YouTube Launches Its Long-Awaited Music App

12 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Google launches YouTube Music, a new app for discovering music videos.

YouTube on Thursday entered the increasingly crowded field of music streaming, hoping to reach a new audience through a user-friendly service that seizes on the video giant’s vast variety. The adroit and android enthusiasm targeted towards those attending press previews of apps, initiatives and announcements always falls just outside that which would make a normal human being feel comfortable.

In a feature it hopes will be a key selling point, YouTube Music will create non-stop stations tailored to users, who can fine-tune how much variety they want. Jay Fowler (YouTube’s director of product management and the person in charge of developing the YouTube Music app being released today) showed Billboard a preview of the product, there was a not-off-putting — and, it would turn out, justified — pride he took in the work of his team in trying to conquer what he called “an insurmountable pile of music.” YouTube has done this by making every song you listen to into a “station” that generates, through a hybrid algorithm/human editorial formula, an endless playlist of music pulled from the music catalogs YouTube has licensed, as well as the user-generated content that originally made the video giant a video giant. (The endless playlist feature will be familiar to users of SoundCloud — Fowler praised the platform when we pointed this out.) Through a slider just like the brightness controls on your phone, listeners can select how adventurous they want their recommendations to be; get weird, or stick with the same artist. If you search for an artist, track or album, the app will surface everything from official music videos to popular covers and remixes to concert videos. YouTube Music — which was announced alongside YouTube Red without full details or a launch date — is compatible both with Google’s Android system and Apple and will initially be available only in the United States. YouTube Music is free but paying for a $9.99/month YouTube Red subscription buys you quite a few extra features, like offline listening, the ability to switch between video and audio-only streams and the option to listen to tracks and videos in the background while in other apps.

It was from R.E.M.’s MTV Unplugged performance from 1991. (I’m old, shut up.) The only version I was ever able to find other than crappy MP3s was a version of it on YouTube: Sadly, it has gotten kicked off the service numerous times for violating copyrights, but YouTube is basically the only place I could get to the version of this song until it was officially released years later. Universal Music Group, the largest label conglomerate, said Tuesday that for the first time more than half its digital revenue came from streaming in the latest quarter.

The center of the app keeps things simple, with three main sections, “Home,” “Music Today” and “Likes.” Home functions much the same as Spotify or Apple Music, with a selection of genre stations and a user’s main, personalized station. Music Today, which Fowler calls “cultural relevance 101,” features a list of the day’s 40 most-popular videos as well stations featuring on-the-rise artists and trending videos or songs. But it has faced growing competition from new entrants Apple Music and rap mogul Jay Z’s Tidal, which have both tried to distinguish themselves through original content and video. It’s unclear whether a new service built around music videos, which most people are already used to getting for free, will help YouTube Red gain traction but the app should be a welcome addition to YouTube’s many music-loving users. Fowler joined YouTube in March, just a few months into the existence of YouTube Music Key, ostensibly a music streaming service that the company would eventually characterize as an information-gathering beta test.

Even before its entry into streaming, YouTube has been a frequent target of music industry representatives alarmed by users’ ability to post nearly anything online. The majority — 83 percent — of 12-24 year-olds say YouTube is how they keep up-to-date with music. “YouTube as a music channel is as mainstream as all of online audio put together,” the report says. With subscriptions bringing in additional revenue that volume will continue to tick upwards. (Randomly, the company’s blog post on the app launch points out that a windowing strategy for new releases — or at least, singles — isn’t encouraged. “Just this month,” Fowler writes, “Adele’s ‘Hello’ became the fastest rising video of the year on YouTube, while also breaking the record for first week download sales.” Whether that could be true for any other artist in the world remains to be seen.) The company says it has solved the problem of monetizing user-generated content — Billboard is still awaiting an answer on the complicated question of payouts on derivative works like Boiler Room sets.

The free version will then kick in, which has ads and doesn’t have any of the bells and whistles that might make you switch away from, say, a Pandora. Subramanian’s team has been working on tweaking algorithms to pull out content specific to the music vertical, be it an official video, a dance mix or a cover. When it comes to the social aspects of music, the team tells me that since artists are already engaging with their fans on the platform, this app will just make it easier. Apple failed with Ping, Apple Music is broadcast-only, Spotify is so-so but still hasn’t gripped with my normal friends as a place to be social and well…YouTube comments are usually a cesspool.

Maybe this new spotlight on high-quality content will shoo away the trolls and welcome the true fans who want to talk about how great that Katy Perry concert was. While it’s not perfect at plucking out just the right content, it’s way better than digging through the vast catalogue of shitty YouTube videos looking for that gem of a cover song by R.E.M.

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