Look out Apple Music, here comes YouTube’s ‘Music Key’

YouTube introduced ‘Music Key’ to beta users last November, and has been relying on their feedback to continuously tweak the service. 

Todd Williamson/AP
YouTube content creators Benny Fine, from left, Rafi Fine, writer/director Leslye Headland, President of Gloria Sanchez, Jessica Elbaum, Fullscreen CEO George Strompolos, Black List founder Franklin Leonard, and moderator Rebecca Ford are seen at THR Talks panel presented by The Hollywood Reporter and YouTube at Park City Live on Friday, January 23, 2015, in Park City, Utah.

When Apple launched its streaming service, Apple Music, nearly a month ago, tech fanatics wondered how it would compete with other streaming giants like Spotify and Pandora.

The nascent service has yet another contender to look out for: YouTube.

Speaking at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo., on Monday, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki shared details on what to expect for the company’s ‘Music Key’ streaming service, scheduled to launch later this year.  

YouTube introduced ‘Music Key’ to beta users last November, and has been relying on their feedback to continuously tweak the service. So much so that the company extended their free subscriptions until Sept. 15, The Verge reports.

When asked whether ‘Music Key’ will be on par with leading streaming services, Apple Music and Spotify, Ms. Wojcicki suggested that the two are no match for the video giant.

“YouTube just has a really impressive collection of music,” she said. “It’s different because we have the music videos, which being able to see your favorite music artist perform a song and see what they imagine when they created that song – it’s really magical.”

Wojcicki added that the company is working to best utilize its site’s user-generated content, such as the numerous videos of fans covering their favorite songs. YouTube has also been considering how the ‘Music Key’ feature will work best on the go, as half of the site’s views are currently generated from mobile

The service contains features for both free and paid users, including a dedicated "Music" tab on YouTube for iOS, Android, and the web. Free users will have access to ad-supported "endless mixes" of songs, while, for $8 a month, trial users will be able to enjoy ad-free songs and music videos, along with Google Play Music, The Verge reports.

Some critics say the ‘Music Key’ product won’t offer anything new that’s worth $8 a month. But YouTube is well aware that when it comes to music listening habits, online streaming is where the majority of listeners turn to.  Since YouTube launched the beta version last year, its music catalog has grown and it has worked on issues related to battery drain and data usage.  

According to a Nielsen music report, “Streaming continued to show significant growth in 2014, with over 164 billion songs streamed on demand through audio and video platforms.” Music listeners have been consuming tunes through on-demand streaming services at “record levels”, the report reads. 

Where does YouTube stand in the industry so far? According to an analysis by Music Business World, YouTube videos accounted for 57 percent of the US’s 135 billion streams in the first half of 2015, making it the largest streaming service in the nation.

While that doesn’t say how many users have turned to YouTube solely for its music videos, it shows that the majority of Americans already have a trusty streaming service, and the ‘Music Key’ feature may just be an added bonus.

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