Despite offering an excellent product, Google's presence in the music streaming market has been less than prominent for some time. Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, and others have dominated, but Google's struggled to find its footing.
The all-new YouTube Music aims to fix this, and while it's too early to say for sure whether the gambit will work, I think it's the best shot Google has at reserving a place at the head of the table.
The new subscription model makes sense
In its current form, Google's options for music streaming is beyond complicated.
To a newcomer, the most obvious choice would be to sign up for Google Play Music All Access — the paid version of Play Music that gives you access to on-demand listening, the ability to save songs for offline use, etc. With that subscription, you also get access to YouTube Red for add-free YouTube videos, original programming, and more.
Alternatively, if you're tired of watching ads before YouTube videos, you can sign up for YouTube Red. However, along with improving your YouTube experience, this also comes with Google Play Music All Access as an added bonus.
As a YouTube Red/Play Music All Access subscriber, you can listen to music through three apps — Play Music, YouTube, and YouTube Music. You can't sign up for YouTube Music separately, but it comes with your subscription just because.
It's all very confusing.
With Google's new service, you'll sign up for YouTube Music and access all your songs, playlists, and more through its app. Want to watch YouTube Originals and have ad-free YouTube videos? Just pay $2 more each month. This new setup is clean, simple, and is far easier for everyone to understand.
Music + Premium is more expensive than Red, but it's still a tremendous value
One of the biggest points of contention for the new YouTube Music is its price. As it stands, $9.99/month secures you with all the features found in YouTube Red and Play Music All Access for one monthly fee.
If you're an existing YouTube Red subscriber, you'll get all of the YouTube Premium benefits for the old $9.99/month rate.
That $9.99/month rate is sticking around with YouTube Music, but you'll only get music-centric features — such as ad-free music and the ability to both download songs and listen to music videos in the background.
If you want to watch YouTube Originals, get rid of ads before you regular YouTube clips, and have non-music videos playing in the background, you'll sign up for YouTube Premium for $11.99/month.
Google's doing good by its existing subscribers by grandfathering them into the old rate, but for new members, this still looks like a great deal. YouTube Music's $9.99/month rate makes its pricing identical to Spotify, Apple Music, and just about everyone else, but only YouTube Music allows you to pay $2 more each month for an enhanced YouTube experience and access to (some) high-quality original programming. That's a huge value proposition, and it should make YouTub Music awfully enticing to potential customers.
Unlike Google Play, the YouTube brand means something
Something else that Google has working in its favor is the YouTube brand. While this was present with YouTube Red, Play Music serving as the primary music app gave it something of an identity crisis. Plus, it doesn't help that "Google Play" doesn't mean much of anything to some consumers.
YouTube, on the other hand, is a brand that's recognizable by everyone. We all know what YouTube is, so YouTube Music naturally seems to be a service that offers music streaming and access to music videos. YouTube Premium, on the other hand, sounds like a premium/upgraded version of the regular YouTube we know and love.
What the hell was YouTube Red supposed to mean?
The branding for these services may not directly impact you with your day-to-day use, but they can severely hinder or excel Google's prominence in the streaming market. YouTube Music and YouTube Premium are far easier to understand than the current mix of YouTube Red, YouTube Music, and Google Play Music, and that simplicity is something Google desperately needs.
Google can excel with a top-notch Android app
More functional branding and a better subscription model are both great, and these can be made even better with a high-quality mobile app.
YouTube Music is pretty barebones in its current state, and while Play Music looks and feels a lot better, it's in dire need of a visual refresh.
Google's given us a tease at what we can expect from the new YouTube Music app, and what we've seen so far does look promising. YouTube Music will be gaining all of the AI elements found in Play Music, meaning that it'll recommend certain songs and playlists to listen to based on what you're doing. AI is what Google does best, so injecting it into its premier music service only makes sense.
Add that together with a dark theme, bottom-navigation tabs, and an overall sleek look, and YouTube Music has what it takes to offer one of the best music experiences on Android — especially when big names like Spotify are lagging so far behind.
What do you think will happen?
Google's poised to do something special with its new YouTube Music + Premium initiative, but do you think it'll actually work?
Sound off in the comments below with your own thoughts and let me know what you think Google should do!