YouTube Music continues the tempo of glacier evolution and provides background playback


Enlarge / Welcome to YouTube Music. Please swipe your credit card here.

October marks the first anniversary of Google Play Music’s death, leaving only the sad shadow of a backup music service, YouTube Music, in the Google ecosystem. YouTube Music shows how far behind the streaming music wars it is with the announcement of a new feature: background music playback. Previously, playing a streaming song in the ad-supported YouTube Music app only worked when the app was open. When you navigated to something else on your phone, the music stopped. Now, five years after the service started and a year after Google Play Music was retired, you can use YouTube Music like – well – a music app without paying for YouTube Premium.

One final detail: this extremely basic feature won’t be rolling out in Canada until next month. Right now, everyone else cannot use YouTube Music like a regular music streaming app without paying for the service. Google says the free background playback will be available to “listeners all over the world” at some point, but it didn’t say when.

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


YouTube’s free tier also limits background playback, and YouTube Music’s kinky connection to YouTube is our best guess as to why YouTube Music is so slow to adopt this feature. YouTube’s music deal likely didn’t allow background playback at no extra charge, and since music deals are negotiated by country, it makes sense to renegotiate YouTube Music from country to country, with Canada first.

According to YouTube, the feature will be available in Canada on November 3rd.