Google/YouTube has announced a new service called YouTube Music Key… but what exactly is it, and why has Google launched it?
What is YouTube Music Key?
Music Key is a new premium service on YouTube. It is currently only available to a select few users but we expect it to be rolled out soon.
In short, it is a bit like a mash-up of Spotify with YouTube: For a subscribe fee ($9.99/month in the US) users are granted access to full albums in high quality, streamed on YouTube – plus no adverts, support for playing in the background (so you can leave the YouTube app and it will keep going) and even offline viewing. If video isn’t your thing, you also get access to Google Play Music, which is closer to Spotify – and houses 30m songs ready for streaming.
So why is Google doing this?
Despite being a video website, YouTube is one of the biggest websites around for listening to music – and it isn’t surprising given that pretty much every song ever recorded is available on there for listening for free… whether posted by the artist or fans. So even though it would have made more theoretical sense for Google to launch “Google Music” or something, the YouTube brand itself is closely associated with music in the eyes of millions of users.
Music Key will be catering directly to these users, and make it a more pleasant experience for consumers: Being able to get rid of the ads will enable more seamless playback, and crucially enable Google to better compete with the likes of Spotify and Deezer, which have uninterrupted premium options. Every listen on those platforms is a listen that isn’t on YouTube.
We learned this week just how lucrative streaming music is for Spotify: The CEO said this week that the company has paid out over $2bn to artists so far – so is it any wonder Google is interested in carving off a bit of this?
In its marketing for the new service, Google has made a big deal of YouTube’s remix culture – but perhaps the other big upshot of Music Key is that it provides a path to get people listening to official sources: So rather than a copy of the song that has just been uploaded by some guy, the actual artist is guaranteed the cash for it – and also gets to present the song how they want it to be. Given how historically litigious the music industry has been over digital content (though it has mellowed in recent years), Google making sure its music offering is above board is sure to be a wise move.
And finally, perhaps Music Key is an easy way for Google to test the waters with regard to charging consumers directly. Whilst it has dipped its toe in before – having a tiny handful of “premium” channels, if Music Key is successful it could lead to other ‘premium’ YouTube services too.