UPDATED: After several months of delays, YouTube Music is relaunching its subscription service on Tuesday, which will be available as an ad-supported (i.e. free) model and as a Premium model for $9.99 per month, with various bundle options for other Google services. YouTube Music will have its own “reimagined” mobile app and desktop player and will eventually replace Google Play Music and the music component of YouTube Red (although the latter paid service will continue separate from YouTube Music as YouTube Premium, for $12 per month). According to the announcement, YouTube Music will include thousands of playlists, the official versions of millions of songs, albums, artist radio and more, in addition to music videos.
The new YouTube Music will initially roll out in five territories — the U.S., Mexico, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand — with 13 European countries and Canada to follow at an unspecified later date.
YouTube remains the No. 1 streaming service for music globally, although most of its 1.5 billion monthly users listen and watch videos for free. Spotify is the No. 1 paid streaming service with around 75 million subscribers, and Apple Music recently passed the 50 million mark.
Variety received a preview of the service earlier this week from the company’s Lyor Cohen and T. Jay Fowler, and while it is in many ways similar to other major streaming services, a key advantage is that it is able to draw on YouTube’s vast video archive for recommendations and links — not bootlegs or user-uploaded music, but officially sanctioned videos such as “Saturday Night Live” or BBC performances, as well as related non-musical content like televised artist interviews.
Its search can operate similar to Amazon’s Alexa via lyrics or descriptions — the announcement provides the example “that hipster song with the whistling” (Peter, Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks”).
However, Cohen and Fowler stressed that the service will be “audio-biased,” rather than video. Depending on how much information users share with the service, it will make recommendations based on time of day and predictive behavior — i.e. it will not recommend video content if it knows the listener is at work. The home screen will follow a similar pattern based on habits and behavior: For example, on Friday mornings it will surface new releases customized for the user. It will also allow users to download music for offline listening, with setting options so that it doesn’t use up more memory than the user wants it to.
Cohen and Fowler also emphasized that Tuesday’s rollout will be a soft launch and the service will develop over the coming weeks.
The announcement follows the company’s recent updated charts and the recent addition of songwriter, label and publisher credits to music on YouTube.