Although it is not the best selection of music services, I use YouTube Music to listen to every day. As someone who watches an insane number 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. The user experience on YouTube Music is solid, with decent features. A recent trip to the beach with my partner, where our rejuvenation levels were high but internet access was poor, reminded me of one of my favorite features: the offline mixtape.
Downloading music to your phone is easy, safe. 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 it until we’re already on the beach, having some deep beers and wanting some high BPM bops. With offline mixtape enabled, YouTube Music automatically downloads a playlist to my phone that’s a mix of long-time favorites and current obsessions.
How to use the Mixtape offline
To get started, you must have an active subscription to YouTube Music Premium ($10/month, mostly music) or YouTube Premium ($12/month, music and videos). Curious to try YouTube Music for the first time? Check out my article full of tips on how to get started. The ad-supported tier, which is great for streaming songs without a subscription, doesn’t include the option to download music.
It is important to understand that YouTube and YouTube Music are separate applications for your smartphone. The two apps interact when you use the same Google account. For example, if you watch a Beyoncé video on YouTube and hit the thumbs-up button, the song is added to a sizable playlist on YouTube Music with all of your likes.
With that out of the way, here’s how to set up your offline mixtape on YouTube Music for an endless source of custom, downloaded songs. (Well, forever as long as you keep paying the subscription fees.) Open the YouTube Music app, go to your Libraryand then touch downloads.
You’ll likely see a blue slider near the top of the screen. Use this tool to choose the number of songs, from 1 to 100, that you want YouTube Music to keep downloaded to your device. The app calculates the required duration and storage of the offline playlist. If the blue slider doesn’t appear for you, tap the gear icon in the top right corner and toggle Download a mixtape offline On the right.
The menu page that appears when you select the gear icon shows your available storage and the last time the offline mixtape was updated. Trying to conserve mobile data? Check that the Download over Wi-Fi only the option is activated. The offline mixtape feature only works if your smartphone retains free space for new downloads.
Select delete downloads if you ever need more available storage on your phone and want to quickly get rid of all the songs. For a longer-term solution, read contributor Simon Hill’s roundup of the best services for cloud storage.
Based on my offline mixtape experience, a shorter playlist of around 20 songs features the latest hits that I keep in constant rotation. Forgotten tracks start to resurface when you expand the playlist and adjust it closer to the 100-song maximum. I appreciate the lack of a discovery element within the offline mixtape: songs from artists I’ve never heard didn’t sneak into 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 distorted) than your smartphone’s built-in speakers? WIRED’s guide to the best bluetooth speakers is an essential resource. For those still torn between music streaming services, writer and reviewer Matt Jancer’s article on the best options will help you select a service based on your listening habits.