The music industry doesn't make things easy for any service in the business of distributing songs. Despite the tight laws and regulations, most music services have figured out a way to make your subscription valid across country borders. That, however, has never been Google's strongest suit, and YouTube Music is one of the biggest examples. When the service launched, subscribers noticed that if they traveled to an unsupported country, they lost all of their privileges. That doesn't seem to be the case anymore.
Multiple users on Google's support forum complained in the past months about their YouTube Music subscription becoming useless as soon as they landed in a country where the service isn't officially available. The app simply told them they're in an unsupported area, and even their previously downloaded tracks and playlists for offline use disappeared. That's quite draconian, and unlike most other music streaming services. I used Spotify for over a year in Lebanon with my French account before it officially launched here; YouTube Music wouldn't have let me use it for a second and would've deleted my offline downloads.
Things have changed over the past few days. Two tipsters have told us that they can access YouTube Music in Taiwan and Belarus, even though the service isn't officially available there. Two other users in Puerto Rico and Algeria appear to be in the same boat — we reached out to them but haven't heard back.
Both tipsters with whom we verified this already have a paid YouTube Music or Google Play Music membership from a supported country. When in Taiwan or Belarus, both used to see the unsupported country warning in the app and website, and still see it if they open the YouTube Music website in incognito, proving they're getting access only on their subscribed account. Both are now able to stream any music, ad-free, in the background, with offline downloads, i.e. they have all of YouTube Music Premium's benefits.
None had a full YouTube Premium subscription, so we weren't able to see if this also applies to Google's video-watching platform too.
Going through Google's support documents, we can see mixed messages about the service's travel-friendliness. This page is unequivocal and says:
YouTube Music Premium is available in the countries/regions listed below. If you leave these countries/regions, you won't be able to access YouTube Music Premium benefits.
This support page, on the other hand, is way more lenient and nuanced:
Travel with YouTube Music
YouTube Music Premium members get access to their paid membership benefits and their music library in the YouTube Music app, even if you are in a country/region where YouTube Music is not available. The music content that is available to you at home will travel with you for 6 months so you can keep enjoying your listening experience. Your downloads will also remain available to you for 30 days without an internet connection.
Your paid membership benefits (such as offline listening, background play, ad-free listening, etc.) will only apply in the YouTube Music app while you are traveling. These benefits are not currently supported for traveling members in other apps and services.
Since Google doesn't often update all its support pages appropriately, our current thinking is that the first document hasn't been updated to reflect the changes introduced with the second.
That still leaves the question of the six month limitation. Does it mean this access is limited for six months only and you'll lose all your privileges after that? That'd certainly make things more complicated for anyone traveling a year for work or other reasons. And what if you come back to your supported country for a day or two to visit then go back? Does the timer reset? We'll have to wait and see how things shape up in the next months.
With YouTube Music expanding its official availability to more and more countries — 70 now — this problem becomes less and less important, though. The more join the list, the smaller are the odds of your travel destination being unsupported.
- Brandon Miller,