Using a media session

Media sessions provide a universal way of interacting with an audio or video player. By informing Android that media is playing in an app, playback controls can be delegated to the app. Integrating with the media session allows an app to advertise media playback externally and to receive playback commands from external sources. These sources can be physical buttons (such as the play button on a headset or TV remote control) or indirect commands (such as instructing "pause" to Google Assistant). The media session then delegates these commands to the app that applies them to the media player for which it is transparent where the commands originated.

A media session lives alongside the player that it manages. You should create and initialize a media session in the onCreate() method of the activity or service that owns the media session and its associated player.

Initialize the media session

A newly-created media session has no capabilities. You must initialize the session by performing these steps:

  • Set flags so that the media session can receive callbacks from media controllers and media buttons.
  • Create and initialize an instance of PlaybackStateCompat and assign it to the session. The playback state changes throughout the session, so we recommend caching the PlaybackStateCompat.Builder for reuse.
  • Create an instance of MediaSessionCompat.Callback and assign it to the session (more on callbacks below).

You should create and initialize a media session in the onCreate() method of the activity or service that owns the session.

In order for media buttons to work when your app is newly initialized (or stopped), its PlaybackState must contain a play action matching the intent that the media button sends. This is why ACTION_PLAY is assigned to the session state during initialization. For more information, see Responding to Media Buttons.

Maintain the playback state and metadata

There are two classes that represent the state of a media session.

The PlaybackStateCompat class describes the current operational state of the player. This includes:

  • The transport state (whether the player is playing/paused/buffering, etc. See getState())
  • An error code and optional error message, when applicable. (See getErrorCode() and read States and errors, below.)
  • The player position
  • The valid controller actions that can be handled in the present state

The MediaMetadataCompat class describes the material that is playing:

  • The name of the artist, album, and track
  • The track duration
  • Album artwork for display on the lock screen. The image is a bitmap with a maximum size of 320x320dp (if larger, it's scaled down).
  • An instance of ContentUris that points to a larger version of the artwork

The player state and metadata can change over the life of a media session. Every time the state or metadata changes, you must use the corresponding builder for each class, PlaybackStateCompat.Builder() or MediaMetadataCompat.Builder(), and then pass the new instance to the media session by calling setPlaybackState() or setMetaData(). To reduce overall memory consumption from these frequent operations, it's a good idea to create the builders once and to reuse them throughout the life of the session.

States and errors

Note that PlaybackState is an object that contains separate values for the playback state of the session (getState()) and, when necessary, an associated error code (getErrorCode()). Errors can be fatal or non-fatal:

Whenever playback is interrupted, you should generate a fatal error: Set the transport state to STATE_ERROR and specify an associated error with setErrorMessage(int, CharSequence). As long as playback is blocked by the error, the PlaybackState should continue to report STATE_ERROR and the error.

A non-fatal error occurs when your app cannot handle a request, but can continue to play: The transport remains in a "normal" state (such as STATE_PLAYING) but the PlaybackState holds an error code. For example, if the last song is playing and the user requests a skip to next song, playback can continue, but you should create a new PlaybackState with the error code ERROR_CODE_END_OF_QUEUE and then call setPlaybackState(). Media Controllers attached to the session will receive the callback onPlaybackStateChanged() and explain to the user what happened. A non-fatal error should only be reported once, at the time it occurs. The next time the session updates the PlaybackState do not set the same non-fatal error again (unless the error occurred in response to a new request).

Media session lock screens

Starting with Android 4.0 (API level 14) the system can access a media session's playback state and metadata. This is how the lock screen can display media controls and artwork. The behavior varies depending on the Android version.

Album artwork

In Android 4.0 (API level 14) through Android 10 (API level 29), the background of the lock screen displays your album artwork - but only if the media session metadata includes a background bitmap.

Transport controls

In Android 4.0 (API level 14) through Android 4.4 (API level 19), when a media session is active and the media session metadata includes a background bitmap the lock screen automatically displays transport controls.

In Android 5.0 (API level 21) or greater the system does not provide transport controls on the lock screen. Instead, you should use a MediaStyle notification to display transport controls.

Add custom actions

Media applications can define custom actions; for example: thumbs up, like, or rewind 30 seconds. A custom action should implement completely new behavior. Do not use a custom action to replace one of the standard transport control actions defined in PlaybackStateCompat.

Add custom actions with addCustomAction(). The following example shows how to add a control for a thumbs-up action:


        ).run {


stateBuilder.addCustomAction(new PlaybackStateCompat.CustomAction.Builder(
    CUSTOM_ACTION_THUMBS_UP, resources.getString(R.string.thumbs_up), thumbsUpIcon)

See the Universal Music Player for a complete example.

You respond to the action with onCustomAction().


override fun onCustomAction(action: String, extras: Bundle?) {
    when(action) {


public void onCustomAction(@NonNull String action, Bundle extras) {
    if (CUSTOM_ACTION_THUMBS_UP.equals(action)) {

Also see the Universal Music Player.

Media session callbacks

The main media session callback methods are onPlay(), onPause(), and onStop(). This is where you add the code that controls your player.

Since you instantiate and set the session's callback at runtime (in onCreate()), your app can define alternative callbacks that use different players and choose the appropriate callback/player combination depending on the device and/or system level. You can change the player without changing the rest of the app. For example, you could use ExoPlayer when running on Android 4.1 (API level 16) or greater and use MediaPlayer on earlier systems.

Besides controlling the player and managing the media session state transitions, callbacks also enable and disable features of your app and control the way it interacts with other apps and the device hardware. (See Controlling Audio Output).

The implementation of the media session callback methods depends on the structure of your app. See the separate pages that describe how to use callbacks in audio apps and video apps, describe how the callbacks should be implemented for each kind of app.