Using YouTube as a music service

YouTube will reportedly soon launch a music streaming service; some of us are already using it that way

psy-600x450_0.jpgImage credit: REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
YouTube is great for live performances, like Psy doing Gangnam Style at the recent South Korean presidential inauguration

Word on the street is that YouTube will soon launch a streaming music service. Many people, apparently, already use YouTube to listen to music, particularly teenagers, as that Fortune piece points out. My ITworld colleague Pete Smith rightfully scratched his head and wondered why anybody would currently be using YouTube as a music service, given its unreliable performance and the existence of so many good streaming music services such as Pandora and Spotify. 

Well, it turns out that at least one person who’s pretty far removed from his teenaged years (about 23 years removed, give or take) also uses YouTube pretty heavily as a music streaming service: me. YouTube, truth be told, has become my primary source of music listening whenever I’m sitting at my laptop, which is just about all day long during the week. The basic reasons are because it offers an amazing amount of hard-to-find performances and recordings, all on demand, and some nice (and unique) features for managing playlists. 

I’m your basic classic rock fan. While my own digital library of music already contains the vast majority of studio albums put out by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, et. al., YouTube gives me a seemingless supply of live concerts, TV performances and alternative or in-progress versions of songs, all of which I love. If I want to listen to the studio version of Tommy, I’ll pull it up on iTunes. But if I want to hear the Who performing it live in 1970, YouTube it is.

Also, despite the generally crummy YouTube user interface, their playlists do offer some nice functionality. I recently discovered a handy feature that allows me to specify the starting and ending play times within each video in a playlist. For example, if I’ve found 10 different bootleg recording of a band in concert, and I want a playlist of performances of a single song within each of those concerts, I can create that playlist. A bit of a niche feature, sure, but I’ve been really enjoying it.

Of course, there are still a whole lot of drawbacks to using YouTube as a music service. The audio quality can be bad (particularly when you’re listening to concert bootlegs). Content you save in a playlist can often disappear due to copyright violations (Bob Dylan’s music regularly disappears - until someone else uploads it again). YouTube is also particularly bad, in my experience, for mobile listening. I never use it when I’m out and about; instead I dip into my own library or turn on Pandora.

Maybe YouTube’s new music streaming service will make it more viable for mobile listening. If so, it may really become my primary music source. Who knows? In the meantime, when I’m at my computer, I’ll continue to use it to get lost in vintage Pink Floyd bootlegs.

What are you favorite ways to listen to music these days? What streaming service do you use most? Is YouTube one of them? Don’t be shy; share it in the comments.

Read more of Phil Johnson's #Tech blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Phil on Twitter at @itwphiljohnson. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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