The music streaming wars are getting more aggressive — and more specific. Companies seem aware of the fact that versatile and reliable discoverability features are key to winning and retaining users. For its own part, YouTube Music has been trying to improve its library for listeners while giving them options to create their own playlists, share them with others, access song lyrics, and optimizing direct uploads. Now, according to Google, YouTube Music is replacing its Hotlist tab with a new, more refined option called "Explore."
RIP, Hotlist, we hardly knew ye — YouTube Music debuted Hotlist with, it seems, great dreams in mind. The essential purpose of Hotlist was to act as YouTube Music's trending page. For the majority of its relatively short lifetime, Hotlist featured trending videos based on users' local territory. YouTube Music appeared to have pinned its cultural aspirations on the tab as evidenced in comments to The Verge in 2018.
Two years ago, music director T. Jay Fowler told the outlet that Hotlist "is the place that a user would go to see what’s going on right now in their region. It's cultural impact, it's brand-new stuff, it's stuff that’s going on and being discussed in headlines, things like that."
Before it's taken off the shelf, here's what Hotlist looked like.
New Releases plus Moods and Genres — It sounds like YouTube Music's Explore tab will pivot away from videos and focus on helping users find more songs and playlists within their favorite genres (and moods). Explore will come with two sub-categories: New Releases along with Moods and Genres. Sneak previews of the tab show that moods and genres will showcase types like chill, feel-good, party, energy, romance, sad, commute, focus, and more.
Success is in the specifics — YouTube Music is onto something here. If you've been an active user of YouTube for years now, you probably have noticed how videos with oddly specific titles — such as "Gymnopédie No. 1 but your depressed neighbor don't stop playing that song for an hour in a row" or "'I Love You' by Billie Eilish but you're driving in the rain" — garner millions of hits and thumbs up. These are specific moods and while YouTube Music can't possibly fit those titles in singular consumer-facing options, they can distill the gist of it and reroute users into those worlds. 8tracks did it way before these mainstream types and won hardcore fans as a result.
For now, time will tell if this experiment in discoverability will yield YouTube Music the success it seeks. If you're interested in playing around with it, just know Explore goes live for both iOS and Android over the next few weeks. Desktop users, too, will get to try Explore in the not-too-distant future.