Although it’s not the coolest pick of music services, I use YouTube Music for everyday listening. As someone who watches an absurd amount of videos alongside their music, I appreciate that YouTube Premium lets me enjoy both without ads for $12 a month.
It’s not just about the bundle deal, however. 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 in short supply, reminded me about one of my favorite features: the offline mixtape.
Downloading music to your phone is easy, sure. But how often do you forget to download a fresh playlist before embarking on a long plane ride or off-grid adventure? I rarely remember until we’re already at the beach, a few beers deep, and in the mood for high-BPM bops. With the offline mixtape enabled, YouTube Music automatically downloads a playlist to my phone that’s a combination of long-time favorites and current obsessions.
How to Use the Offline Mixtape
To start off, you need to have an active subscription to either YouTube Music Premium ($10 a month, mainly music) or YouTube Premium ($12 a month, music and videos). Curious about trying YouTube Music for the first time? Check out my article filled with tips on getting started. The ad-supported tier, which is great for streaming songs without a subscription, does not include the option to download music.
It’s important to understand that YouTube and YouTube Music are separate apps for your smartphone. The two apps do 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 hefty 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 eternal fountain of personalized, downloaded songs. (Well, eternal as long as you keep paying the subscription fees.) Open the YouTube Music app, go to your Library, and then tap 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 on your device. The app estimates the offline playlist’s time length and storage required. If the blue slider does not appear for you, tap the gear icon in the top right corner and toggle Download an offline mixtape to the right.
The menu page that appears when you select the gear icon displays your available storage and the last time the offline mixtape was updated. Trying to conserve cellular data? Verify that the Download over Wi-Fi only option is turned on. The offline mixtape feature only works if your smartphone retains free space for new downloads.
Select Clear downloads if you ever need more available storage on your phone and want to quickly slough off all the songs. For a more long-term solution, go read contributor Simon Hill’s roundup of the best services for cloud storage.
From my experience using the offline mixtape, a shorter playlist of around 20 songs features the most recent bangers I keep in constant rotation. Neglected tracks begin to resurface when you expand the playlist and set 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 listened to are not snuck 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 garbled) 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 the top choices will help you select a service based on your listening habits.