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Google-owned video platform YouTube will be rolling out its new music streaming called YouTube Music. The new offering will allow consumers to listen, watch and discover music easily without having to jump back and forth between multiple music apps and YouTube.

While YouTube Music is ad-supported and free, there is also a YouTube Music Premium version, which is a paid membership that allows consumers utilities such as background listening, downloads and an ad-free experience for US$9.99 a month. According to a spokesperson from YouTube, the initial launch of the app will be available in Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States.

According to YouTube, it currently draws in more than 1 billion music fans each month. It also brings in 2 million artists to share their voices and art with the world.

“YouTube was made for watching, which meant fans have had to jump back and forth between multiple music apps and YouTube. Those days will soon be over. On Tuesday, May 22, we’ll begin rolling out YouTube Music, a new music streaming service made for music on top of the magic of YouTube: making the world of music easier to explore and more personalised than ever,” the statement read.

Meanwhile, a big marketing push is said to be accompanying the launch as well, with the team “making an enormous investment to launch YouTube Music”.  YouTube did not comment on the monetary value or on the widely reported marketing initiatives featuring Cardi B.

In a conversation with Bloomberg News however, T. Jay Fowler, a product director for YouTube Music said this would in fact be the platform's “biggest marketing spend” to-date.  The article also highlights that its marketing activities will include prominent spots on YouTube’s website, timed around popular music videos and events. It also added that the company will look to buy TV sports during sporting events for the new service.

Nonetheless, with so many music streaming services currently already at play, YouTube Music faces intense competition. While some might argue that Google has already made a foray into this space with its existing Google Play Music service, and has an established foothold on music video streaming with its existing music fan base, this will in fact be the first time Google has taken on the music streaming market head-on with a free and paid service. As such, the service will not only need to fend off competition from the duopoly of Spotify and Apple Music, but also recent entrants from Amazon Music and Tidal.

Fending off competition

According to Kaythaya Maw, chief technology officer APAC at Digitas, to make its streaming service attractive to existing user base, and convince users of Spotify and Apple to switch, Google needs to differentiate its services and harness the strengths of its current ecosystem.

“Whether that’s seamless transition from its existing Google Play Music, leveraging its AI clout for music suggestions, or integration with other Google services such as Pay, Chrome cast, and Home products, the potential to harness and integrate their other services is significant,” Maw said.

Meanwhile, Prantik Mazumdar, managing partner at Happy Marketer added that with Spotify and Apple Music already enjoying a very solid head start with large premium subscriptions. As such, Google has to catch up quickly if it wants to make a meaningful dent in this space.

“Perhaps it’s native integration on Android devices and eventual integration with its AI platforms could make it very attractive to users through better music discovery, recommendations and personalisation,” he said. He added that whilst Google enhances the product through the above mentioned opportunities, it will still need to invest in signing up top artists as well as offer a rich media advertising that integrates well with its existing Adwords and DoubleClick programmatic engine. This is to allow brands to dish out contextually relevant banner, video and voice ads to non premium customers.

What is a key to success for this platform?

According to Manu Menon, managing director of Reprise, the new service is essentially the rebranding of the YouTube Red product. However, he thinks Google is a little late to the game.

“With Netflix reigning supreme in the video and original content space, and streaming apps like Spotify ruling the word of music, I find it hard to see Google gain a stranglehold of either of these markets,” he says

To stand out in this cluttered space, he views content to be king. Access to exclusive content that users will not get on other platforms will help draw in eyeballs - whether it’s an introduction to an undiscovered musical genius, or access to behind-the-scene content from major live events.

“These are the magic moments consumers are looking for that would truly make or break any new service being launched by Google,”he said, adding:

How well the AI-driven search and discovery engine works would be the other factor that would help. If the service is able to recommend the right content at the right moment, it might gain some fans.

Maw added that Google had a mixed bag of success in diversifying its streaming services with the likes of YouTube TV, YouTube Go, and now revamping YouTube Red into YouTube Premium and YouTube Music.  As such, together with phasing out Google Play Music, Google will need to focus on delivering a coherent product message to their customer base.

“We expect Google will undertake a huge marketing blitz to get its message across and revive the YouTube brand, which has been tarnished by the recent controversies over inappropriate videos,” Maw said.

Maw added that in his view, Google often struggles in transitioning users from a free model to a paid one. “If history is any guide, we can point to its video-streaming subscription service YouTube Red, which despite significant marketing investment, accounts for only 7% of YouTube’s revenue,” he said.

“The psychological gap between 'free' and 'not-free' is large gap to overcome. Its existing music fan base of 1 billion users is a solid starting point, but over and above an ad-free service, additional features such as offline playback, AI based suggestions, and seamless integration with other Google services will be key,” he said.

At the end of the day, Google needs to balance its desire to generate new revenue streams through a paid "ad-free" service, while servicing the needs of brands and advertisers on its "free" tier – which is in itself represents a dichotomy for Google to balance the needs of both models.

(Photo courtesy: 123 RF)