As many Android users found out the hard way, listening to a YouTube video (in most cases a music video or podcast) in the background isn’t possible, simply because the app doesn’t allow you to do this.
And this is exactly the way it’s supposed to be, as you need to purchase a subscription to get background playback support in YouTube.
Needless to say, playing YouTube videos in the background is something that so many people want to do because of a wide variety of reasons. For example, some of the podcasts that I listen to aren’t available on Spotify, so my only option is to stick with YouTube.
There are many ways to play YouTube videos in the background and with the phone locked on Android, and some of the most popular are dedicated apps that can do this for you, such as NewPipe or YouTube Vanced. Both come with a super-impressive feature lineup in addition to background playback support, so check them out if you want more than just the basic experience that the official YouTube app provides.
On the other hand, you can actually get the same background playback thing without the need for any complex hacks, and it all comes down to the popular VLC app that many Android users already installed on their devices.
The trick comes down to opening the YouTube video in VLC, which obviously supports background playback and it keeps the sound rolling even if you lock the phone. VLC also displays on-screen playback controls, so you can pause and resume videos even without unlocking the device for a YouTube video. For podcasts, this is just the thing you need, but for shorter clips, such as music videos, this may not be the most convenient workaround.
So first of all, install the VLC app for Android if it’s not already running on your device.
Next, load the video that you want to listen to in the background in the official YouTube app on Android. Click the share button and when the share page launches, tap the VLC icon.
When the media player loads, click the three dots icon in the main UI and then tap the option that reads Play as Audio. At this point, VLC should return to the main screen and the video should continue playing in the background. Locking the phone and going back to the home screen won’t interrupt the playback, so at this point you’re already done.
As a summary, here’s are the main steps to do the whole thing:
YouTube app > load video > Share > VLC > Three-dot menu > Play as Audio
I can confirm that the small trick works on both Android 9 and Android 10 with the latest updates installed and the most recent versions of the YouTube and VLC releases.
It goes without saying that some other people prefer the standalone apps that I told you about earlier, and it happens for good reason: they come with all the benefits of the official YouTube app plus a series of benefits, including the said background playback support. However, if you don’t want to install anything else than apps that are published in the Google Play Store, or you’re in a rush and want to listen to a podcast quickly, this simple hack certainly comes in handy.
As a side note, VLC is a super-capable piece of software, not only on the desktop, but also on Android, so having it around at all times might actually be a good idea for everyone working with media files.