YouTube Music and YouTube Premium, explained

The streaming music industry just got a little more complicated, as YouTube's evolved its major offerings with a YouTube Music subscription service and YouTube Premium (the new name for YouTube Red).

Here's what current and potential subscribers need to know.

What is YouTube Music?

YouTube's launched its new music streaming service, YouTube Music, as a mobile app (presumably on Android and iOS) and desktop web player. It aims to merge the content of the YouTube and the Google Play Music services, and compete with Spotify.

YouTube Music will feature everything you expect from a streaming music service, including millions of songs, albums, thousands of playlists and artist-based radio. Its major differentiator is YouTube's "catalog of remixes, live performances, covers and music videos" that aren't on other platforms.

  • Unblock region-restricted videos with the best YouTube VPN

How much does YouTube Music cost?

YouTube Music, similar to direct competitor Spotify, will be available as both an ad-supported free service as well as part of an ad-free $10.99 per month subscription called YouTube Music Premium. The paid version also includes two key features: background listening for multitaskers and downloadable content for offline mode.

As of Aug. 8, students starting new accounts can get a three-month trial of YouTube Music Premium (or YouTube Premium) — as opposed to the standard one-month trial, by visiting this site.

Anything cool or unique?

YouTube says the Music service's search engine will allow you to find songs whose names you don't know. Examples included searching with a description -- typing "that hipster song with the whistling" sends users to Peter Bjorn And John's "Young Folks." Searching by lyric, such as typing in "I make money moves,” brings you Cardi B's "Bodak Yellow."

Much like the current Google Play Music app (more on that below), YouTube Music will suggest music to you based on where you are and the time of day. Ostensibly, that means I'll get tunes that allow for focus during the workday, and fast-tempo jams if I go to the gym.

How does YouTube think this will compete with Spotify?

Spotify isn't called out by name in the blog post announcing YouTube Music, but the post emphasized that this new service means you can get all your music (i.e. YouTube videos and streaming songs) from the same place. This points out how Spotify and Apple Music have both yet to really nail music videos, and that YouTube is still the premiere destination for that content.

YouTube Red, seen here, will rebrand to YouTube Premium.

YouTube Red, seen here, will rebrand to YouTube Premium.

Wait, didn't YouTube Music already exist?

YouTube Music was an app for iOS and Android that focused on the music-related content on the video streaming service. In a nutshell, what's changing is the added focus of audio-only music, and the two tiers of subscriptions.

What about Google Play Music Subscribers?

Members of the Google Play Music $9.99 per month subscription service will get YouTube Music Premium for free. Also, amidst all this shakeup and rebranding, neither the Google Play Music service nor its app will change at all.

Update: Google Play Music is no longer available.

What is YouTube Premium?

Less is changing over with YouTube Red, as it rebrands to YouTube Premium. Its core features won't change — you'll still get to watch videos without ads, listen to them in the background on mobile devices and save clips for offline viewing. YouTube Premium also provides access to YouTube Original programming, such as Cobra Kai and Step Up: High Water.

We've just found out that YouTube Premium downloads will now rise to a sharper maximum resolution, of 1080p, a rung above the previous 720p limit.

MORE: Apple Music vs. Spotify: Streaming Services Compared

And just as was the case when YouTube Red included Google Play Music, YouTube Premium will include YouTube Music Premium.

Oh, and don't confuse it with YouTube's live television streaming service. Our YouTube Premium vs YouTube TV guide can explain the difference.

What about current YouTube Red subscribers?

As a YouTube Red subscriber — yes, I will pay to remove ads and watch YouTube videos offline — I'm happy to note that current Red subscribers keep their $9.99 per month subscription rate when YouTube Red changes over to YouTube Premium. YouTube Red already includes Google Play Music, and that appears to be sticking around.

What about family plans?

In the comments section for the announcement post, forum member Andrew "Covarr" Covarrubias asked about family plan pricing. Such discounts have yet to be announced, and I've reached out to YouTube for comment.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.