We have all heard the statistics — like 300 hours worth of uploads per minute and other nigh-incomprehensible numbers — and its safe to say that no person will be able to watch all of the video content on YouTube in one lifetime. Or even several. A ridiculous amount of new video content is uploaded to the website daily, and we can’t keep up. It’s literally impossible and that… could be a good thing.
Youtube is the go-to spot for any video-related endeavours. From entertainment to information and news, you can watch anything from how to cook a perfect lasagna to a live feed of the Falcon Heavy launch. But arguably its most powerful feature is one only loosely related to video. And it’s also criminally underused.
This underrated feature is the website’s music streaming ability. While it’s not at Spotify or Apple Music caliber, its worth remembering that YouTube is essentially free. It’s not that hard to convert the purveyor of cat videos and South Korean men in elevators into a full-on music streaming service. Using the video-streaming website to listen to your jams depends mostly on personal preference it is still definitely something worth checking out.
If you don’t have a subscription to Spotify (something might prove a slight challenge until they officially launch in SA. Or not.) or Apple Music, you might still be using CDs or good ol’ mp3s. It’s time to fix that. The only thing needed to switch to streaming is a Google account, so YouTube knows who it is personalising video content for.
The best in the biz
Though YouTube wasn’t created to be a streaming music service, this platform remains the single most-used website in the world to listen to music legally. While full-fledged services are growing rapidly, most music lovers around the world still prefer to head to YouTube to listen to music they know and love.
While there are hundreds of thousands of different artists on YouTube with tens of millions of songs available, the vast majority of people only look for songs they are familiar with. This suggests that at least some of them are still learning about new music somewhere else, and then accessing it on Google’s vast repository of Russian dash-cam videos… and music.
But Youtube’s internal algorithms are a-changin’. Being one of the leading social media channels in the world definitely takes some doing and YouTube’s developers are constantly evolving to step up their game.
Mix ‘n match
Just like the algorithms that Spotify boasts, YouTube remembers what music you have listened to and starts to recommend videos based on your personal preferences. We have wound up watching some of the strangest videos after clicking through the suggested videos on the right-hand side a few too many times — an experience that is universal enough to have its own title: The Weird Side of YouTube.
The feature designed specifically for music is called Mix, and the suggestions are spot-on if you have been using YouTube for your music needs for a while. As with most functions that learn the user, it improves over time. It’s also easy to change, so you can choose to delete songs you do not like or which were played when a small relative made a mess of your search history. This will alter the algorithm to not suggest these particular types of songs anymore. To the dustbin of history with you, Meghan Trainor.
Mix comes in handy when you’re looking at expanding your musical arsenal. The recommendations are accurate because the algorithm understands music genres (and other personal things you don’t actually want the internet to know). But this tool can be used to to discover new artists and bands that fit your music tastes. The question really is: Where do you find it?
Typically on the YouTube home page you will find a list of different mixes, sorted according to genre, and also the main My Mix option, which compiles a list of the music YouTube thinks you would like based on your recent habits. The playlist is never-ending, because it will continue loading more videos as you listen your way through the fifty auto-generated options.
If you can’t find the My Mix option on the home page, hit up the Music section under Subscriptions in the sidebar. That should pop up the music-specific My Mix option. But… once you’ve done that for the first time, it should begin appearing on the YouTube home page. Unless it moves again. It’s a little nomadic — check back under Subscriptions -> Music again. Or you could wait a bit — YouTube as a streaming service might be getting simpler to use.
You may pay to play
But also more costly. Soon you’ll be able to pay to listen to music on YouTube. Okay, not exactly, but their parent company, Google, is planning on releasing their very own subscription service. Play Music and YouTube will merge to bring you Google’s own version of Apple Music/Spotify/Pandora.
Codenamed “Remix”, this music service will feature on-demand streaming with video clips and other YouTube-like aspects. The service is due to roll out in March this year. Sounds pretty much like regular Youtube to us, with a price-tag attached.
Apparently YouTube “expects to convert some of the millions of people who listen to music for free” into paid subscribers with this iteration. Meanwhile, some songs and videos might only be available on the paid service. This will cause world-wide anarchy. Well that’s our guess, anyway.
We won’t know exactly what will happen until Remix time rolls around. For the time being, we plan to enjoy the gargantuan amount of on-demand music at our fingertips. For free.