Though Spotify and Apple Music have emerged the largest platforms for music streaming, it's long been known that YouTube's listener base outnumbers both of them combined, with Forbes reporting last year that 55 percent of all online on-demand music listening takes place on the video-sharing site. Given that dominance, it only makes sense that YouTube will officially join the streaming wars with their own dedicated subscription-based music listening service launching as early as next week.
According to a press release, YouTube Music promises to "[make] the world of music easier to explore and more personalized than ever. The days of jumping back and forth between multiple music apps and YouTube are over." The service seems to function exactly like Spotify, with the ability to listen for free with ads or pay 9.99 a month for additional features. It will come with its own desktop and mobile app, which means you can finally play YouTube in the background on your phone. The site also says that YouTube Music will have unlimited access to "YouTube’s tremendous catalog of remixes, live performances, covers and music videos that you can’t find anywhere else," which is legitimately promising news. That and the fact that apparently you'll be able to emulate Google searches, finding songs simply by entering vague descriptions (e.g. "that hipster song with the whistling" for Peter Bjorn and John's "Young Folks") or key lyrics.
The complications now arise when you remember that YouTube previously took a crack at subscription-based streaming with YouTube Red, not to mention that Google—who owns YouTube—already has Google Play for music. The press release states that Red will now be renamed YouTube Premium, and access to its catalog of exclusive TV shows and movies will cost an additional $2 per month on top of the optional $9.99 monthly fee for YouTube Music (which removes ads, allows you to listen to the app in the background, and permits downloads). As this very helpful piece by Recode points out, YouTube Red already had music included in its mandatory $9.99 subscription, even though the company downplayed Red's nature as a music streaming platform. What YouTube has seemingly done with this new service then is beefed up the already existing music section of YouTube Red so that they can charge users slightly more to get that additional video content. Fortunately, an existing subscription to Google Play (which apparently will still exist) gets you a YouTube Music and Premium subscription on the spot.
YouTube Music launches May 22 in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and South Korea, with more territories to follow "in the coming weeks." You can read the entire press release here.
Phil is on Twitter.