YouTube vs YouTube Music vs Premium | All you need to know banner image

YouTube vs YouTube Music vs Premium | All you need to know

April 21, 2019, 2:59 a.m.
Since the creation of YouTube as a service in February 2005 to the launch of YouTube Premium (formerly YouTube Red) subscription service on November 12, 2014 as ‘Music Key’ where YouTube offers advertising-free streaming, access to exclusive content, background and offline video playback on mobile devices, and access to the Google Play Music "All Access" service. Now with the final announcement on May 17, 2018, of the YouTube Music service as a successor of Google Play Music, which includes a web-based desktop player and redesigned mobile app. It has more dynamic recommendations based on various factors, and use of Google AI technology to search for songs based on lyrics and description.

This post is not only for video lovers but also for those who like to listen to audio, but the main problem is about choosing the best source. After years of searching and striking to multiple sources, anyone who would have tried to do so must have realized that for videos YouTube is the best, but when it comes to music, then the available options either lack UI or advanced features like recommendations and playlist.

Now how a user ascertains the UI and features:

Firstly, the UI must provide easy navigation and search with the in-play mode being descriptive as well as concise.

Secondly, the user looks for features like personalization and better “next song” recommendation while using a video or audio app. For example, I’m very apprehensive about the next song which is going to get played, and if that turns out to be an odd one, then I will either switch the playlist or will keep on checking the list every time a next video/song is going to get played. To provide the best results, most of these platforms are using machine learning but every algorithm requires data to improve the quality of the result, and that is why I have felt that in terms of videos, YouTube disappoints the least. Also, the personalized playlist these apps build for you largely depends on your likes, repeats and also the likes and repeats of those (Colleagues) who you are interacting the most with your log in ids. If the personalization and recommendation of an app suit us, then it becomes our favorite.

Today, we will first analyze YouTube, YouTube Music, and Premium based on UI, Personalization, Recommendation, Inter-device support & data movement. After that, we will try to draw a comparison.


It’s simple to say about YouTube as it holds the 2nd position according to Alexa rankings, that no doubt it is the best video-hosting service available to us. The UI is great with comments, descriptions, navigation, and search just at fingertips and through its algorithm gulping so much of data, recommendation and personalized blocks are great. Sometimes what you need is to play a song of your choice at random and what follows next will make your mood, and the very next time you want a repeat, YouTube will be ready with a mix tab just for you. The service is available on all platforms, be it desktop, mobile or via app and with your login info, your preferences remain synced.

YouTube Music

It is early to comment about YTM but after using it for more than a month, I think very much can be told about it. To start with when I first logged in to YouTube Music with my Gmail ID, I found some of the songs of my preference getting listed on the Home screen. There was no list of the mix as I used to have in my YouTube home page. What I did to test the recommendation was to play “Girls like you by Maroon 5,” and the next song which played was “Thunder by Imagine Dragons,” and yes it was among my preferences. This means that my preferences were getting imported from YouTube but not all. After I let the songs play for around 3-4 hours, next time I opened YTM I was getting “Your Mixtape” option on my YTM homepage. The UI is good and is similar to that of Spotify with a black background and white text. For the starting day, I felt the absence of categorization based on the genre which I used to find when I was using Google Play Music but as the days went categorized recommendation and playlists kept on showing up. Inter-device support is there with a separate app and desktop version being available on which makes it convenient to use, but if you are looking to import all your data from Google Play Music to YouTube Music, then you need to wait for a while as the Google team is currently working on that.

YouTube Music Premium

Well YouTube is for video and YTM is for music then why do we have YouTube Music premium?

The answer is simple; it is for both with some enhanced features like:

  • Ad-free streaming ( Audio )
  • Background Streaming ( You can play your mixes even with a locked screen)
  • Download feature to listen on the go.
  • Some original Music tracks are available only for premium users.
  • Higher Audio Quality

So what is YouTube Premium?

It is a renamed version of YouTube Red providing ad-free, offline and background access to YouTube. YouTube Premium Subscription contains ad-free YouTube with YouTube Music Premium and access to YouTube Originals.

Now that was just a brief, let’s try to get some questions related to YouTube Music which needs to be answered especially for a new user.

What is the Current Audio Quality of YouTube Music & Premium?

Right now the Normal Stream is at 128kbps AAC bitrate, the low quality at 48kbps HE-AAC. The Premium Users are provided with high-quality bitrate, i.e. 256kbps AAC.

Note: 256kbps AAC is equivalent to 320kbps CBR mp3. 

Can a user subscribe to a user-created playlist as we use to have in Google Play Music and Spotify? Also, can those playlists be shared?

Yes, you can add someone else’s playlist to your library, and the playlists can be shared with others (subscribers as well as non-subscriber). You can even search for the user-created playlist.

How does the recommendation improve on YouTube Music if they are terrible for you right now?

All the recommendations are based on the Google algorithm to provide you with the best & as per the words of a Product Manager from Google… “The more you listen to it and thumbs it up, the better we get at learning.”

After the question answer, let us get back to our basic question of comparison which will let us decide which one to choose as the best.

YouTube vs. YouTube Music vs. Premium (Point-wise comparison)

  • YouTube, as we all know, is all about video, YouTube Music is also YouTube with the only difference of having different playlists, and YouTube Music premium is the one in which you get access to audio files, so that background play becomes accessible. (the Basic thing is that you only get full access to YouTube Music only when you become a premium subscriber)
  • They have different playlists.
  • With YouTube, you can watch a video, with YouTube Music you can watch or listen to Music video of a song but with premium, you get access to Video Music, Audio-only mode of the video and if available, then also of the original audio file of the song. ( Some audio tracks are only available for the premium users as per the authority of the artists and their labels)
  • YouTube and YTM are with ads, but the premium is ad-free.
  • Only with premium, you get the access to download all songs which is not the case with YouTube as it doesn’t allow you to download all videos.
  • Background play, the reason why I thought of installing YouTube Music is available only with a Premium

Final Word

As mentioned above, I started using the YouTube Music because of the background play feature which I later came to know is available only with premium subscription but after using it for more than a month, I’m getting used to it. My usage of YouTube has reduced drastically and nowadays I’m only going there to watch some gameplay or tutorials. I love the Premium features as the original audio files feel more like a song without extra video clutter and they sometimes even have loud and boosted music in comparison to Music Video. So overall I’m happy with YouTube Music (Premium) and will be willing to continue with that.

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