9.99 monthly for a premium subscription. A family plan for up to six members costs $14.99 per month while students will be able to spend only $4.99. Despite the benefits of the shared package, a personal premium plan is more popular. A survey conducted by Statista shows that 74% of YouTube Music premium plan users have subscribed for a personal package.

For only $11.99, you can purchase a YouTube Premium subscription that includes both YouTube Music and Google Play Music as well as provides ad-free access to videos on the video streaming platform. A standard YouTube Premium plan costs $17.99 per month while the price of a student package is $6.99 per month. Those users who have picked a student plan have to prove their status every year within 4 years.

Is YouTube Music worth it?

One of the key advantages of YouTube Music is its advanced search that allows you to quickly find whatever track you need even without entering a title or artist name. Another benefit lays in a large catalog of available music videos. Is it worth accurate recommendations in Google Play Music? Well, migration makes no sense until Google adds a synchronization feature that will allow users to transfer their playlists and preferences with a single tap.

It’s worth mentioning that Google is currently working on various missing important functions that include easy migration, gapless playback, personal uploads, and many more.

“We’re working on overall migration of GPM content (uploads, purchases, playlists, preferences, history), and playlists migration will be one of the first pieces that we support. We’re working on allowing you to fully transition your content over from GPM this year”, Brandon Belinski, YouTube Music Help Community member.

Sooner or later, Android users will have to migrate to YouTube Music. Until that moment, we will continue using Google Play Music with the hope that the vendor will improve its platform and make it a worthy alternative.