YouTube is taking on rivals including Apple, Spotify and Amazon with a new subscription streaming service launching next week.
The platform will launch in the US, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and South Korea on 22 May before being rolled out in 14 additional countries, including the UK.
Free, ad-supported accounts will be available, while the subscription tier, YouTube Music Premium, will cost $9.99 (about £7.40) a month.
Elias Roman, a product manager for YouTube Music, emphasised YouTube’s “tremendous catalogue of remixes, live performances, covers and music videos that you can’t find anywhere else – all simply organised and personalised”.
The combination of video and music content is a response to the $12.99 bundle announced by Hulu, the US TV subscription service with shows such as The Handmaid’s Tale, and Spotify last month.
Despite YouTube’s powerful position as the biggest music site in the world, with 1.3 billion users regularly watching videos, there is scepticism that it will topple the streaming music market leader, Spotify.
“YouTube has done this to appease the music labels who like subscription models but it is not going to be a Spotify killer,” Mark Mulligan, an analyst at MIDiA Research, says. “YouTube is all about generating advertising; it has a strategic disincentive to make its music subscription service work because it is an ad-funded business. I doubt we will see it become a leading music subscription service.”
YouTube is estimated to be on track to make $10bn in ad revenues this year, according to eMarketer. The Google-owned service paid $856m in royalties to music companies last year – only an estimated 67 cents per user annually.
With the aid of Google Assistant and access to a wealth of user data, the app will offer recommendations automatically based on the time of day and the user’s location and listening habits, according to Pitchfork. The YouTube executive T Jay Fowler described the revamped service as a “deeply personalised experience”.
YouTube Music will supersede Google Play Music, which will continue to exist as a cloud locker service, to which users can upload their music for portable streaming. Existing subscribers will receive access to the new service.
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In addition, YouTube Red – the ad-free, paid-for version of YouTube – will be renamed YouTube Premium and include access to YouTube Music. Existing subscribers will continue to pay $9.99 a month, while new subscribers will pay $11.99.
Roman said “more than 1 billion music fans come to YouTube each month to be part of music culture and discover new music” – which marks the first time YouTube has revealed data about its music users, Music Ally reported.
The launch of YouTube Music and the rebranding of YouTube Red brings cohesion to the streaming strategy of YouTube and its parent company, Google.
In 2014, it launched YouTube Music Key, which offered free and offline streaming for a monthly fee of $9.99.
A prior mobile app, also called YouTube Music, allowed YouTube Red subscribers to play YouTube videos with the screen off. The standard, ad-supported version of YouTube works only with the screen turned on and the browser or app in the foreground.