YouTube is already a major force in online music, but today things are getting legit. After months of rumor and speculation, Google’s video behemoth is peeling back the shrink-wrap on the Internet’s latest music subscription service, as well as a few other music-focused features. If you were already using YouTube to find and stream songs, the experience is about to get a lot more polished.
The first thing YouTube is doing is adding polish to an experience that’s already quite common: Users who turn to the site for music will be greeted with a music-specific landing page, complete with trending playlists and a recommendation engine. A new feature called YouTube Mix will let you generate an infinite playlist from any song, Pandora-style. All of this will be ad-supported and remain free to users.
Google is hoping the added features and curation will make YouTube an even more indispensable source of music–while buttering people up to the idea of forking over their hard-earned money. Starting next week, select beta users will be able to try out YouTube Music Key, a $9.99 per month subscription that kills the ads and lets you sync the music for offline listening and play music in the background on mobile. You know how the audio cuts out when you minimize the YouTube app on your phone? Hand over the dosh and this won’t happen anymore.
With each $10 subscription, Google is throwing in access to its existing Google Play All Access streaming service. So in addition to an ad-free, offline-friendly YouTube music experience, subscribers can tap into Google Play’s massive library of tracks, expert-curated playlists, and algorithmically generated radio stations. Not a bad deal.
Perhaps. Google is plowing forward into an already crowded market with the likes of Spotify, Rdio and Deezer already serving millions of paying customers apiece. It would seem a tad insane if YouTube wasn’t already one of the biggest destinations for music on the Internet. With this initiative, Google is simply formalizing a use case that sprung out of the YouTube community pretty organically.
The launch comes at a slightly awkward time in the streaming music business. Last week, Taylor Swift dominated headlines by pulling her entire catalog from Spotify and launching the latest of many, many Internet-wide debates over the economics of the subscription music model. YouTube’s new service became a part of that debate months before its own launch when some indie labels created a very public stir over the payouts Google was offering this summer.
Google is mum on why the service took so long to launch (It was originally said to be slated for a summertime unveil), but in this industry, it’s a safe bet that something on the licensing side likely tripped up the timeline. Either way, YouTube is now officially a competitor to Spotify, Deezer, and all the other companies ballsy enough to take a crack at the streaming music market.