In the Great Music Streaming War, it’s clear that Google Play Music (GPM) is a mere blip on the map next to titans like Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon. You’ll never see an artist tweet out a Google Play link to their new single. This is for good reason:
- The software is absolute trash.
- The search function is atrocious — songs in my library don’t even show up at the top results. What the hell, Google?
- Once the top pay-per-stream platform, GPM has fallen to 4th place, behind Spotify, Apple and Pandora, but ahead of Amazon. The decreased compensation to artists is no doubt in part due to their horrible app struggling to keep a user base.
- The UI is an unforgivable eyesore. The song titles don’t even scroll when they exceed the screen space!
Despite these crippling shortcomings, GPM has one major advantage above the others that prevents me from making the switch. The funny part is, it isn’t the app itself that convinces me to stay – it’s the fringe benefits. For suffering through the awfulness that is Google Play Music, you are rewarded with a superior service: YouTube Red.
When you start a subscription with GPM, you are automatically signed up for YouTube Red, which is essentially an ads-free version of YouTube with bonus content to boot (actually, you get both apps if you pay for either service, but that’s neither here nor there). Like many Google products, the platform has been under heavy criticism and scrutiny, and deservedly so. However, it’s arguably the greatest audio platform available today.
Live performances, rare remixes, mixtapes, podcasts, and even hard-to-find comedy shows are in endless supply among the billions of hours of content available on YouTube. Where else can I compose a playlist of J. Dilla and Knxwledge remixes of D’Angelo songs? For a digital crate-digger like myself, this is a godsend. Anything you can find off Bandcamp or Soundcloud, you can probably find an upload of it on YouTube. Good luck finding those tracks on Apple Music!
One of the main advantages of YouTube Red is that I can save these playlists offline and essentially merge them with my GPM library. In fact, I can even search for these videos within the Play Music app and find their YouTube links at the bottom of the page. And to add to the perks, with YT Red I can play the videos with my phone screen locked — perfect for keeping my playlist going without running down my phone’s battery life. Best of all, these playlists, unlike much of the GPM, are easily found in my YouTube Library tab on mobile, lined up and ready to be heard. Of course, YouTube’s copyright policies prevent many popular albums from appearing on the site. Still, this is the only acceptable reason to ever resort to using GPM.
Together, these apps provide a much more varied abundance of music than any single competing streaming service due to the very nature of YouTube’s limitless platform. Though the experience can be downright frustrating, the sheer availability of obscure tracks available through Google is hard to deny, and so, like the mother of a rotten child, I try my best to love it while acknowledging its faults and thinking how nice the neighbor’s kids are. But my little hellion has a kickass brother who makes a great case for putting up with them both.