YouTube’s long-rumored subscription music service is here. On Thursday, the video-streaming site announced the May 22nd debut of YouTube Music, a new standalone music-streaming service available to consumers via an ad-supported free tier or a premium tier at $9.99 a month.
The new service features much the same that we’ve come to expect from other streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music - playlists, official versions of millions of songs and ad-free, offline features - while layering on the offering of YouTube’s trove of official song music videos. Available in both mobile and browser-based versions, the service has a simplistic home screen that adapts to give dynamic recommendations based on users’ history, location and present activities.
YouTube’s music head Lyor Cohen and music head of product T. Jay Fowler say they know they’re late to the game, but the point is not to compete directly with the likes of Spotify, but to introduce more variety into the scene.
“I think the industry is excited, because one of the greatest fears the industry is having is they could wake up one day and it could be just two distributors,” Cohen tells Rolling Stone. “We are trying to help build the connective tissue with the labels and to partner with them. And we heard them loud and clear: They wanted us to be in both businesses, advertising and subscription. Because they believe that the future of our business is with two engines.”
In a demonstration to Rolling Stone, Cohen and Fowler showed how the service adjusts to users’ habits; the order of its playlists and suggested songs also shifts as users open the app more often. One of the unique features offered on YouTube Music is an automatically-updating offline playlist that saves a certain amount of users’ music without the need for manual input. “Probably where we’re going with product here is taking a lot of that friction away from using a streaming service and making it dead simple to get music to play,” Fowler says.
Fowler says YouTube Music’s target demographic includes music fans who haven’t yet signed up for a music-streaming service in the past and YouTube fans who will want to have all of their video, music and artist content centralized on one service. While YouTube and YouTube Music are separate platforms, they will share user data and history. In tandem with the new service’s launch, YouTube Red (the company’s subscription video-streaming service) is also being rebranded YouTube Premium at a price point of $11.99 a month for new users. The company will offer a YouTube Music add-on as part of the subscription.
“It’s good for consumers to have the choice,” Cohen says. “We have a really really powerful advertising business and are going to build a really powerful subscription service. We wanted to make sure that we heard the record industry. And they want two engines on the plane.”