Starting next month, YouTube Music is getting free background listening in a major revamp of the streaming service’s ad-supported tier. As part of that, the YouTube Music app is going audio-only and will no longer play videos if you don’t pay for Premium.

With background play, the application will keep streaming music when it’s no longer open or your screen is off. This previously required a paid YouTube Premium (or Music Premium) subscription. Today, those that don’t pay can watch videos found in the Home and Explore feeds, as well as search. They cannot, however, use the seamless “Song/Video” switcher at the top of the Now Playing screen.

To balance the upcoming change, free YouTube Music users will no longer be able to watch music videos in the app. This is becoming a YouTube Premium perk as Google shifts YouTube Music for free users to be an audio-only experience. Users are advised to use the main YouTube client for their regular video-watching.

This change starts on November 3, when free background play rolls out. It’s first coming to Canada with “global expansion plans” not yet detailed. Google confirmed to us this change to videos in YouTube Music, while a help post lays out the new tiering system.

That that don’t pay for YouTube Music (and see an “Upgrade” tab” in the bottom bar) can:

  • listen to music in the background 
  • shuffle play personalized mixes (that are made just for you!)
  • find the perfect mood mixes for activities like workout, commute and more
  • explore millions of songs & thousands of playlists, free of cost

Meanwhile, YouTube Premium lets users:

  • listen to songs on-demand 
  • watch videos on YouTube Music
  • skip tracks an unlimited number of times
  • enjoy YouTube Music without ads

It comes as Apple Music on Monday introduced a cheaper “Voice Plan.” As per usual, Google and YouTube are just combating that with a free “radio-like” tier that is supported with advertising.

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Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: