Downloading things from YouTube

October 4, 2023

Here are some notes on how to download things from YouTube using yt-dlp (PyPI link).


I use venv and Python 3.11 here.

Whoa: venv works very well across Python versions and operating systems independent of any package manager. I wasn’t aware for a long time that there is no need to run pip3 install --user and pollute ~/.local, or, worse, accidentally put things into your Homebrew python3.* path and randomly run commands until a completely unrelated Python project works again. That is great.

We get maximal isolation with minimal hassle. It’s also unlike npm install -g, since in that case you would be doing a system-wide install again. That is annoying when npm is provided by your OS and installing packages would put them in a non-user-specific path.

# Create virtual environment
python3.11 -m venv ~/.local/share/yt-dlp
# Update setuptools/pip and install yt-dlp
~/.local/share/yt-dlp/bin/pip install -U setuptools pip yt-dlp
# Just need to link this binary, and we're done
ln -s ~/.local/share/yt-dlp/bin/yt-dlp ~/.local/bin

An edge case might be python3.11 itself disappearing, for example when a package manager does not have it available anymore after it EOL’s. In that case the above procedure would have to be rerun after performing the following:

rm -r ~/.local/share/yt-dlp

A simple update for an existing installation of yt-dlp can be run like so:

# Same command as above
~/.local/share/yt-dlp/bin/pip install -U setuptools pip yt-dlp

Downloading DJ sets

I download a lot of DJ sets. I don’t like leaving my browser open just to listen to music. I use MusicBrainz Picard and Apple Music to manage my music and sync it over to other devices. I find a DJ set that I like on YouTube and note the URL.

For example, if I feel like doing a mental Detroit Jit on a 2h git bisect session, I would like to download and listen to this mix. I want all my downloads to be converted to m4a (AAC), as unlike WebM/Opus, Apple Music supports AAC quite well. (sad emoji) Further, I want my downloads to be put into separate folders by date within ~/Music/ytdl, and that the metadata on YouTube is preserved.

So we cobble together this command, to be run in fish:

yt-dlp --extract-audio \
  --audio-format m4a \
  --output "~/Music/ytdl/"(date '+%Y-%m-%d')"/%(title)s-%(id)s.%(ext)s" \
  --embed-metadata \

When we run this, (read) instructs our shell to insert whatever we put there as an argument to our command. We can paste the URL we have noted in our browser and press enter. A minute later or so, the download is finished and encoded to m4a. You can even use something like (pbpaste) or any other system clipboard access to skip the step of having to paste things into your terminal every time.

If this mix ever disappears from the Interwebz, I will still have it on my local machine. The enjoyment can never be taken from me again >:)

I would be thrilled to hear from you! Please share your thoughts and ideas with me via email.

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