YouTube Music is trying out a new way to help you find something to listen to. It’s called Samples, and it occupies a new tab in the YouTube Music app. The company describes it as “a seamless feed of short form video segments to get you to your new favorite music,” which is just TikTok. Samples is TikTok, except it’s exclusively made up of small snippets of music videos. Given the way music discovery operates in 2023, it could work.
The Samples feed is a personalized one, so when you open it, the app will attempt to provide you with a wide swath of music you might be into. If you find something you like, you can tap to play the song, watch the full video, add it to a playlist, or even make a short with it as the soundtrack. YouTube’s advantage here, of course, is that it’s the only place you can do all those things in a single app. (And listen to podcasts and more. YouTube’s really going after all things audio, all in one place.)
YouTube Music and its competitors all live and die by their discovery mechanisms. “You can listen to Taylor Swift here” is no longer a relevant advantage, so these companies are trying to be the place you discover, share, and interact with music. TikTok is the dominant player here, of course; it is so central to music discovery for some people that Spotify’s “Top Hits” and “TikTok Songs” playlists often look alarmingly similar.
Because songs go viral on TikTok through dances or skits or reaction videos, the 30- or 60-second chunk of a track that goes viral is almost always the catchiest bit of the song. Now, TikTok is beginning to roll out its full-fledged music app, TikTok Music, to try and capture the whole listening experience. YouTube’s trying to do the same thing from the opposite direction. Samples seems designed to try and capture the same experience by giving you the best moment of every song ever recorded in the hopes that you might go check out the whole thing.
You might also remember Spotify’s recent redesign, which had some of the same aims and design ideas as Samples. That redesign was met with swift backlash, but the company has continued to look for ways to use TikTok mechanisms to help connect people to new tunes. Samples should be much less controversial given that it’s just a tab in the app, but it’s yet another example of just how powerful that fast-twitch vertical scroll has become in helping people find new stuff.