YouTube Music Key remains in its free-trial phase, despite an email sent to some early adopters of the music-streaming service today informing them that the beta period has ended.
Music Key launched as a six-month free beta in November 2014, but as that period came to an end, the trial was extended until mid-September. And lo, this morning Music Ally received an automated email from YouTube:
“Thanks again for subscribing to YouTube Music Key beta. Your free trial has ended, and you’ll be charged £7.99/month starting today. Your receipt for your first payment is below.”
Music Ally contacted YouTube, and the company confirmed that this was a mistake. “Today, some users were mistakenly charged for their free beta subscription of Music Key due to a bug in our system,” explained a spokesperson.
“In addition to refunding the incorrect charges, we’d like to extend their free beta trial as a thank you for all their feedback for the service.”
YouTube is not expected to start charging for Music Key until it’s ready for a full launch. The company has not said how long the trial extension will last beyond this month.
In June, YouTube’s head of content and business operations Robert Kyncl said the delay was “nothing too serious” but since then there have been rumours that Music Key could be folded in to YouTube’s upcoming general subscription tier, although more recently YouTube CEO Susan Wojkicki claimed the standalone launch was still set for 2015.
In her appearance at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference, Wojkicki said the service was shaping up nicely. “YouTube has an impressive collection of music. It’s a little bit different than Apple/Spotify. The music is different and the purpose is different. We have music videos,” she said.
Music Key has been controversial at times: in June 2014, a row exploded over the licensing negotiations between YouTube and independent labels, led by trade body AIM. YouTube later reached an agreement with indie licensing agency Merlin.
YouTube’s existing free service, with its huge collection of music, is often mentioned in music-industry discussions about unfair competition for subscription services like Spotify (and, indeed, Google’s own Google Play Music All Access) – and rumblings among European rightsholders about safe-harbour legislation are often targeted as much at YouTube as SoundCloud.
That said, Music Key does seem genuinely strategically significant to YouTube: it sits alongside YouTube Kids and the recently-launched YouTube Gaming as vertical apps/services for the biggest content categories on YouTube.
How big is music on YouTube? In the UK alone, 12.5bn music videos were streamed in the first half of 2015 according to the BPI – and the vast majority of them will have been on YouTube. In the US, stats from Nielsen suggest YouTube served up 76.6bn music streams in the first half of 2015.