×

YouTube Launches ‘Music Key’ Subscription Service with More Than 30 Million Songs

Google's video site also adds section to website and apps aimed at boosting views of music videos

YouTube, which touts itself as already the biggest digital music service in the world, is finally taking the wraps off its delayed ad-free music subscription service — challenging a field of rivals including Apple and Spotify.

At first, YouTube Music Key will be available on an invite-only basis to the Google site’s “biggest music fans,” who will have access to it free for six months. Then YouTube will offer the service at a promotional price of $7.99 per month (regularly $9.99 monthly) that provides ad-free music, background playback if another app is launched, and offline viewing.

YouTube Music Key (at youtube.com/musickey) includes a subscription to Google Play Music (normally $9.99 per month), which offers more than 30 million songs, as well as curated playlists. Initially, Music Key will launch U.S., Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, the U.K. and Finland.

In addition to the subscription service, YouTube is adding a new music section to its website and mobile apps that shows a user’s favorite music videos, recommended playlists and trending-music playlists. YouTube’s music channel soon also will show an artist’s discography to let users play a full album with both their official music videos and songs from partners.

“We want YouTube to continue to be the best place for artists and fans to connect,” a rep said. “We’re announcing a new music experience on YouTube to give fans more ways to enjoy music on YouTube, and give artists more ways to connect with fans and earn more revenue.”

YouTube reportedly had hoped to launch the subscription-music service as early as last December. But while it had signed pacts with the three major labels — Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group — it encountered resistance from some independent labels, who wanted better terms. (In response, YouTube threatened to pull down videos from indie labels that weren’t on board.)

Those disputes have apparently now been resolved to Google’s satisfaction: YouTube inked a deal with music-rights agency Merlin, which reps 20,000 small labels, FT.com reported. YouTube declined to confirm the Merlin agreement, with a rep saying only that “we’ve signed all majors and hundreds of indies.”

Separately, YouTube is considering launching a subscription service for other videos — not just music — that would strip out advertising, according to CEO Susan Wojcicki.

With the launch of YouTube Music Key, Google also is updating Google Music Play so that subscribers will be able to play many YouTube official music videos from within the Google Play Music app, as well as get music recommendations based on their listening profile across both platforms.

YouTube Music Key’s competitors include Spotify, Amazon.com, Rdio, Rhapsody and Apple, which bought Beats for $3 billion. Spotify, for one, claims to have more than 50 million active users, of which 12.5 million are subscribers that pay $10 per month; however, the company has been rattled in a public spat with superstar Taylor Swift, whose company pulled her entire catalog off the service because it believed Spotify would hurt sales of the artist’s “1989” album. (YouTube confirmed that Swift’s music will be available through Music Key.)

In the U.S., revenue from ad-supported and subscription-based streaming music services is projected to more than double between 2014 and 2018, from $2 billion to over $4 billion, according to research firm eMarketer. Over the same time period, music-download services are expected to grow about 20%, from $527 million to $630 million.

Watch YouTube’s promo video for Music Key:

More Digital

  • Activision-Blizzard-Overwatch-League-Grand-Finals-2018

    YouTube Scores Exclusive Streaming for Activision Blizzard's E-Sports, Including Overwatch and Call of Duty Leagues

    YouTube landed a multiyear deal as the exclusive live-streaming partner for Activision Blizzard’s e-sports events worldwide, including Overwatch League, Call of Duty League, Hearthstone Esports. The agreement (which excludes China) promises to give a big boost to YouTube Gaming, the video giant’s dedicated home for all things related to games. It’s also a loss for [...]

  • Grammy Moments Brandi Carlile John Legend

    What's a Grammy Moment Worth? Brandi Carlile, John Legend, Label Execs Weigh In

    In simpler times, an artist could see album sales spike to over 500,000 in the days after a Grammy Awards broadcast appearance. That was Santana’s experience in 2000. Following a performance on the show and eight Grammy wins, “Supernatural” flew off the shelves — a gold certification from one key look. Today, that seems downright [...]

  • Netflix-logo-N-icon

    Netflix Sets Up Italian Office in Rome (EXCLUSIVE)

    After opening its doors in Paris last week, Netflix is setting up an office in Rome, Variety can reveal. The streaming giant has confirmed that it will move its Italian team, which is now based in Amsterdam, to new offices in the Italian capital, where they are currently seeking a space. The process will take [...]

  • Jill Dickerson - Snap

    Snap Taps OWN's Jill Dickerson to Lead Unscripted Programming

    Jill Dickerson has left OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network after more than a decade to join Snap Inc., the parent company of Snapchat, as a senior member of the Snap Originals team. A seasoned reality TV exec, Dickerson will help lead the development of Snap’s docu-series and unscripted programming and is based at the company’s Santa [...]

  • Deadspin - Jim Rich

    Deadspin to Relaunch Under New Editor Jim Rich, Following Mass Staff Resignation

    Deadspin, the irreverant sports news and opinion digital-media brand that has been dormant since last November, is going to get re-spun under newly hired editor-in-chief Jim Rich. G/O Media named the veteran editor and journalist, who formerly served as editor-in-chief of the New York Daily News, executive editor at Huffpost, and night sports editor at [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content