YouTube Music Radio Stations Still Aren't Great

YouTube Music Radio Stations Still Aren’t Great

Is it just me or have YouTube Music radio stations never been good? It’s a somewhat silly question, because I’m confident that there are plenty others [1] [2] [3] who feel this way. What’s my beef? Let me explain.

When I pick a song for YouTube Music to base a radio station on, it doesn’t take long for the service to inject songs that have little to no business in a playlist along with the song I picked. Other times, the playlist has so little variety that I’d be better off going to an artist’s page and hitting play on their discography.

From personal experience, this is very apparent when I listen to decades-based playlists, such as 60s and 80s. For example, I’ll start a radio playlist based on Depeche Mode, which I equate to 80s synth pop and new wave. I expect to see lots of other 80s song from groups such as Pet Shop Boys, The Cure, etc. While there are tracks sprinkled in from those groups, YouTube Music opts to place a lot more modern music in there from groups like Tame Impala, Daft Punk, and MGMT. While you could certainly group those names together on some musical list, it’s just not what I had in mind.

Another interesting assortment of tunes would be the ABBA radio station that it made for me recently. On this playlist, the second song right after ABBA’s Fernando is Gordon Lightfoot’s Sundown. Great song, but really? The real issue, when you boil it down, is a lack of variety from the algorithm that is picking the tunes. I can see that it’s using my own personal listening history to roughly group things together, but if there’s a vibe I’m going for, it will hardly ever get it right.

I compare YouTube Music’s radio feature to Spotify, which has a really great radio experience, with a ton of variety and groups/bands/songs that I’ve never heard before. If I want to hear new music, I use Spotify. If I want my trusted classic songs, I go to YouTube Music.

I’m still paying the grandfathered $7.99/month, so as long as I keep that price, there’s no way I’m getting rid of YouTube Music. That won’t stop me from wishing we could improve the service, though.

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