Just this morning we learned that YouTube struck a deal with the hundreds of indie labels that had united in pursuit of a fair shake in digital media revenue. Now Billboard reports that YouTube’s long-rumored streaming music service is live.
The free component of the service is simply a new Music tab on YouTube’s basic display, with a few buttons added to the basic display. It’s immediately unclear how this is any different than the YouTube experience we’ve come to expect beyond the promise of more songs to be added down the line and the addition of Pandora-like “endless playlists” users can build by clicking a button. The big development is the paid subscription service, YouTube Music Key, which will charge $9.99 per month for the privilege of offline and ad-free listening plus access to Google Play. Key will launch in invite-only beta format this Monday 11/17 in the US, UK, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Finland, and Portugal. Here’s a video about Key:
Billboard’s report raises one important question about the new service:
However, one of YouTube’s biggest draws for fans is music not available elsewhere — because it’s not supposed to be there. For instance, the deluxe edition of Taylor Swift’s 1989 was available for (unsanctioned) streaming at the time of this writing. It’s likely that music companies with which YouTube hasn’t signed deals will be far more aggressive in copyright takedown requests. (Only labels and publishers that have deals with YouTube can use the Content ID takedown system.)
YouTube estimates that its users watch 6 billion hours each month and that 2.28 billion of those — 34 percent — are music-related. Now that YouTube is billing itself as a music service, those stats will immediately make official what was already unofficial: YouTube is the world’s most-listened music service. Pandora’s most recent stats touted 1.73 billion hours of listening per month, making it the next closest competitor.
UPDATE: Looks like the new streaming service is starting to ruffle some feathers: Irving Azoff — who represents artists such as the Eagles, John Lennon, Pharrell Williams, Foreigner, and many more — has told The Hollywood Reporter that he is ready to take 42 of his clients’ copyrighted works off of Youtube, totaling around 20,000 songs. Azoff thinks that songwriters should be compensated more for their work in the streaming market: “The trampling of writer’s rights in the digital marketplace without any regard to their contribution to the creative process will no longer be tolerated,” he tells THR. More details can be found here.