YouTube Playlist Switcharoo

This is an interesting puzzle caused by YouTube pulling a switch-a-roo on a playlist.

TLDR version: What do you do when YouTube plays a different album than the official playlist link they show?

Detailed Waffle version:
This is the edit that has caused the question:

I am not a digital expert, so @tigerman325 and others I’d be interested in other input.

We have a Release added with a You Tube Music link from a account. But the music you HEAR is not the album they present.

Album is supposed to be the 1975 Wish You Were Here.

Instead when you hit play you get an odd playlist. The You Tube link is dated 2016, but plays only two track from the actual album. Track 1 and 4 it instead selects live versions from the 2019 reissue of Delicate Sound of Thunder. And Track 2 is swaps in an Age Restricted video with a different length\audio.

It is a mess and has clearly change more than once since 2016 otherwise how else did it get the 2019 Live tracks in there.

It gets weirder. Go to the official Pink Floyd page on YouTube, select their Releases, now WYWH and you get this:

Again the same audio tracks as before. It LOOKS okay, until you play it. Tracks 1 and 4 start with crowd noise. (Different playlist ID)

@Levi_OP did find you can manually manipulate the link to finally get audio from this playlist

That finally plays the correct 1975 tracks.

This gives us a puzzle as to how this can be added to the database. Listing what you actually get should be a compilation. Manually correcting the Google errors and it works. The INTENT was the album, the reality an alogorithmic mess.

It also shows that you can’t use the same Playlist links on both and as the album changes dramatically.

I assume this happens with other Google YouTube playlists? How is this usually handled? I realise this is YouTube trying to find a pretty video for the tracks, but that then means it is not the album anymore so becomes invalid.

A puzzle. :thinking:

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Like any other digital streaming platform, YouTube takes the music that is provided to them by distributors, and creates a way for users of that platform to listen to that music. In the case of YouTube, “Art Tracks” are generated (see: What is an Art Track?). This is where it would stop with any other digital streaming platform, but YouTube is different. YouTube does more than host audio, but also other videos that the artist might create. This includes Music Videos.

When a label / distributor is providing music to YouTube, they have the opportunity to provide music videos as replacements for Art Tracks. This is how releases are created on YouTube.

There are two playlists associated with every release. One contains all Art Tracks, and the other contains any music videos, if available, and Art Tracks where they aren’t.

By default, the YouTube Music front-end and YouTube artist page releases page play the playlist with the music videos included. What is confusing is that while the YouTube releases tab links to the playlist with the music videos included, YouTube Music album pages link to the Art Track playlist, but will play the music video included playlist, IF you don’t have YouTube Premium. If you have YouTube Premium, the YouTube Music front-end will allow you to select a “Switch to video” and “Switch to song” button, two switch between the two playlists.

Using the specific example above:
This is the YouTube Music url for the release: If you attempt to play the play the album without YouTube premium, the music videos will be played.
This is the YouTube Art Track playlist: As you can see, the playlist id is the same as the link above. This playlist includes the Art Tracks that are played if you have YouTube Premium, but the YouTube front-end allows you to play them normally (they are just YouTube videos, after all).
This is the YouTube music video playlist: This is what you are played on YouTube Music when you don’t have YouTube Premium.

Now, for my opinion on the matter.
In the extreme, you could say that this means all YouTube Music links should be considered “streaming page” instead of “stream for free” because you may have to pay to get access to the actual audio of the release.
But as I’ve displayed, the actual audio of the release is (in my experience) very easy to access, although it may be an inconvenience for some.
In many circumstances, the art track and music video playlists are the same, as the artist doesn’t supply any music videos.
Does this mean that the url type for a YouTube Music url should be different based on whether the artist / label has provided music videos for their release? I don’t think so, personally, but I’d like to hear what other think.


And this is the link that needs to be added as it is the only link that was the actual album. Especially because the average person is not going to edit a URL (even though you and I know this is easy to do :slightly_smiling_face: )

The other links created lists that included live tracks. So they aren’t the album in question any more.

