December 4, 2013:YouTube Music may slip to 2014, but what about Beats Music?

YouTube-Logo2013 has been a momentous year for digital music for all sorts of reasons, but as we enter its home straight, two of the most-anticipated new music services of the year haven’t yet launched – and look increasingly likely to slip to 2014.

We’re talking about YouTube Music and Beats Music, which were both slated for 2013 debuts, and have been shown to rightsholders and some artists behind closed doors in the last few months.

All Things Digital reported last night that YouTube Music “is now looking at a Q1 launch, though it doesn’t have a specific date nailed down”. Licences aren’t the problem – they were tied up earlier this year according to numerous reports – but “the company isn’t satisfied with the product itself” including “the best way to integrate user-generated content, like lipsyncs and mashups, along with conventional recordings and videos”.

Sources who’ve seen early versions of YouTube Music have told Music Ally that as it stood, the service was unspectacular – but nailing the integration of UGC could be a differentiator.

What about Beats Music? A rumour published yesterday on GigaOm that its “killer feature” could “allow users to tap into their mobile device’s camera rolls to access personal media” was puzzling, given the grander ambitions outlined by its executives earlier in the year: a stronger focus than rivals on curation, and an artist-friendly integration with Topspin to sell merchandise within the service.

Beats was targeting a launch in the second half of 2013, and while the year brought a $60m funding round and rumours of a bundling deal with US telco AT&T, time is now running out to even launch in that country this year.

Beats Music, too, has been shown off to a number of labels and artists in recent months, but sources who’ve seen it are emphatically split: some have raved to Music Ally about how it handles playlists and curation, while others have said it’s not yet looking like the big leap over rivals that was promised.

Both Beats and YouTube are rich, powerful entrants to the subscription music market (YouTube is already in the free streaming market, of course) but the delays are a sign that in 2013, product development – coming up with a compelling, more than me-too service – rather than licensing may be the biggest challenge for new entrants in this space.

That said, this is all the more reason to make sure a new service is right before launching, rather than rushing to meet promises made earlier in the year of a 2013 debut. If YouTube and Beats can use the extra time well, both services could still make a big impact in 2014.


Stuart Dredge
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