YouTube Music free accounts will soon support background listening

In the music streaming business, Spotify is still king, and Apple Music is often portrayed as its biggest rival. Of course, there are also other players in that field, including what was once separately Google Play Music and YouTube Music. The latter has now become Google's one and only contender in that arena, but it still has to make a blip in many music lovers' radars. That's because it has been lagging in some core features its rivals have long had, which is finally starting to change in one small but important way.

Music streaming services are meant to let subscribers enjoy and focus on the music, not spend their time gawking at the app's screen. Being able to continue playing music even when the app is running in the background has long been a staple feature on Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Tidal, and the like. In contrast, YouTube Music seems to think it's the main YouTube app and immediately stops playing when you navigate away from the app or when the screen turns off.

You could, of course, pay a monthly fee to get a feature that other services offer for free, which is one of the many reasons potential subscribers have turned away from YouTube Music. That, fortunately, changes today as the service announces the arrival of background listening for users on the free tier. Now they can conveniently listen to their favorite tunes while on the run or working without unnecessarily draining their phone's battery by keeping the screen always on.

Other than that, however, the same restrictions to free accounts still apply. Those are stuck listening to ad-interrupted radio stations or shuffled personalized playlists. Of course, if you want to get rid of those as well as gain other features, like offline listening, you'll have to shell out for the usual subscription fee.

Background listening for free accounts will roll out first to YouTube Music users in Canada starting November 3. Unfortunately, YouTube isn't giving any other hints when the same upgrade will be available elsewhere, leaving it at "stay tuned" for further information. Hopefully, it won't wait too long to make available what is already a basic feature on other services.