And yes - I really do understand that YouTube is doing this switching. The fault is at their end of what they are providing. It just seems misleading for MB to link to what is known to be potentially different music. A user of MB will expect to click the links in the Release and go to the music that is described and not live tracks.

While I agree that it’s misleading for the audio at the URL not to be recordings associated with the tracks on that release, it’s difficult to say a regular YouTube link should be what is included. YouTube Music is the website meant for music consumption, not YouTube. I feel as though this would open the door to editors adding user-made (or even artist-made) YouTube playlists as release urls, which doesn’t seem right to me. That would be like putting a spotify playlist as the release url.

The behavior of YouTube music not playing the right music doesn’t seem that far off from what other streaming services already do. For example, on Apple Music, you will only be able to play previews of songs, until you purchase Apple Music. I understand this isn’t a perfect comparison, as Apple Music isn’t playing incorrect recordings in place of the actual song, just shortened versions.
Another example is that Spotify will replace recordings with other recordings with similar metadata. For example, if a song is removed from Spotify for some reason, instead of just disappearing, Spotify will display the song as if it’s still there, and then play another song with a similar title & length & artist (if one exists).

This really is a site-wide issue though, and something that probably should be officially commented on by some MB staff.


MB documents what is at the end of the link for a normal logged in user. As I understand it, those with an Apple\Deezer\Spotify account would get the music that is linked. Full versions. And if it was not linking the expected music then that gets documented.

Here it is almost comical as to how far off this is with YouTube.

If you have a YouTube music subscription, and fed it through your music player, are you saying that this will 100% play the right thing? Isn’t it just going to play the audio linked which is the live tracks? Do you have a paid account? What do you hear when you hit Play on track 1?

I have to be honest that I generally avoid the digital media world. It is this exact switcharoo of tracks that keeps me with my CDs and a FLAC collection I am in control of that I stream from my own server. (I don’t want to distract this conversation with opinion).

I have documented occasions where a new release of an album had a track swapped to the Single version in those digital stores - but this was documented as the ISRCs were also different. And it was consistent across all the stores. A Label decision. I have seen people add new releases the moment a single track changes in a digital playlist.

In this case there is zero excuse as the tracks are there and you have shown can easily be found with careful tweaking of the URL.

If a CD is mispressed, then that is documented as it plays. And the live tracks would be noted as part of the error.

Anyway - I have waffled enough. Let others comment.

I always add the “” link in addition to the “” link. You have to be a paying customer to use the “” link, but not the “” one. I think that was the issue with it playing something different. Like Levi_OP stated, on Spotify, if a recording isn’t on the album, it will just forward first to a recording that has the same ISRC if available from a V/A comp, then if that’s not available it might try something close. That’s why I always selected “streaming” on Youtube Music, and not stream for free.


@tigerman325 - You edit more Floyd digital than me. Would you just add these YouTube links in with the Spotify\Deezer\etc?

And generally ignore the fact that the shop is not supplying what is advertised :rofl:

Yeah, it’s on my list to revisit the Pink Floyd digital to add missing links and to finish the merges.


A little problem: this pull request was just merged to the musicbrainz server github that forces youtube music links to be stream for free links.

@reosarevok @yvanzo We might want to change how YouTube Music links work after we get some more feedback…

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No. Regular YouTube links are free. You just have commercials. Whereas we can still select streaming “streaming page” on YouTube Music, which notes the difference between the two.

Update: Oh I see what you are saying. This might change soon. I just left a note there if that’s what that is going to do.

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Yes, this pull request forces all YouTube Music ( urls to be of the “stream for free” type, when you’d want them to be “streaming page” type. This doesn’t address regular YouTube links.


I think they should all just be “streaming page” links.

Uhh, I think I misunderstood the pull request. It looks like it allows for both paid and free streaming. From the pull request:

Label reltypes are not affected at all rn, meaning that streamingfree.label is technically still allowed. We could choose to use the restrict block here to “support” label and then reject the links, but I’m not sure that’s useful, so I didn’t now.

I guess this means we could enforce paid streaming only for youtube music links in the future.

I don’t think we should add streaming site pages and playlists as releases at all.


Yes, it does allow either or both.

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