YouTube’s collection of spin-off apps has expanded from two to three, with YouTube Kids and YouTube Games joined on the app stores – in the US alone for now – by YouTube Music.
Announced recently alongside the new YouTube Red subscription service, YouTube Music – which has gone live for iOS and Android – is being pitched very much as a consumption destination: “Every song you play or artist you choose will take you on an endless journey through YouTube’s music catalog,” as the company’s launch blog post put it.
“A simple tap and you’re on your way, enjoying your favourite music and discovering new artists effortlessly. The home tab will recommend tracks just for you and create personalised stations based on your tastes. The app also gives you complete access to one of the richest music catalogs on earth. You’ll be able to quickly find music videos, tracks, artists and albums, but you’ll also see all the remixes, covers, lyric videos and concert footage that YouTube has to offer.”
The key question for the music industry will be how well YouTube Music funnels fans towards a premium subscription for YouTube Red, which will add the ability to store songs offline; switch between video and audio-only modes; play music in the background while using other apps; and ditch the ads.
Anyone downloading the YouTube Music app will get a 14-day free trial of the Red features – short compared to the free trials of Apple Music and Spotify’s premium tier, but at least enough to give YouTube users a taste.
The Verge interviewed developer T. Jay Fowler – formerly of MOG – who emphasised the consumption-not-just-discovery aspect.
“A lot of people think of YouTube as a place you come to consume, lean forward, and then go someplace else, but we want people to have those leanback sessions,” said Fowler. “It’s important for people to understand that this experience, when unlocked with Red, is deeply portable.”
The Verge certainly approves, suggesting that with the app “YouTube has fundamentally changed the market for streaming music”.
That verdict rests on comparing a standard $9.99-a-month (audio) music-streaming subscription with the $9.99-a-month YouTube Red – but music rightsholders will be keen to see whether for users, the battle is more between premium audio subscriptions and YouTube Music for free.
Industry consultant Mark Mulligan’s latest post notes that “65% of US under 25s use YouTube for music regularly”, so demand for the YouTube Music app could be high. The question of whether the app makes people more likely to pay for a YouTube Red subscription or simply less likely to pay for, say, Spotify or Apple Music will be the key.