YouTube is taking the reins for Google’s music strategy — and it’s soft launching on Tuesday.
Google’s music strategy has been fractured and confusing and falling behind for years, with Google Play Music being treated like an orange-haired stepchild, YouTube Music being ignored by some users and unheard of by the rest, and YouTube being a place where people of all kinds come to listen to music — both legitimately uploaded and not-so-much.
Google’s been amassing a new team to take on the music industry, from streaming competitors like Spotify to the record labels that control what music can appear on what platforms and how.
We’ve been waiting months for the shoe to drop and Google to reveal its new strategy, and now we know what that new direction looks like. YouTube Red is dead, and it’s being replaced by YouTube Music and YouTube Premium
The service starts at $9.99/month
Similar to every other streaming service, the new YouTube Music will offer a paid subscription of $9.99/month. For that price, you’ll get an ad-free experience when listening to your tunes, can have music videos play in the background, and download songs for offline listening.
The big difference with Google’s new plan, however, is that all of the non-music features included with YouTube Red will now cost extra.
For $11.99/month, you can subscribe to YouTube Premium and get all of the above features in addition to ad-free videos, the ability to play videos in the background and download them for offline viewing, and access to the growing collection of YouTube Original programming.
Existing YouTube Red subscribers are grandfathered into the old plan
Having to pay more for the same features is never an exciting proposition, but Google’s made sure to cater to those that are already subscribed to YouTube Red/Google Play Music.
If you’ve been a paying member for some time or sign up for the current service before the new YouTube Music + YouTube Premium changes take hold, you’ll be able to get all of the YouTube Premium perks for just $9.99/month instead of $11.99.
All-new apps are coming to mobile and desktop
If you’re already using YouTube Music, you’ll notice some big changes coming to the user interface. A “reimagined mobile app” is in the works, as is a brand-new desktop site. According to The Verge, both of these have been “designed specifically for music.”
Similar to what’s already offered in Play Music, Google will use AI to recommend songs and playlists based on where you’re at and what you’re doing. If YouTube Music detects you’re at the gym, it’ll suggest music to listen to that’ll help keep you moving. If it’s late at night and you’re home, you might be offered calm songs for unwinding.
There will be a bigger focus on YouTube Originals
YouTube Originals have paled in comparison to programming made by the likes of Hulu and Netflix, but this is another area Google’s hoping to improve.
It’s promised that YouTube Originals will offer “bigger original series and movies” spanning the genres of action adventure, drama, comedy, and reality shows. Along with the U.S., YouTube Originals will also feature content from the UK, Mexico, France, Germany, and others.
What’s happening to Play Music?
All of this is great, but what in the world is happening to Google Play Music? Nothing, for the time being, but I wouldn’t expect things to stay that way forever.
Google clearly wants YouTube Music to be the face that takes on Spotify and Apple Music, and having another service lying around that offers so many overlapping features will only create for continued confusion.
Play Music needs to be laid to rest in order for Google’s efforts with YouTube Music to truly pay off, and while that may not happen soon, I wouldn’t expect Play Music to still be kicking in a year’s time.
All of this will begin to roll out May 22
The new YouTube Music and YouTube Premium services are launching on Tuesday, May 22 in markets that already offer YouTube Red.