After a year of testing and running in Beta modus, YouTube Music is finally officially launched. YouTube Music is a music video streaming service and aims to secure a spot in the heavily combatted music streaming battlefield (as described here). The streaming service can also be used as an audio-only app. But essentially it’s a MTV for the mobile generation. Will it be able to secure a spot next to Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, Qobuz, Apple Music, Google Play Music, Pandora to name a few?
Of course, most other music streaming services are audio-only and do not offer music videos. However, Tidal does offer high-quality music videos as well, so YouTube Music is not unique. Key advantage for YouTube Music is that it also comes in a free, add-supported version, whereas minimum monthly subscription for Tidal costs a small USD 10. In addition, Tidal offers only 80,000 music videos, compared to millions available through YouTube Music. The catalogue of the latter should contain 50 million songs (compared to 35 million audio songs at Tidal), although a lot of these are independent artists, amateurs or fan covers (estimated 20 million). In addition, Tidal offers a high-fidelity subscription for USD 20. It is unclear what audio quality YouTube Music offers.
For a proper or full use of all options offered by YouTube Music, users have to subscribe to YouTube Red at a monthly rate of USD 10. The Red-service offers an add free experience of YouTube. The paid subscription service for Music also enables an offline modus and audio-only option. The offline modus is a feature included since a lot of Beta users were worried about the data usage of the video app. Extensive users would have to pay a lot more for data bundles than the monthly subscription rate, so this option makes sense. The USD 10 monthly rate is in line with competitors, so YouTube Music has a very competitive package. Subscription also offers usage of Google Play Music.
This could be the end of Google Play Music, since there is no reason to separately subscribe for this service. Some analysts were already very cautious about the success of Google Play Music, since Alphabet didn’t publish any subscription numbers. This is a vague sign that the service has less success than hoped for. We know that Apple Music already got 6.5 million users (of the 15 million signing up for the free trial). Market leader Spotify is believed to have 20 million paying subscribers with Qobuz following with 15 million (European) subscribers. The French streaming service Deezer matches Apple’s numbers with 6.3 million subscribers. Tidal is with 1 million paid subscribers much smaller. The music-streaming market is growing fast, as we recently noted. Deezer CEO Albrecht said to believe that this is not a ‘winner takes all’ market. However, we have to wonder if further fragmentation is possible with these big names in the game. It will be difficult to acquire a place within this group without damaging the potential of a name with a less balanced product offering, such as Google Play Music.
Despite being very young and not yet aggressively placed in the market, YouTube Music looks promising. With Alphabet’s Android being a dominant player on the mobile market and YouTube also being an Alphabet-member, the music video app is set for a promising future. Unfortunately, users outside North America have to wait a bit before YouTube Red / Music is available in their country.