Google-owned YouTube unveiled its new Music Key subscription service alongside a number of new music related features.
The new Music Key subscription service:
- Offers premium subscribers ad-free access to support YouTube music videos, enables offline audio and video caching, and background playback on YouTube’s mobile apps.
- Has deals with the three major labels and hundreds of independents for audio and music video playback.
- Launches in the US, UK, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Finland available for $9.99,(£9.99) per month – discounted to $7.99 (£7.99) for early adopters. Google is inviting a select group of users for a six-month free trial.
- Includes a bundled subscription to Google Play Music (rebranded from Google Play Music All Access), Google’s existing on-demand service. YouTube Music Key subscribers will automatically gain access to Google Play Music and vice versa.
Additional free YouTube features include:
- Full album streams.
- A dedicated music tab.
- Enhanced artist information and additional content.
This is not YouTube’s first foray into subscription content. Its previous attempt at offering subscription video channels struggled because of a lack of quality content and its rental service has since been folded into Google Play video. As it already provides a huge music video catalogue, YouTube will not face the same content issues this time, but its bigger challenge is persuading users to pay for content. For most consumers, the primary attraction of YouTube is that it is free.
Bundling YouTube Music Key and Google Play Music subscriptions is a good move to drive uptake. Although, because they are separate apps Google must make sure it communicates the value of the offer well to consumers and make it easy to use both apps in tandem, or YouTube risks creating confusion.
The launch of YouTube Music Key highlights a number of significant trends in the digital music market while raising questions about the online and mobile music business:
YouTube Music Key is late to the subscription music party. The addition of music videos may not be enough to make subscribers churn away from existing premium services, but it does provide a differentiator for those looking to sign up. This announcement highlights YouTube's strong, and growing, importance in both mobile music and the overall digital music market.