Play Music will disappear over the next few months, starting with South Africa and New Zealand in September and the rest of the world following in October. While YouTube Music (YTM) is already an almost full-fledged (albeit quirky) replacement in the US and many parts of Europe, the same can't be said for some other countries. In some, YTM isn't available as a default music provider in the Assistant, and there's no proper voice control for Google's latest streaming service, either.
A reader from South Africa reached out to bring this issue to our attention. He writes that to this day, YouTube Music subscribers in the country can't select Google's new streaming platform as their default music provider for Google Assistant and thus for the company's own smart home speakers and displays. They can't even use their voice to select YTM for their current query by saying, "Play [this song] on YouTube Music." This will just make the Assistant fall back to regular YouTube, so if you give that command on a smart speaker, it won't work at all since it can't play video content.
Our own Rita, living in Lebanon, can't even officially connect any popular streaming services (including Play Music) to her Google and Nest Home devices, let alone YouTube Music — she technically only has access to regular, video-only YouTube. That might be because Google and Nest Home devices aren't officially sold in her country. Google likely hasn't bothered with offering any options in an unsupported location, but it's still sad that both of its music streaming services aren't available at all on the company's own hardware.
Rita's sad music provider selection.
Similar reports have been popping up around the web, and some don't even mention their locale as they probably don't think it's relevant to the problem. Google itself is pretty intransparent when it comes to the location problem. In its support page on its partners for default music services, it just writes that "some of these partners may be unavailable in your region. Contact the partner to check their availability where you live."
When we asked Google if it plans on adding these two features (voice control/default service) to YouTube Music before Play Music shuts down in South Africa, a spokesperson told us that the team is "working hard to bring all integration features to our different markets and we look forward to rolling them out to our global users."
So while this gives us hope that we will eventually see YouTube Music voice control and default service support for everyone, we might still have to wait a bit. We might even only see it after the Play Music shutdown, even though we expected feature parity by then. But that is already unlikely to happen, as you can tell from the lacking Android TV YouTube Music "app" and the lack of a new Wear OS solution, among other things. It also doesn't help that free YouTube Music users with their personal, uploaded libraries are treated much more like second-class citizens than on Play Music.