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Following more than a year of speculation and anticipation, Google has finally unveiled their paid subscription streaming service, named YouTube Music Key, as well as an update to the current YouTube site.
YouTube Music Key will launch as invite-only from next week in the US, UK, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Finland and Portugal. The service will be free for six months, after which Google will offer a promotional price of $US7.99 per month.
Once the service is broadly released, which Billboard expects is sometime in 2015, the regular price will be $US9.99. Those who subscribe to Key will also have access to Google’s existing streaming service, Google Play Music.
The announcement comes just a day after it was revealed that YouTube and Google had finalised a major licensing deal with a company that represents a group of indie labels, following months of disputes over royalty rates and threats to block content.
Like other streaming services of the same ilk, YouTube Music Key will operate on two levels. First as a free, desktop and mobile-friendly ad-supported video and audio streaming service. Additionally, Music Key will function as an ad-free paid service that allows both offline listening as well as the ability to stream music whilst sending texts or using other phone applications.
YouTube is also revamping its homepage in the next few days, allowing users to better search for tracks and organise music into albums and playlists under the Music tab on the site’s main page. There will also be a function that features an “endless playlist” based off a listener’s song or artist choice.
“If a song exists in this world, you can probably find it on YouTube. But until today you couldn’t easily find and play full albums,” reads YouTube’s blog post. “In the coming days, you’ll be able to see an artist’s discography on YouTube, and play a full album with both their official music videos and high-quality songs our music partners added to YouTube.”
The competition in the subscription streaming service game is getting heated, especially at a time when the debate around how musicians make money from streaming services is more prominent than ever. Bandcamp recently launching its own novel take on the idea, announcing they will be helping artists run their own subscription services.
Soon artists on the site will be able to set their own price for subscriptions, with all their new music made available to paying fans through Bandcamp’s app. “It’s kinda like what U2 and Apple did, except that it’s music that you actually want,” Bandcamp chief executive Ethan Diamond told The Guardian.
Fans who subscribe will still be able to download individual music files, plus artists can choose any thing from their back catalogue as a bonus gift to subscribers as well as a blanket discount on merchandise.
“The whole motivation here is that when you get to a point that you love an artist – when you go from liking them to being a real true fan of theirs – at some point you just want everything they make. You just want to support everything that they do,” said Diamond.
Watch: YouTube Music Key beta