By Eliot Van Buskirk of Evolver.fm.
It might seem crazy for YouTube to launch a music subscription somewhat along the lines of MOG, Rdio, Rhapsody, and Spotify, because you can already play just about any song in the world on YouTube, for free, in seconds — even music from The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and other artists who refuse to put their music on music subscriptions.
But that’s precisely what Google plans to do before the end of this year, according to a recent Billboard report – and the reason is precisely because you can already play so much music for free on YouTube.
Record labels and music publishers have finally gleaned that YouTube is not just a video service. As one digital music executive once put it to me, “If you want to see the best on-demand music service in the world, go to YouTube and close your eyes” — meaning that, yes, there are videos, but the music is there too, and all of it is free.
Back in March, a YouTube spokesperson laid out the real reason YouTube would try a paid music service:
"While we don’t comment on rumor or speculation, there are some content creators that think they would benefit from a subscription revenue stream in addition to ads, so we’re looking at that."
Are people really going to pay to listen to music on YouTube? Google might not care too much about that, actually. So long as it shows the music industry a good faith effort to make a YouTube music subscription pay, it will likely continue to have permission to play music on the free version of YouTube as well, which is a big priority for Google alongside its Google-branded locker/subscription.
Within the next two months or so, you will apparently be able to pay for a YouTube music subscription. Here are five things to expect when that happens, based on reporting and our own educated guesses:
1. Videos too
Quite obviously, unlike Spotify, Rdio, and the rest of its competitors, the YouTube music subscription will let you watch videos if you want. But you won’t have to watch the videos, because…
2. It’ll keep playing even if your phone is off
People love to play individual songs on YouTube, but there’s one big hassle with that when you do so on an iPhone and other smartphones: The video stops playing when you turn off your screen. We’re just about certain that if you pay for YouTube, you’ll be able to listen to the music there without having the phone’s screen on, which will save lots of battery life once YouTube becomes a music app.
3. No ads
As with other subscription services, the paid version of YouTube will feature zero ads, as Billboard confirmed.
Billboard also reported that the YouTube apps, which will run on ” all platforms,” will offer the ability to store music videos on local phone memory to users who pay.
5. Better organization and playlisting
I sometimes feel like YouTube intentionally obscures its ability to collect music into playlists, possibly to make the labels and publishers feel okay about having all of that music on there for free — although you actually can make music playlists, even of albums, and browse YouTube by artist and album if you know how. Paying YouTube for music will likely include more robust features for organizing and collecting music.
We’re less sure about this one, because there’s no precedent for a comprehensive paid on-demand music subscription. However, the going rate for a mobile subscription across every service is ten bucks a month, so that’s what the YouTube music service will likely cost.
Another Question: Google Play Integration?
It would make a lot of sense for Google to translate all of those Google Play free locker and subscription accounts over to the YouTube music service, to solve the cold start problem for lots of people. Google might even be able to charge the same ten bucks for both Google Play Music All Access and YouTube Music accounts, if the labels and publishers are okay with that.
Image courtesy of YouTube/PSY