Converting Youtube Videos into MP3s with VLC

I enjoy listening to lectures during my daily commute. I listen to a variety of topics, from business development, to software engineering, to philosophy, to history and folklore, etc. it almost doesn’t really matter what the topic is, as long as it’s new, insightful, and surprising.

One of the best places to find these lectures is YouTube. However, it can often be difficult to extract the audio from YouTube. There are a myriad of questionable sites that will do this for you – as long as the video is less than an hour long, you don’t mind closing a plethora of pop-up ads, and you’re willing to wait 30 minutes.

If that doesn’t sound like your idea of “fun” then allow me to show you a better way:

Step 1: Download VLC

If you’re not familiar with it, VLC is an open source music player. For our purposes, it also enables you to download YouTube videos to your desktop, and convert them into MP3s. You can download VLC here.

Step 2: Download the Video

  1. Open your favorite web browser
    1. Navigate to the YouTube video you wish to download
    2. Copy the URL
  2. Open VLC
    1. Select Media | Open Network Stream… (or press CTRL+N)
    2. Paste in the URL for the YouTube Video
    3. Click Play
    4. When the video starts to play, right-click in the main window
    5. In the context menu select Tools | Codec Information (or press CTRL+J)
    6. At the bottom of the window, near the “Close” button you’ll see Location
      1. Right-click and select Select All
      2. Right-click and select Copy
        1. For some reason using CTRL+A, CTRL+C doesn’t always work for me, hence the mouse instructions
  3. Back in your favorite web browser…
    1. Paste the Location into the URL bar
      1. You’ll see the video in your browser window, independent of the YouTube interface
    2. Right-click the video and select Save Video As…
    3. Enter a name and choose the save location and click Save

Step 3: Convert the Video to MP3

  1. Back to VLC…
    1. Select Media | Convert / Save (or press CTRL+R)
    2. If there’s already a file in the File Selection area, select it and click Remove
    3. In the File Selection area, click Add
    4. Navigate to and select the video you saved in Step 2, and click Open
    5. Click Convert / Save
    6. In the Profile drop-down box select Audio – MP3
    7. For Destination File click Browse…
    8. Choose your location, and enter a name for the file, then click Save
    9. Click Start
    10. In the VLC window you will be able to watch the progress of the conversion
    11. Once it’s finished you can close  VLC

Viola! You now have an MP3 version of a YouTube video. The problem that this post tries to solve feels very niche, but it’s been a life-saver for me, and I hope you find it useful as well.

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