November 12, 2015 Last Updated 2:09 pm

Google releases YouTube Music for Android, iPhone, the labels have more thing to worry about

App offers its music videos for free, but the goal here is to get users to subscribe to YouTube Red, its new monthly subscription service which offers ad-free listening

The music business must feel even more at the mercy of the big digital media companies than do the traditional publishers. It seems like every day someone is taking another shot at it by introducing a new streaming platform, or something.

But both record executives, and plenty of young people, will tell you that however much the industry has tried to shutdown the illegal music file sharing services, the biggest outlet for free music is Google’s YouTube.

YT-M-1-smA search of the YouTube will reveal a ton of music available for free that is not even available on many of the streaming services. Robert Fripp won’t let Spotify or Apple stream any King Crimson, for instance, but whole LPs are available to be streamed via YouTube.

Google knows what it has, it’s a gold mine, and one reason the company dominates online advertising.

But the music streaming services do pose a bit of a threat. After all, though Google has mobile apps for YouTube, they are hardly dedicated music apps, much inferior to Spotify, Pandora or the new Apple Music.

So, what to do? Launch your own music app, of course, one built around YouTube.

Google, of course,  already has Google Play Music which is sort of a beefed up Pandora competitor. The music is curated, but the user can also upload their own music to the service to round things out. But it is not nearly as popular as other music apps, not even appearing in the top ten most popular free apps in the App Store (where Amazon Music in sitting at #9).

Besides, what they want to do is create something that requires a subscription. Hence, YouTube Music (Google Play, Apple App Store).

What Google is doing is pretty obvious: negotiating deals with the labels is a pain, why not just monetize what we already have, which is pretty impressive already. I’m sure the labels and artists wonder what is in it for them?

“Today, any artist can upload a video to YouTube and get discovered by over 1 billion people around the globe. That global exposure has allowed YouTube and Google to pay out over $3 billion to the record industry to date,” said T. Jay Fowler, Director, Product Management for Google. “But it’s also provided an incredible source of promotion for artists, helping fuel ticket sales, move merchandise, and boost album and song downloads. Just this month, Adele’s “Hello” became the fastest rising video of the year on YouTube, while also breaking the record for first week download sales.”


The app has some obvious drawbacks compared to others. The first is the advertising which can be pretty obnoxious here. But the idea is to get you to subscribe to its ad-free service, called YouTube Red, for $9.99 a month if you are an Android user, or $12.99 for iPhone owners.

It is a minor miracle that Apple allowed the app to charge its users more than Android users, but then again there is that 30 percent fee Apple takes in.

In fact, that is a real first for Apple’s direct competitors. Amazon has both books and music apps inside the Apple App Store, knowing how important the iPhone/iPad market to it. But they don’t let you buy books or music through those apps. Apple often gets the blame because it wants to take that 30 percent slice off the top, but it is up to the app developer to decide, and many say “No”. Google here, in order to offer the app for the iPhone, and get users to subscribe in-app after growing tired of those ads, has decided to let Apple have its cut.

The app itself has some interesting features, some that are very smart. For instance, there is an audio-only mode, which cuts the users bandwidth consumption, and undoubtedly saves battery life.

But there is a lot missing, as well. An example would be that the apps launched without the ability to create and save playlists. This could come later. But it also may be missing because, unlike Spotify or Apple Music, these are really video files, not individual song tracks. Still, a playlist feature would have been nice, and could come in a future update. Google, after all, is an aggressive app developer.

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