YouTube has finally confirmed that it is launching its revamped subscription service next week.
From Tuesday May 22, the updated version of its YouTube Music service will be available in both a free, ad-supported model and a premium model ($9.99 a month). It will initially roll out in the US, Mexico, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Thirteen European countries, including the UK, and Canada will follow "soon".
The move will put YouTube in direct competition with Apple Music and Spotify in an increasingly crowded music streaming market, as the digital giants struggle for global control of the sector. YouTube Music will feature thousands of playlists, millions of songs, albums, artist radio and music videos. It will also launch with a new mobile app and desktop player, while Google Play Music subscribers will receive YouTube Music Premium membership as part of their subscription. YouTube Red, the existing video subscription tier, will continue under the YouTube Premium name. New subscribers to that service will pay $11.99 per month, as it includes the YouTube Music service, although existing members will still only pay $9.99.
Announcing the move in a low-key blog post, YouTube Music product manager Elias Roman said: "YouTube was made for video, not just music. On Tuesday, May 22, we’ll be changing that by introducing YouTube Music, a new music streaming service made for music with the magic of YouTube: making the world of music easier to explore and more personalised than ever. The days of jumping back and forth between multiple music apps and YouTube are over. Whether you want to listen, watch or discover, it’s all here."
Previous Google/YouTube services have struggled to win over either the music industry or music fans, often coming across as an obligation rather than something the company was truly behind. The new YouTube Music, however, is the first to launch since the arrival of legendary label executive Lyor Cohen, as global head of music. Cohen has been talking the service up for months as a vehicle for music discovery and monetisation, a constant bugbear of the biz due to the so-called 'value gap' between YouTube and other streaming services.
Earlier this year, Cohen told SXSW: “We’re going to collaborate and work closely with our label partners to understand their priorities so we can help promote and break artists. Breaking artists is my drug and now, here at YouTube, I can do so on a massive, global scale."
Cohen has a reputation for being a tough negotiator, but YouTube is clearly on a charm offensive with the biz, as the prospect of new EU 'safe harbour' legislation looms on the horizon.
The YouTube Music news comes hot on the heels of a host of leading artists and top execs hailing the platform's expansion of artist, songwriter, label and publisher credits via its “Music in this video” initiative as “a great step forward”.
The May 16 announcement confirmed that the video sharing service will now provide credits and music discovery information on both music videos and fan-uploaded content that features recorded music, using Content ID which allows copyright owners to identify and manage their content on YouTube.
Elton John was among the first to praise the change, saying: “Songwriters are the heart and the soul of songs, so it's wonderful seeing them get the credit they deserve. There is so much more we can do to establish a better situation for music creators and this is great step forward.”
Martin Bandier, chairman and CEO, Sony/ATV Music Publishing added: “Songwriters are essential to the success of the music industry, but too often their critical role gets overlooked. It is why I have long called for all online music services to properly acknowledge their contribution by displaying writer credits. This move by YouTube is an important step forward to deliver that goal and one which Sony/ATV welcomes.”
Going forward, when viewers click “Show more”, they will be able to see more detail about the artists and songwriters, and the labels and publishers who represent them, including a link to the artist’s official channel and video when available.
An official blog from the service said: “YouTube is committed to providing recognition to all of the people who contribute to the creative process, and this is just the beginning. Through our industry partnerships we will expand the scope and quality of data to ensure all creators are credited as completely and accurately as possible.”
Robert Ashcroft, CEO of PRS and ICE – who has been a vocal critic of the platform – also added his support of the initiative. Ashcroft had previously noted ICE’s improved relations with digital giants, saying that even YouTube was showing signs of “working together”.
“Unlike with CDs, and LPs before that, songwriters are not generally credited for their work on digital services and platforms,” said Ashcroft. “I welcome the steps that YouTube is taking to right this wrong and look forward to supporting their efforts on behalf of all our members.”
YouTube’s “Music in this video” initiative is the latest evidence of a continued thawing relationship between the biz and digital services. In February this year, Spotfiy launched its own songwriter credits feature.
“Songwriters are an integral force behind the music we love,” said Tiffany Kumar, Spotify's global head of songwriter relations. “With the newly launched credits feature, we aim to increase songwriter and producer visibility and, in turn, foster discovery among new collaborators, industry partners, and fans.”
To read our article on why the new YouTube service is so important to Google's global ambitions, click here.