YouTube Music continues icy pace of development and adds background playback | GeekComparison

Welcome to YouTube Music.  Swipe your credit card here.
enlarge Welcome to YouTube Music. Swipe your credit card here.

October marks the first anniversary of the demise of Google Play Music, leaving only the sad shadow of a replacement music service, YouTube Music, in Google’s ecosystem. YouTube Music shows how far it is behind the streaming music wars with the announcement of a new feature: background music playback. Previously, playing a streaming song on the ad-supported YouTube Music app only worked if you had the app open — navigating to anything else on your phone would stop the music. Now, five years after the service launched and a year after the Google Play Music shutdown, you can use YouTube Music as — well — a music app without paying for YouTube Premium.

One final detail: this ultra-basic feature isn’t rolling out to Canada until next month. For now, anyone still can’t use YouTube Music as a regular music streaming app without paying for the service. Google says free background playback will be available to “listeners around the world” at some point, but it hasn’t said when.

SoundCloud and Spotify offer free background streaming, as did Google Play Music before its shutdown, but YouTube Music hasn’t been able to replicate that feature for the past five years. YouTube Music Premium subscribers at $9.99 can play music in the background, and the feature is available for music you’ve uploaded yourself. But when you listened to the ad-supported streaming catalog, the music just stopped in the background.

YouTube’s free tier also limits background playback, and YouTube Music’s tangled connection to YouTube is our best guess as to why YouTube Music is so slow to use this feature. YouTube’s music deal probably hasn’t allowed background viewing without paying extra, and since music deals are negotiated country-by-country, it makes sense that a country-by-country renegotiation of YouTube Music would be rolled out, with Canada being the first.

YouTube says the feature will launch in Canada on November 3.

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