YouTube subscription music launch nears, but will terms be a sticking point?


YouTube-LogoYouTube’s first music awards in November 2013 were expected to herald the launch – or at least the announcement – of the long-awaited ‘YouTube Music Pass’ music subscription service.

No such luck, and predictions that it would launch early in 2014 have so far proven to be wide of the mark too. Now the New York Post is stoking up the rumour-mill again, claiming that YouTube Music Pass will now launch in the summer, through a dedicated Android app.

It predicts that YouTube will “likely” charge $5 a month for an ad-supported version of the service, or $10 a month without ads. Users will be able to play music in the background on their device while using other apps.

No news on whether the feature alluded to by NMPA board member Matt Pincus in a Music Ally interview in January – a lyric video creator for music fans – is still part of the plans for the service.

The NYP does suggest that Apple is “further along” with its own plans for an on-demand music streaming service, which may be the latest evidence for an unveiling of that at Apple’s June WWDC conference for developers.

What’s the hold-up for YouTube’s music subscription service, then? Music Ally’s sources suggest that the terms of its licensing deals may be one factor in the launch being delayed until the summer.

In particular, a clause stipulating that labels will provide their entire catalogues of sound recordings and music videos to both the premium and ad-supported tiers of YouTube’s new service, set by default to “monetize” all that content (i.e. not opting out of having ads against it).

Some sources tell Music Ally that their fear is of an ‘all-out or all-in’ approach: either labels make everything available on YouTube, or have to take it all off. With some artists continuing to withhold their music from streaming services, we’d be surprised if such a hardball policy was followed through.

Some labels are also concerned at YouTube wanting them to upload their entire catalogues at a bitrate of at least 320kbps while having to re-upload in the future if YouTube raises its requirements.

There are also grumbles about clauses that seemingly attempt to place restrictions on how labels run exclusive promotional offers for music and music videos with rival services. At a time when Apple is pushing for more and longer iTunes exclusives, YouTube pushing back could be very interesting for the market overall. We’ll have to wait until summer to find out, though.

Stuart Dredge

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