Google’s YouTube unit is wading into the subscription-music business, the company announced today in a blog post. The ad-free Music Key service will cost $7.99 a month during its beta test period, and $9.99 a month thereafter. It will work not only on the web but on Android- and iOS-based smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. Music Key will be integrated with Google’s existing Google Music Play service, a competitor of subscription offerings such as Apple’s iTunes and Beats Music, Spotify, Rdio and others.
The announcement is seemingly a natural progression for YouTube, which already has become perhaps the biggest source of music discovery online. It already has the Vevo joint venture with several major labels for music videos. It also has a huge array of home-grown music creators (most famously Justin Bieber, but also bands such as Boyce Avenue and violinist Lindsey Stirling) who got their start posting videos of their own performances.
The new service will add the ability to search for and listen to entire discographies of artists, recommended playlists, lists of trending music online and much else. All told, the service will provide access to more than 30 million songs, YouTube said.
“You can find a playlist to perfectly fit your mood, whether that’s a morning motivators playlist or Boyce Avenue YouTube Mix,” the post says. “Check out the newest songs from channels you subscribe to, like FKA twigs or Childish Gambino. Or quickly find the songs you’ve played over and over and over again.”
Google says it has paid more than $1 billion in royalties to musicians for plays of their videos, and use of their music by other YouTube creators on their videos. The announcement comes at an interesting time for music services. Several days ago, just after her 1989 album sold more than 1 million copies in its first week (easily the biggest album debut in years), country crossover star Taylor Swift pulled all her back albums from Spotify, saying the subscription service’s meager royalty payments hurt musicians. Spotify in turn said Swift was in line to make $12 million from Spotify in royalties this year, and its CEO protested that the company’s aim is to help more people find music online and legally.
Apple, meanwhile, has been integrating headphone maker Beats and its critically lauded Beats Music subscription service into its operations since buying the company in June for $3 billion. It also continues to add functionality to its existing iTunes offerings.
And Google is aggressively ramping up marketing and investment in its own online media store, Google Play, and not just with the Google Play Music service. The service also sells TV shows, movies, books, magazines and other media on demand online.
Just yesterday, the company said that the Showtime Anytime app had been added to its Chromecast video-streaming gizmo. Showtime subscribers now can watch video from any of the Showtime networks and Starz, using the app and WiFi to pull it off the Internet and onto any device with an HDMI interface that can accept the Chromecast. The service also added an array of family-friendly casual games, based on franchises such as Wheel of Fortune, Scrabble, Monopoly and Connect Four.