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Surprisingly, YouTube's Music Service Could Threaten Rap Genius

Does Google have it out for the Brooklyn startup that's trying to annotate the web?

Surprisingly, YouTube's Music Service Could Threaten Rap Genius

[Image: Flickr user Håkan Dahlström]

It leaked a few months back that YouTube would be launching some sort of music streaming service, but it wasn’t clear what angle the company would take. Now, in a interview with Matt Pincus, a board member of National Music Publishers Association, it may be a little clearer how YouTube will officially step into the music space.

In the interview Pincus says lyrics will be a big part of the music market in 2014, perhaps alluding to the success of Rap Genius, the almost-fucked lyrics site. He also lets it slip that "Google has a platform they’re launching that is lyric videos created by a program, which means kids can create their own lyric videos and put them on YouTube." With Google already providing a direct Spotify competitor with its All Access service, it makes sense for the company to harness YouTube’s music influence in a different way. Lyric videos are also a popular form of fan expression on the video site.

Google already has a lot of the tools needed to make automated lyric videos happen, including annotations and music ready for video use—which all of the sudden puts them out ahead of Rap Genius, AZlyrics, and other popular lyrics destinations. Those sites get monstrous amounts of traffic—most of it via Google search—representing a huge market opportunity sitting right under search giant's nose. Part of the point that Pincus was making when he mentioned lyrics was that it was a big area of growth, but a small portion of revenue and licensing. Having Google join in and pay royalties into the pool would definitely be a big boon to legitimizing the practice of licensing lyrics.

Rap Genius had problems with licensing lyrics in the past as one of the most popular sites in the space in recent years. "They responded to it, because those guys are looking to build a legitimate business," says Pincus.

Mindie is another service looking to change what people think about when they hear the term "music video." The app allows you to select any song available on iTunes and record seven seconds of video to play during the song. Scrapping the idea that a music video needs to last the duration of the entire song, Mindie is betting that a song’s hook is enough to encourage music discovery for the same users of Twitter, Circa, and Snapchat.

With YouTube’s huge audience, even if it isn’t able to revolutionize music videos, just contributing financially to legitimizing the lyrics business could be a huge win for the music industry.