YouTube has announced a new app aimed explicitly at properly taking on streaming giants like Apple, Spotify, and Pandora, and from an early look I received, I can personally say it seems like a winner.

Simply named YouTube Music, the app, which is available now, takes all the music from the video platform and organises it, placing the high-quality releases from globally-recognised pop stars right next to the bedroom cover versions of the same songs. Nothing is hidden or lost but instead presented in a much more comfortable to digest way.

Say, for example, you want to listen to Katy Perry’s number one hit “Teenage Dream”. One of the problems with YouTube is that if you type that title in, many different videos will pop up, and depending on how new the song is, the first option may not be the official release from Katy or her label, but rather a low-quality leak or terribly-made fan lyric video. With its new app, YouTube places the official version first, but just below it offers suggestions for live versions, covers, lyric videos, and so on.

Once the music is playing, it never stops, which a representative from YouTube said was one of the few goals the company had when they set out to create a music-only app. Listeners can access a sliding scale that allows them to determine what kind of song pops up next. If users are only looking for Katy Perry, they drag the dial to one side of the scale, and the app knows to stick pretty close to Katy and her soundalikes. If the listener is feeling adventurous, the other option is to allow the algorithms to determine something that may not be from the same artist, but which might be of interest to somebody who loves that “Teenage Dream” sound.
Another neat feature is that the app allows the user to decide whether they want to listen to the song or watch the video. The YouTube app only plays videos for now, but music is different. Music videos are great, but there are millions of people who use the platform to listen to music more than they do to watch anything. The developers behind the new launch kept that in mind, and with YouTube Music it is possible to stop the video from playing without the tunes ceasing. At any point, the video can be restarted, and it will automatically pick up where the song is. 

The app is easy to navigate, and the options and features seem limitless. There is, of course, a tab that’s all about discovery, which is one of the real joys for music lovers. Both algorithmically-created playlists are relatively straightforward (new releases, big hits, recently added hip-hop), as well as human-curated rankings (the best of artist X, in memorials). I personally am most interested in a manmade listing called the Daily 40, which presents a few dozen songs per day that have some relevance, as they are new, bubbling under, or have surged in popularity on YouTube.

To entice people into trying YouTube Music, Google is offering a two week free trial of the premium experience of YouTube Music, so people can see just how much value a separate app and a monthly subscription can add. The YouTube Music app itself is free, but it works best with a subscription to the recently-launched YouTube Red, which allows for background playing and saving videos for offline streaming.