Although it is not nicest choice of music services, I use YouTube Music for daily listening. As someone who watches an absurd amount of videos alongside their music, I appreciate that YouTube Premium lets me enjoy both ad-free for $12 a month.
However, it’s not just about the package deal. The user experience on YouTube Music is solid, with good features. A recent trip to the beach with my partner, where our recharge levels were high but internet access was lacking, reminded me of one of my favorite features: the offline mixtape.
Downloading music to your phone is easy, of course. But how often do you forget to download a new playlist before embarking on a long plane ride or off-grid adventure? I rarely remember until we’re already on the beach, a few beers deep, and in the mood for high BPM frequencies. With offline mixing enabled, YouTube Music automatically downloads a playlist to my phone that’s a combination of longtime favorites and current obsessions.
How to use Mixtape offline
To get started, you must have an active subscription to either YouTube Music Premium ($10 per month, mostly music) or YouTube Premium ($12 per month, music and video). Curious to try YouTube Music for the first time? Check out my article packed with tips for getting started. The ad-supported tier, which is great for streaming songs without a subscription, doesn’t include the option to download music.
It’s important to understand that YouTube and YouTube Music are separate apps for your smartphone. Both apps interact when you use the same Google account. For example, if you watch a Beyoncé video on YouTube and press the thumbs up button, the song is added to a large YouTube Music playlist with all your likes.
With that, here’s how to set up your YouTube Music offline mix for a lifetime supply of custom and downloaded songs. (Well, forever as long as you keep paying subscription fees.) Open the YouTube Music app, go to bookstoreand then tap EMISSIONS.
You will most likely see a blue slider near the top of the screen. Use this tool to select the number of songs, from 1 to 100, that you want YouTube Music to keep downloaded on your device. The app estimates the duration and space required of the offline playlist. If the blue slider doesn’t appear for you, tap gear icon in the upper right corner and switch Download an offline mix on the right.
The menu page that appears when you select the gear icon shows your available space and the last time the offline mix was updated. Trying to save mobile data? Verify that Download only with Wi-Fi option is enabled. The offline shuffle function only works if the smartphone keeps free space for new downloads.
Select Clean downloads if you ever need more storage space on your phone and want to quickly remove all songs. For a more long-term solution, read contributor Simon Hill’s roundup of the best cloud storage services.
From my experience using the mixtape offline, a shorter playlist of about 20 songs contains the latest sounds that I keep on constant rotation. The neglected songs start to reappear when you expand the playlist and put it closer to the maximum of 100 songs. I appreciate the lack of a discovery element within the offline mixes – tracks from artists I’ve never heard are not included in my downloads.
What good is having all this music available at your fingertips without the means to enjoy it on something a little louder (and less cluttered) than your smartphone’s built-in speakers? WIRED’s guide to the best bluetooth speakers is an essential resource. For those still on the fence between music streaming services, writer and reviewer Matt Jancer’s article on top picks will help you choose a service based on your listening habits.