YouTube recently rolled out Creator Music, a platform that brings licensed, mainstream music to user-generated videos. But Google’s ambitions in the audio world don’t end with its creator-friendly program. On YouTube Music, it’s now possible to create customized radio stations based around specific songs, artists, and moods.
The new stations are distinct from YouTube Music’s preexisting radio options, which are curated by the site itself. Those stations, like the analogous ones on Spotify, can be shaped by a user’s listening history. The user-generated stations offer a higher level of customization. Listeners can select up to 30 artists to be featured on a single hub, and they can further refine their stations by using filters like “chill songs” and “new discoveries.”
Depending on each user’s preference, the customizable stations can be limited to tracks from the selected artists or expanded to feature similar-sounding tracks from new artists. Once the preferred parameters are chosen, algorithmic recommendations determine the specific songs that will be heard on each station.
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Internet radio has a long history. Entrepreneurs like Mark Cuban put radio on the internet in the 90s (and eventually became punchlines in the show Silicon Valley). Services like Pandora and Last.fm flourished in the aughts, but their radio stations were typically based around specific artists, songs, or genres. That formula has endured as the radio station status quo on Spotify, YouTube Music, and other contemporary platforms — until now.
“With this new radio functionality, we’re flipping [the existing] model on its head, empowering users to create their own radios from the ground up, by combining key music building blocks such as artists and common music descriptors,” a YouTube rep told TechCrunch. “The result is giving users a lot more control over their music listening experiences, and allowing them to slice their music in many ways currently unavailable to them, on YouTube Music or really any music service.”
Some of YouTube Music’s competitors, such as Amazon’s Amp service, have worked with creators to offer curated stations for fans. As YouTube hypes its own radio hubs, it could enlist members of its community to show off the flexibility of its new service. Several YouTube stars have experience as radio hosts, and their audio acumen is a potential asset for YouTube Music.
Even if YouTube doesn’t go that route, its updated radio service is full of possibilities. Between the new stations and Creator Music, the audio experience on YouTube is more customizable than ever before.