Internet giant Google have been dabbling in the music world since their digital distribution service Google Play Music launched in 2011.and though it’s not enjoyed quite the same levels of popularity as rivals Spotify and Apple Music, it remains a major player in the streaming market, thanks in part to its inclusion as the default music player on all Android smartphones. This summer, Google doubled down by launching YouTube Music, a second music streaming service that's billed as an extension of the famous online video platform.
Where did this all come from?Though they are one of the world’s most recognisable brands, Google is not a company that most people traditionally associate with music, and it’s likely that this is one of the reasons behind their decision to launch a subscription-based streaming service to be offered alongside Google Play Music. Christened “YouTube Music” and branded as a side-arm of the online video portal YouTube (a platform they've owned since 2006), the service debuted in 2016, but has recently been relaunched with a revitalised interface and a wealth of new features.YouTube has had a complex and sometimes troubled relationship with the music industry: 2015 figures suggested that 52 percent of all music streaming took place on the service, while Google only paid out 13.5 percent of revenues that year. As consumers have moved further away from physical purchases and towards streaming services over the past ten years, YouTube provided a haven for those who want to stream their music but don’t necessarily want to pay for it. It’s no secret that most popular songs can be found on YouTube, sometimes illegitimately uploaded by users and available to listeners for free: as such, it has the largest catalogue of any legal music service.Following push-back from the industry throughout the 10’s, copyright-infringing content has been greatly reduced, with advertisements introduced and increasing amounts of royalties being paid to artists. However, the service still reportedly pays 1/7th of the rates that other streaming services pay, due to legal differences between payments to artists due from the streaming of ad-adjacent music videos (like on YouTube) and streaming of songs themselves, as with Spotify and Apple Music. Though it’s technically the most popular digital music service in the world and is often used by consumers solely for music listening as opposed to video consumption, YouTube is not considered as an equivalent to subscription-based services like Spotify, but as a video-focused platform supported primarily by advertisements.
Enter YouTube Music.This is YouTube’s answer to Spotify and Apple Music, a dedicated streaming platform that gives users unlimited access to a library of songs numbering in the millions. Like Spotify, YouTube offers a free, limited version of the app that is funded by advertisements, and a premium subscription service that is ad-free. The service officially rolled out in 2015 in five territories, but has been revamped and re-released this summer with a new app and web player, ready for launch in several new markets: Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Unlike YouTube itself, it offers many of the same features that other streaming services do: playlists, library-building, offline streaming, and music recommendations are available. It’s essentially Google’s answer to the big-name streaming platforms, and with Google Play set to be folded in 2019, it looks as if this is a long-term strategy that they are hoping will eventually compete with, or even overtake the major players in the streaming game.