It’s been a bit of time since I last ranted about one of my biggest hangups with YouTube Music’s forceful takeover of Google Play Music, so I figured the time was right to get another complaint out there for Google’s consideration. It is well-documented by now that my biggest frustration with YouTube Music as it stands right now is the lack of a proper cast button in the web player. I honestly held out hope that Google would fix this prior to killing Google Play Music, but as we all know now, that isn’t happening just yet.
For some background, the problem is simple: YouTube Music has a great web interface and I’d much prefer to use web-based applications on my Chromebook whenever possible, but the web interface for YouTube Music has no proper cast feature. Sure, you can cast the tab, but that comes with a whole host of problems. When doing this, every notification that comes in drops the music volume down for a couple seconds. Every single time. Closing your casted tab kills the playback (with a true cast session, you can shut down the original host if you choose) so the music abruptly stops if you shut the lid on your Chromebook. Also, you can’t control the speaker volume from the tab casting UI, either, so if your cast-enabled speaker is cranked up from something prior, buckle your seatbelt!
It has been said before, but bears repeating: YouTube was the original Chromecast service and hundreds of web-based services offer a proper built-in cast functionality at this point – including YouTube. Google Play Music had Chromecast support on the web for years and competitors like Spotify have the same built right into their web-based platform. Why YouTube Music is choosing to omit this relatively-basic functionality is still one of the most absurd moves in streaming media I’ve ever seen, but there are workarounds if you are choosing to stick with YouTube Music.
How I’m getting by for now
As it stands now, the best cast setup I’m having success with right now involves the Android apps for both YouTube Music and Google Home. Opening up the Android app for YouTube Music, the UI is decent on a larger screen and it works for the most part. While I still prefer the layout on the web for my Chromebook, it gets the job done. Pulling up music and casting works just fine from here, but the app crashes from time to time and for some reason this completely stops playback. Additionally, if I shut the lid, the playback pauses, too. These are nags I’m getting used to for now, but I really loved starting a playlist on Google Play Music, hitting cast, and forgetting about where the music is coming from. For now, the only way I can enjoy that experience is from my phone.
The second part of the equation is the Google Home app because the cast layout often fails on the YouTube Music app. Sure, I can click the cast button and adjust volume when it is working, but more times than not, I go to move that volume slider and it won’t budge. This is where the Google Home app comes in and allows me to not only adjust my cast speaker volumes, but balance out the speaker group as well.
Is this a perfect setup? Absolutely not. You know what would be far simpler to work with? A cast button just like we had in the Google Play Music web player. Or the one we have with Spotify. Or the one we get in YouTube. The cast API isn’t new or mysterious for web developers and is present in all sorts of services all over the web at this point. Why Google is choosing to overlook this feature as they are killing their older music service and simultaneously trying to sell a new, cast-enabled smart speaker is a bit beyond me, but I’m still hopeful it will eventually be rectified. Until then, if you want to use YouTube Music on your Chromebook and cast your audio, be prepared to deal with a fair bit of jank.