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For Google Home's best music setup, do these steps right away with Spotify, YouTube Music and more

Your Google Home or Nest smart speaker can play almost any song ever recorded, but first you have to tell it where to look.

google-nest-mini-lab

Google teased a significant amount of additional bass and overall better sound out of the Nest Mini smart speaker, released last year.

Juan Garzon/CNET

Google Home has a lot of hidden talents, but for 72% of smart speaker owners, all they really want to do is play music. Thing is, your Google Home or Google Nest smart speaker is only as good as the music streaming services it's connected to. To do that, you have to make sure you set it up right, and right away.

Linking a music service to your Google Home might sound like a basic task, but it's one that far too many people save for "later" in the rush to set up their smart speaker. Do that, though, and your speaker might not play the exact music you ask for, especially if you're already paying for a streaming service like Spotify or Pandora.

Whether you already have a Google Home or Nest speaker, or you're setting one up for the first time, taking five minutes to make a few simple adjustments can mean the difference between limited access to the music you love and an almost unlimited world of musical possibilities.

Here's how to figure out which plans will give you the best music experience on your Google Home or Google Nest smart speaker, as well as how to set them up so they work seamlessly.

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Link your services and choose a default

If you don't link the music services you use to the Google Home app, you'll wind up jamming to a generic YouTube Music account with limited playback options and annoying ads. Same even if you do link your paid account but leave YouTube Music as the default service.

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Spotify is the most popular music streaming service worldwide and is compatible with Google Home and Nest smart speakers.

Angela Lang/CNET

Any time you request a song, artist, genre or station without identifying which service you want to use, Google Home will automatically try to play your request from your default service first, so you'll want to use the best one you've got.

Here's how to link your music services to Google Home:

1. Open the Google Home app and tap on your profile icon in the top right corner.

2. About halfway down the list, tap Assistant settings.

3. Tap Services on the top menu bar then tap Music (for Sirius XM, tap Radio).

4. Find the services you use and tap the link icon (the chain link icon to the right of each service).

5. On the screen that pops up, tap Link Account.

6. Enter your username and password for the service you're linking to and tap Log In.

Once you've linked all your services, simply tap the circle to the right of the one you want to use as your default. (Note that SiriusXM cannot be set as a default since it's a broadcast service.) You can also choose No default, but with so many free services available, why would you?

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Google Play Music is one of the few remaining streaming services that lets you upload music you own to a cloud-based file locker.

César Salza/CNET

How to choose your music service 

Out of your six options for Google Home music services, only one lets you play music you might actually own. Google Play Music represents one of the last remaining vestiges of this now old-school way of pushing music to all your devices. The future of music is obviously -- and unavoidably -- in streaming.

Note, too, that none of the free plans that work with Google Home let you play specific songs on demand, except for Google Play Music (if, that is, you have the song you want to hear in your library). Rather, when you request an artist or song by name, the service will create a customized playlist inspired by your request. From there it's a crapshoot whether the song you asked for plays or not.

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Pandora was one of the first music streaming services offering custom-crafted radio stations but has since evolved into an on-demand service similar to Spotify.

Angela Lang/CNET

Here are your six Google Home music service options:

  • YouTube Music is a relative newcomer, but its library is just as robust as any of the others. As a huge bonus, the $10-a-month YouTube Premium plan not only cuts the commercials out of your music but gets rid of ads on YouTube videos as well.
  • Google Play Music is basically YouTube Music plus a digital file locker, which sounds like a bonus until you find out the $10-a-month Google Play Music Family Plan doesn't get rid of YouTube video ads like YouTube Premium does.
  • Pandora made a name for itself well over a decade ago with the first algorithm-based radio stations. Nowadays, Pandora has two paid tiers: $5 for ad-free on-demand music and $10 for the same plus you can make playlists.
  • Spotify continues to hold the top spot on CNET's list of best music streaming services, in part because it has the most versatile free tier. That said, if you're thinking of coughing up $10 a month for Spotify Premium, consider YouTube Premium instead for the bonus ad-free videos.
  • Deezer is considered the French rival to Sweden's Spotify, but beyond that we don't have much experience with the service. Although Deezer does offer a free tier, only the paid premium plan will work with Google Home.
  • SiriusXM routinely offers some incredible deals on Google Home devices in addition to being the OG of pay-to-play music services. Right now you can get a Nest Hub smart display and six months of standard SiriusXM service for $69. That's $30 less than the device costs currently.
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SiriusXM regularly offers huge discounts on Nest Hub smart displays with an included six-month subscription to the radio service.

SiriusXM

Now that you've got your music situation on Google Home squared away, we recommend taking your listening experience to the next level by wall-mounting your Google Home Mini or Nest Mini speakers for better sound and responsiveness. If you've got several Google Home smart speakers scattered around your house (and five minutes to spare), you might as well get a whole-house audio system up and running, too, by tapping just a few settings. Finally, check out our preview of some of the new Google Assistant features you can expect to see on Google Home devices in 2020.

Originally published last week.