There are several Q&A threads that explain how to download youtube videos using the terminal.

However, I would also like to learn how to extract the video's soundtracks as MP3 files--also using only the terminal.

Answers briefly explaining how to use youtube-dl or other similar utilities before explaining how to extract the MP3 would be ideal for the sake of having all the information in one place--even though this aspect has been covered in other posts.

  • 1
    It's close but I think the fact that it is specifically looking for an mp3 makes it different enough. – Jacob Tomlinson Aug 22 '12 at 12:58
  • In most cases you can download m4a or webm without conversion. This is an interactive script that will let you choose a specific 'rendition' such as audio-only, video-only, etc: youtube-dl -F "$1" ; read -p "Please enter the desired quality # " FORMAT ; youtube-dl -f $FORMAT "$1" – ccpizza Jun 29 '16 at 13:08
  • I'm voting to reopen this question because the linked question is quite different, doesn't have any answers and goes into a chain of duplicate questions that don't address audio extraction of Youtube videos. – David Foerster Feb 20 '17 at 12:39
  • Note: for MacPorts users who found this, use sudo port install youtube-dl to install youtube-dl. – jvriesem Mar 23 '18 at 22:35

You can also download the mp3 directly from youtube without converting using ffmpeg

youtube-dl --extract-audio --audio-format mp3 <video URL>

From the online help:

-x, --extract-audio        convert video files to audio-only files (requires
                           ffmpeg or avconv and ffprobe or avprobe)

Bear in mind as well that youtube-dl defaults to using avconv so you should consider specifying either avconv or FFmpeg at the commandline . From the online help :

--prefer-avconv                  Prefer avconv over ffmpeg for running the
                                 postprocessors (default)
--prefer-ffmpeg                  Prefer ffmpeg over avconv for running the

Further options for keeping the original video, adjusting the bitrate or quality of the audio and a few others can be seen by looking at youtube-dl -h .

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    if you look at the man pages, this option tells you you still have to download ffmpeg – user1527227 Feb 18 '14 at 3:10
  • 4
    it case of problems like this with youtube-dl: ERROR: Unable to download webpage: <urlopen error [Errno 8] _ssl.c:510: EOF occurred in violation of protocol> this helped me: askubuntu.com/questions/791969/error-while-using-youtube-dl – noisy Sep 17 '16 at 9:53
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    If you are using zsh or Oh My Zsh instead of Bash, then you might get an error saying "no matches found" - simply put the URL inside of quotes so: youtube-dl --extract-audio --audio-format mp3 "<video URL>" or youtube-dl --extract-audio --audio-format mp3 '<video URL>'. – hazrpg Oct 25 '16 at 14:02
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    Have better mp3 filename with youtube-dl --output "%(title)s.%(ext)s" --extract-audio --audio-format mp3 --audio-quality 0 – Pablo Bianchi Mar 23 '17 at 20:44
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    No need to add -f bestaudio. From the documentation: "By default youtube-dl tries to download the best available quality, i.e. if you want the best quality you don't need to pass any special options, youtube-dl will guess it for you by default." – Lu55 Oct 8 '17 at 20:32

Downloading from youTube

Install youtube-dl from the official repository in Ubuntu:

sudo apt-get install youtube-dl

To download a video execute the following:

youtube-dl <url>


youtube-dl http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_z-hEyVQDRA

You can also specify other options

-b            Best quality
-m            Mobile version
-d            High Definition
-g            Don’t download, just show the url
-c            Resume download of a video which was interrupted before
-w            Don’t overwrite existing file

For complete list of switches execute man youtube-dl in terminal.

Information from http://www.absolutelytech.com/2010/06/26/howto-download-youtube-video-from-command-line-ubuntu/

Converting to mp3

Now install ffmpeg from the official repo.

sudo apt-get install ffmpeg

Next have a look to make sure the flv file has downloaded from youtube by typing

ls *flv

This will list all the flv files you have. What you should see is a flv file with the same name as the 'v' component of the youtube url you downloaded.

E.g if you downloaded http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_z-hEyVQDRA then you should have a file called _z-hEyVQDRA.flv

Next you need to copy that file name and then put it in an ffmpg command like

ffmpeg -i <file name>.flv -acodec libmp3lame <song name>.mp3

So for this example you would type

ffmpeg -i _z-hEyVQDRA.flv -acodec libmp3lame MasterOfPuppets.mp3

Once this has successfully completed you will now have the mp3 file you were after.

Note For cleanup you may want to type rm _z-hEyVQDRA.flv to get rid of the flv file that you no longer need.

Information from http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=855433

  • You may want to add converting to mp3 with ffmpeg or aconv. – NRoach44 Aug 22 '12 at 8:13
  • One more, -acodec liblamemp3 in the ffmpeg command line. – NRoach44 Aug 23 '12 at 1:01
  • 1
    Yes you could force the codec to be sure, I have added this. You could also use -ac 2 -ab 128k to ensure it converts at 128k – Jacob Tomlinson Aug 23 '12 at 10:06
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    Or just youtube-dl -x "${URL}". – Mathias Bynens Nov 21 '15 at 9:45
  • @NRoach44: it's "libmp3lame", not "liblamemp3" – Dan Dascalescu Jan 26 '16 at 5:28

protected by Community Oct 3 '17 at 12:19

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