YouTube Music: Google’s new, free Spotify rival

Last year’s Music Consumer Insight Report from the IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) found YouTube accounts for 46% of all time spent listening to on-demand music. According to the report, audio-only free and paid-based streaming from the likes of Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and Deezer clock around that figure combined.

Google itself claims YouTube has over a billion users a month.

It makes sense, then, for Google to dabble with an audio-only YouTube offering. Google has, of course, had its Google Play Music service for some time now but, according to USAToday, it will ‘eventually’ give way to a Google’s new music streaming service, YouTube Music.

YouTube Music is launching in the US, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and South Korea next Tuesday (22nd May), with other markets - including the UK - following in the ‘coming weeks’.

The service is all about ‘putting music in one place’. That’s songs, albums, playlists and artist radio, as well as YouTube’s exclusive catalogue of remixes, live performances, covers and music videos - ‘all simply organised and personalised’.

YouTube appears to be focusing on music discovery. A personalized home screen will provide recommendations based on people’s listening history, as well as where they are and what they’re doing. For example, if you’re at the gym, YouTube Music will supposedly suggest ‘beats to get the heart-rate going’. Users looking for the name of a song only need to describe it or provide some of the lyrics, too.

There will be ‘thousands’ of playlists built to help users discover new music – like Spotify has with its, Discover Weekly and personalized, genre- and (we'd imagine) mood-based mixes.

There will also be a ‘reimagined’ mobile app and new desktop player, of which we can get a faint idea from the picture above.

Similar to Spotify, YouTube Music will have a free, ad-supported tier, as well as a $9.99-per-month YouTube Music Premium membership offering background listening, downloads and, naturally, an ad-free experience.

There’s no word on a family plan in Google’s blog post announcement, but it’s good news for Google Play Music subscribers - they'll get a YouTube Music Premium membership as part of their subscription each month.

And that's not all. Where streaming services are concerned, Google also has YouTube Red, a subscription video service for premium, exclusive content - albeit one that’s not available in the UK. Google is also taking this opportunity to rebrand: YouTube Red will become YouTube Premium, and will offer ad-free, background and offline viewing across all of YouTube, as well as access to all YouTube Originals. The new $11.99-per-month subscription will include the YouTube Music service, and could be the rebranding the service needs to come to the UK.

With Spotify recently announcing a redesigned free mobile app listening experience in a bid to attract more users, will the launch of YouTube Music put a dent in that ambition? And, more importantly, will the new Google service be any good? We look forward to getting our eyes and ears around it as soon as it's available on our side of the pond.


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Becky Roberts

Becky is the managing editor of What Hi-Fi? and, since her recent move to Melbourne, also the editor of Australian Hi-Fi magazine. During her 10 years in the hi-fi industry, she has been fortunate enough to travel the world to report on the biggest and most exciting brands in hi-fi and consumer tech (and has had the jetlag and hangovers to remember them by). In her spare time, Becky can often be found running, watching Liverpool FC and horror movies, and hunting for gluten-free cake.