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Play media in the background

It is often desirable to play media while an app is not in the foreground. For example, a music player generally keeps playing music when the user has locked their device or is using another app. Similarly, a video player may want to enable a picture-in-picture mode. This is playing in the background.

The Media3 library provides a series of interfaces that allow you to support background playback in Android more easily than ever.

Use a MediaSessionService

To enable background playback, you should contain the Player and MediaSession inside a separate Service. This allows the device to continue serving media even while your app is not in the foreground.

The MediaSession service allows the media session to run separately
    from the app's activity
Figure 1: The MediaSession service allows the media session to run separately from the app's activity

When hosting a player inside a Service, you should use a MediaSessionService. To do this, create a class that extends MediaSessionService and create your media session inside of it.

Using MediaSessionService makes it easy for companion devices like Assistant, System media controls or companion devices like Wear OS to discover your service, connect to it, and control playback, all without accessing your app's UI activity at all. In fact, there can be multiple apps connected to the same MediaSessionService at the same time, each app with its own MediaController.

Provide access to the media session

Override the onGetSession() method to give other clients access to your media session.

// Extend MediaSessionService
class PlaybackService : MediaSessionService() {
    private var mediaSession: MediaSession? = null
    // Create your Player and MediaSession in the onCreate lifecycle event
    override fun onCreate() {
        Player player = ExoPlayer.Builder(this).build()
        mediaSession = MediaSession.Builder(this, player).build()
    // Return a MediaSession to link with the MediaController that is making
    // this request.
    override fun onGetSession(controllerInfo: MediaSession.ControllerInfo): MediaSession?
        = mediaSession

An app requires permission to run a foreground service. Add the FOREGROUND_SERVICE permission to the manifest:

<uses-permission android:name="android.permission.FOREGROUND_SERVICE" />

You must also declare your Service class in the manifest with an intent filter of MediaSessionService.

        <action android:name="androidx.media3.session.MediaSessionService"/>

You must define a foregroundServiceType that includes mediaPlayback when your app is running on a device with Android 10 onwards.

Be sure to release the media session (and player) in your service’s onDestroy() lifecycle callback:

override fun onDestroy() {
    mediaSession?.run {
        mediaSession = null

Control playback in the media session

In the Activity or Fragment containing your player UI, you can establish a link between the UI and your media session using a MediaController. Your UI uses the media controller to send commands from your UI to the player within the session.

Obtain a MediaController from your MediaSession by creating a SessionToken in the onStart() method of your Activity or Fragment.

override fun onStart() {
    val sessionToken = SessionToken(this, ComponentName(this,

Use this SessionToken to build a MediaController. Doing so connects the controller to the given session. This takes place asynchronously so you should listen for the result and assign it when constructed. This example shows how you can do this to connect the MediaController to your player UI.

val controllerFuture = MediaController.Builder(this, sessionToken).buildAsync()
    { playerView.player = controllerFuture.get() },

Handle UI commands

The MediaSession receives commands from the controller through its SessionCallback. Initializing a MediaSession creates a default implementation of SessionCallback that automatically handles all commands that your MediaController sends to your player.

You should also release the controller in the onStop() method of its hosting Activity or Fragment by calling MediaController.releaseFuture(controllerFuture).


A MediaSessionService automatically creates a MediaNotification for you that should work in most cases. By default, the published notification is a MediaStyle notification that stays updated with the latest information from your media session and displays playback controls. The MediaNotification is aware of your session and can be used to control playback for any other apps that are connected to the same session.

For example, a music streaming app using a MediaSessionService would create a MediaNotification that displays the title, artist, and album art for the current song playing alongside playback controls based on your MediaSession configuration.

If you’d like to provide your own custom MediaNotification, you can override MediaSessionService.onUpdateNotification().