YouTube Music Reveals Changes for Canada-Based Users — Including an Audio-Only Free Version

YouTube app music controls
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YouTube app music controls
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Photo Credit: YouTube

Earlier this month, YouTube Music announced plans to make background listening available to ad-supported users in Canada. Now, possibly in response to criticism from paid subscribers, the Google-owned streaming service has elaborated on its upcoming changes – including by making clear that free users will only have access to audio.

YouTube Music just recently disclosed these and other details concerning its updates, which are set to arrive on November 3rd in Canada ahead of a possible international rollout sometime down the line. Upon unveiling the quick-approaching changes towards October’s beginning, the platform relayed that ad-supported accounts would gain access to background listening, specifically including the ability to play music “after minimizing the app or turning off your screen.”

Though the feature has long been available to most other streaming services’ free users, some on social media took issue with the pivot, expressing the belief that background listening was previously a major selling point for YouTube Music Premium, which costs $9.99 per month.

And as initially mentioned, YouTube Music’s team has expanded on the changes, penning a blog post on the subject and scheduling an AMA event with product manager Jason Robinson for 12 PM PST this afternoon.

According to the concise document, YouTube Music free users in Canada will be able to enjoy music in the background, “shuffle play personalized playlists mixes,” “find the perfect mood mixes for activities like workout, commute and more,” and explore “millions” of on-platform songs.

YouTube Music Premium subscribers’ “additional exclusive benefits,” for their part, include the ability to “listen to songs on-demand,” skip tracks without limits, enjoy an ad-free experience, and, most notably, “watch videos on YouTube Music.”

Regarding the questions that users have posed for Robinson – there were 27 replies to the blog post at the time of this piece’s writing – many individuals appear concerned with the YouTube Music changes’ impact on playlists, possible effects in terms of free users’ access to their own uploaded music, and the shuffle algorithm that the limited-skip playlists will employ.

It seems that YouTube Music free listeners will be able to circumvent the lack of video by navigating to YouTube proper – though the website itself doesn’t support background listening. More broadly, it’s unclear when (or whether) the changes will reach countries besides Canada.

For reference, YouTube said early last month that it boasted 50 million subscribers between Premium and Music – up from 30 million in November of 2020 – while a report in July suggested that Spotify was losing market share to streaming rivals. Nevertheless, the Stockholm-based platform, which announced Shopify-powered merch stores yesterday, reported a 24 percent year-over-year hike in ad-supported accounts during Q2 2021, with 210 million free users to its credit.

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