Cheers and Jeers: YouTube’s New Music Subscription Service

YouTube will be launching a new subscription-based music streaming service to compete with Spotify and Rdio. Spotify’s already got 6 million paying subscribers, but more than a billion people view YouTube videos monthly. In fact, YouTube is already the world’s largest music streaming service, and it’s time to cash in on that fact. Complete details on the launch of the service have yet to be released, but features such as offline playback and ad-free video are rumored. According to Rolling Stone, “YouTube has signed up 95 percent of all labels for the new service, and will block content from the unsigned 5 percent, in certain countries, as part of predetermined contract agreements.” Clearly, there are some pros and cons to the new service. Let’s check out the cheers and jeers!


  • A statement from YouTube describes how the service will “bring music partners new revenue streams in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars YouTube already generates for them each year.” There’s no questioning the benefits of participating as an artist.
  • The service will likely improve user experience on the site’s mobile app. Read: no more losing audio when you exit out of the app on your smartphone! Text and rock out simultaneously. Awesome.
  • Entire albums can be enjoyed with one click, ad-free. This will translate to a much better YouTube experience for users unfamiliar with playlist creation or unwilling to interrupt their listening with advertisements.
  • YouTube is a data fiend. It just knows. If we think Pandora’s music suggestions are fantastic, the recommendations speculated for the new YT service could introduce us to the next Beatles (if such a band can even be conceived).
  • Record labels will be very happy: monthly subscription fees are more stable revenue streams than $0.99 downloads. Data from the RIAA demonstrates how, as singles downloading rates are dropping for the first time in history, yearly subscription rates are rising.
  • The service will offer labels better piracy prevention, which is great for big names and underdogs alike!
  • Third-party video-hosting services that have agreed to new deals with YouTube will continue to be able to use the music of banned artists. Does your favorite crooner have a Vevo channel? He’s covered!


  • In order to keep consistent agreements, videos from users who choose not to sign will be scrubbed from the site. Indie artists who have yet to sign up include names like Adele, Radiohead, The xx, and Jack White. Adele will probably just find Someone Like YouTube, but I’m a little nervous about Jack White’s coping strategy…
  • According to members of the Worldwide Independent Network (WIN), the “contracts currently on offer to independent labels undervalue existing rates in the marketplace from music-streaming partners such as Spotify, Rdio, and Deezer.” They’ll be booted off YouTube if they don’t sign, but signing yields lesser payoff than it would with a competing service.
  • The new app could be combined with Google’s existing service (Google Play Music All Access), turning the juggernaut into a scarier, more tech-savvy Monopoly Guy. Does it look a bit like Skynet in here, or is that just me?
  • An opinion straight from the artist: Ed O’Brien of Radiohead told Billboard, “Indie artists and labels are at the cutting edge of the future of music. To restrict them in this way is to risk creating an internet just for the superstars and big businesses.” Well that’s no fun.

 The Verdict:
Jury’s still out. YouTube is great at what it does, so let’s see what they can do to make the new streaming service useful and unique for subscribers. (Personally, I’m most curious about the design/font choices involved — can I get a “what what” from my fellow kerning geeks? Nope, just me?) The numbers show that there’s certainly a demand for the service, and YouTube’s mobile app could really benefit from a makeover. Alright, YouTube: you’re up!

by Maggie Altergott

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