Google does not give up its pursuit of music. This is the main result of Thursday's announcement of YouTube Music, a re-launch of how listening to music works on YouTube. The new streaming service is available in two forms: a free tier called YouTube Music and a $ 1
This is the fourth attempt in this decade in which Google is trying to run paid music streaming. Google Play Music was launched in 2011 and although it has found a niche audience over the years, it has never really challenged Spotify (or later Apple Music), and it is now being included in the recently announced YouTube Music Service. In 2014, Google created YouTube Music Key, which offers ad-free video and background music for a subscription fee, but it's never been picked up in a meaningful way. Maybe you're starting to pick up a topic.
In 2015, YouTube announced the YouTube Music app – a company only gets so many names for a music service. The app was simply a mobile version of YouTube that let you remove ads and listen to background listening with a YouTube Red subscription. Nothing to spoil, but even the paid YouTube Music app was not a resounding success.
In addition to the history of repeated missteps, YouTube Music (2018 issue) faces an even bigger problem in the field of music streaming. Apple has just announced that its music service has 50 million subscribers, Spotify reached 75 million paying subscribers in May with a total user base of 170 million, and Amazon Music continues to grow quietly with Alexa-enabled devices.
What makes YouTube different? Music from the competition? T. Jay Fowler, head of product management at YouTube, told Pitchfork that the service with Google Assistant would provide a "deeply personalized experience". This sounds unspectacular, similar to Spotify's recommended playlists, which shift according to the time of day. The real benefit of YouTube Music, however, is not the AI, but the content of the decade that is on the platform – be it covers, concert recordings or remixes – that Apple Music and Spotify can not reach. The only problem is that users have become used to the fact that this content has been free since the launch of YouTube.
YouTube's tiresome counterpoint is that with over 1.5 billion users on the platform, only a few people, not all, pay to hear. Lyor Cohen, YouTube head of the music world, said earlier this year, "There are many more people in our funnel who we can frustrate and seduce into becoming subscribers."
The new YouTube music will not be publicly available until May 22nd. We have not tried the service for ourselves yet, and it's certainly possible that Google has planned more surprises, such as key exclusives like Tidal or a killer feature we do not know about yet. But right now, the service is most likely to sound like a formalized method of getting existing users to pay for music or suffer an endless stream of ads. The service will start next week, but it feels like another effort to force consumers to make a product that they have always made clear, that's not welcome.