Conventional wisdom surrounding music streaming goes something like this: Spotify rules all, and people with slightly different taste in their chosen platform will opt for Apple, or another service dedicated entirely to music. The big music players are all technological marvels in their own right, having revolutionised the broader music industry and bringing unbridled convenience to listeners everywhere. And I’m here to tell you to stream your music somewhere else.
YouTube is part of Google’s far-reaching business, so using the platform for streaming music isn’t exactly supporting an upstart waging war on corporate America, but YouTube is a treasure trove of obscure and wonderful deep cuts that will help you stretch your musical taste into unexpected areas. I’m not talking about YouTube Music, either, but rather plain old YouTube.
If your musical exploration feels stale, here’s why you should go back to basics.
Playlists not curated by an algorithm
Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of rare gems on Spotify. But for the most part, the playlists you’re getting are curated behind the scenes by the platform’s architects, which gives these arranged tracks an artificial vibe. In one of the last examples of the internet being curated by users, rather than an algorithm purely for the sake of profit, YouTube is brimming with playlists and DJ sets curated by people motivated to share music organically and spread it far and wide.
For example, here’s two mixes I’ve been digging recently. The first is a mix of tracks from Japanese funk/soft rock artist Tatsuro Yamashita:
The second is a DJ set of Brazilian ‘80s boogie funk and disco:
The latter is a good example of how YouTube can aid in musical discovery in easier ways than some music platforms. All of the tracks in this set from DJ Milos Kaiser are, uh, rare, to use a term vinyl snobs love. I wouldn’t have heard them if this guy hadn’t dug these out of a crate somewhere, filmed himself playing them, and uploaded the video to YouTube. Of course, there are plenty of playlists curated by algorithms, but you don’t have to pay attention to them.
Its interface leads to more organic discovery
I understand that Spotify is sleek and that its mobile-first design works seamlessly on the go. But using YouTube to find new tunes doesn’t leave you feeling bombarded, or like you have to consult special features meant specifically for the discovery of new artists. Personally speaking, I’ve never listened to an artist on Spotify using shuffle without eventually hearing songs from other artists that I really don’t like.
YouTube’s algorithm feels a little bit less overbearing, since you’ll get suggestions for new tracks at the end of a video instead of an immediate switch to a song you didn’t select. Of course, this is contingent on whether or not you’ve turned autoplay off, but it remains true that you’ll stay more within the musical realm of your choosing.
There’s real musical communities on YouTube
Unlike a traditional YouTuber’s page, which comes with the many quirks and headaches typical of modern internet culture, pages belonging to record labels and various musical communities usually bring less bullshit. Even before the internet became the corporate hellscape that it is today, DJ groups, DIY music publications, and record labels had their own YouTube channels. Even though YouTube might not be your preference for music at the moment, there’s no denying that many of these groups are thriving, even in spite of other platforms’ convenience and popularity.
For example, take the musical curation group Boiler Room, which has a 2.6 million-strong subscriber base on YouTube. On Spotify, it’s just a shadow of that robust community, with scattered playlists curated by Boiler Room listeners. If you’re into this kind of thing — or any other facet of the DIY music scene — you’d be smart to subscribe to any of these channels on YouTube, and get an email update every time something interesting is uploaded.
Musical discovery is all about being guided by intuition, so, by all means, you should do what you want. But it certainly can’t hurt to test the waters of a different platform if your routine feels boring, and plain old YouTube might be a useful place to return.