With huge numbers of people already turning to YouTube for music, the video-sharing platform is now attempting to make the most of it ... again. YouTube Music is a new, US$9.99/month music streaming service that will go up directly against the likes of Spotify and Apple Music.
The music offerings from YouTube and Google have been disjointed and confusing for a long time – you may remember the short-lived YouTube Music Key, which essentially offered the same options as the new YouTube Music does, before it was shuttered in 2015.
There's also an existing YouTube Music app, but that's now being enhanced with the arrival of the subscription plan. The updated music service includes personalized playlists, improved recommendations, and revamped apps for mobile and desktop.
Search options are also being upgraded with the arrival of the new YouTube Music – users will be able to search for lyrics or even type in vague descriptions of tracks to get to what they want to listen to. Search for "that hipster song with the whistling" and up pops Peter Bjorn And John's Young Folks, for example.
All that's available for free to everyone, with the usual YouTube ad inserts included. Putting down a monthly subscription removes the advertising and unlocks some extra features, such as background listening (the music carries on while other apps are being used) and offline downloads.
Ad-free listening, offline downloads, and background listening are all already available as part of YouTube Red, which is now being rebranded as YouTube Premium. As before, it covers the whole of YouTube (not just the music videos) and offers access to some exclusive shows, but the price is getting bumped up to $11.99/month.
Existing YouTube Premium subscribers will be kept on the current $9.99/month plan for now, and YouTube Premium includes everything that's in YouTube Music too. YouTube Red effectively replaced YouTube Music Key back in 2015, so we've almost gone full circle.
As for Google Play Music, that's sticking around for now. Subscribers will get YouTube Music added for free, but it's not clear what will eventually happen to the older service – it does offer some features that YouTube Music doesn't, like the option to upload digital tracks to the web and stream them to any device.
Last year Google confirmed the engineering teams working on Google Play Music and YouTube Music had joined forces, and it seems likely that we'll eventually see everything that you can buy digitally from Google rolled into YouTube – music, movies, TV shows, and so on, though that's just speculation for now. While a YouTube Music subscription is something that's been tried before, this time it seems part of a bigger shift.
The new YouTube Music subscription service is launching on Tuesday May 22 in the US, Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico, and it's arriving in the "coming weeks" in Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
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