Google’s plans to wind down its Google Play Music service in favor of the company’s newer YouTube Music have been known for some time. But Google this week has given users a deadline on making the switch. The company says YouTube Music will fully replace Google Play Music in December 2020, at which point Google Play Music users will no longer be able to stream from or otherwise use the Google Play Music app.
Though December is the final deadline for being able to export from the Google Play Music app, your ability to stream from the Google Play Music app will end before then.
In September 2020, users in New Zealand and South Africa will be the first to lose access to stream or use the Google Play Music app. The rest of the world will lose their access in October.
However, Google will continue to make your content available for export through December. Through the transfer tool released in May, Google Play Music users will be able to export their playlists, uploads, purchases, likes and more to YouTube Music. Users also can use the Google Takeout service to export their data and download their purchased and uploaded music.
For those considering making a switch to a rival streaming service, like Spotify, there aren’t official tools available, but there are third-party options, like Soundiiz, TuneMyMusic, MusConv and others.
Google says it will also be making changes to the Google Play store and Music Manager.
Starting this month, users will no longer be able to make purchases or pre-order music from Google Play Music through Music Manager, nor will they be able to upload and download music.
The company has been preparing YouTube Music in advance of this shift to address complaints Google Play Music users had with earlier versions of the service. This year, Google increased playlist length from 1,000 to 5,000 songs and added support for uploads (up to 100,000 tracks — 50,000 more than on Google Play Music). It has also rolled out offline listening, lyrics and an Explore tab for discovery, and a tool for transferring podcast subscriptions and episode progress to Google Podcasts.
YouTube Music offers a variety of playlist options now, too, including collaborative playlists built with friends and new programmed playlists built by editors. Assistive technology now also makes personalized suggestions of what to add when you’re building a YouTube Music playlist.
YouTube Music service has expanded its reach across platforms, as well, with support for Android TV, Google Maps (for music while navigating) and via Google Assistant in recent days.
For any user who doesn’t opt to move to YouTube Music, Google says subscriptions will be automatically canceled.
Google’s strategy with music has been overly complicated for some time (not unlike its strategy with messaging and communication apps). When users signed up for YouTube Premium (previously YouTube Red), they’d automatically receive access to Google Play Music, and vice versa. And Google continued to sell YouTube Music as a separate subscription. In other words, Google created a world where it wasn’t only competing against big streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify and Pandora, it was also competing against itself.
Now it’s hoping to shift its streamers to YouTube Music. The idea came about because YouTube for a long time has been a way to access free music, thanks to a deep catalog of officially licensed music videos, live performances and other music content. So why not upsell YouTube’s freeloading music fans on an ad-free, upgraded music experience? That strategy may have worked to some extent, but it’s more recently being challenged. Last week, Facebook announced deals with record labels to make music videos free on its platform, as well. If user behavior shifts as a result, YouTube’s ability to funnel free music fans into a premium product could be impacted, too.