Big news for those that use YouTube Music: the streaming service’s website is getting a much-needed redesign that will adopt the side navigation drawer you get when you head to YouTube.com – only this one will be collapsible.
And that means much quicker access to saved playlists for the purported 80 million YouTube Music and Premium subscribers globally (according to the YouTube Blog, as of September 2022). Why? Because instead of the current top app bar with Home, Explore, and Library, those three sections will soon appear in a navigation drawer that can be collapsed (for a nav rail-like experience).
As first spotted by 9to5Mac, when this collapsible side-nav drawer is open, which requires a click, you can scroll through 50 recent playlists with Liked Music and New (podcast) Episodes – if you live in the US at least – bumped to the top, rather than having to click through to Library, then Playlists to have at your curations. As well as this, there’s a shortcut to help create new ones more quickly.
Hovering over a playlist brings up a play button to start playback – once pressed, a tap opens the full playlist. You don’t have to use it if you don’t want to (did we mention it is collapsible?), but YouTube Music apparently preserves the last open/close state between visits.
The app bar, meanwhile, will be home to a search field, which shows a “songs, albums, artists, and podcasts” hint, while Cast is still up in the top right.
Analysis: YouTube Music still struggles to find a USP, but a more YouTube-like overhaul is a very good move
Although our initial tests in the UK (even when deploying our US VPN) didn’t reflect the big update, it’s easy to see that this redesign (the first big overhaul of YouTube Music’s web experience since a major relaunch in 2018) makes it very similar to regular YouTube on your desktop.
And it is necessary. Of all the best music streaming services out there, (Apple Music, Tidal, Spotify, Deezer, Amazon Music HD, Qobuz) one music platform seems often to be missed off the list – and that is YouTube Music.
YouTube Music’s ad-supported free tier has been around since 2015. YouTube Music Premium is its paid-for service, which costs $9.99 / £9.99 / AU$11.99, and gets you offline listening and ad-free music that doesn’t stop when you lock your screen or switch to another app.
The thing is, given the phenomenal success of YouTube since 2005, the company’s dedicated Music offering has suffered something of an identity crisis. Even the 80 million subscribers claim (comprising free, paid-for and trial memberships) is small fry when you see the paid-for figures from heavy-hitters like Spotify, which have an estimated 229 million in premium members. Meanwhile, Apple Music is expected to be at around 108 million subscribers in 2023, according to BankMyCell.
While we have liked some of YouTube Music’s nifty features for turning queues into playlists, Wear OS streaming and YouTube Music Recap (YTM’s version of Spotify Wrapped), we’ve often felt YouTube Music’s casting feature could be better – and given updates from rivals such as Spotify’s AI DJ or Apple Music Sing priming itself for the TikTok generation thanks to Continuity Camera, (which allows you to use your iPhone or iPad as a camera by pairing with your Mac or Apple TV 4K via Wi-Fi) YouTube Music does have to do something big to keep up.
Is this it? It’s certainly a start. By finally decided to make its somewhat overlooked music streaming offering look much more like its hugely successful video-streaming platform, YouTube Music’s big web update can only be a good thing.