"STRANGE ON TOP OF STRANGE."
While one music industry source stated that they do like Music Key, they questioned the "strategic priority" of the music subscription service for YouTube and Google. Given the fact that some of YouTube’s deals with the major record labels are expiring in 2016 and the multiple delays of Music Key, which was announced last November, the source believes that YouTube is just attempting to appease the labels before negotiations begin, noting that "this feels very much [like] too little too late."
Despite the corporate squabbling, the biggest change for most YouTube users will be the music that inevitably finds its way behind the upcoming paywall. Despite Spotify’s growth, YouTube is still the largest music streaming platform in the world — 45 out of the 50 most-viewed YouTube videos of all time are music videos — and still the place where teens get the majority of their music.
The labels have begun early discussions about how to best capitalize on the paywall, but no firm decisions have been made. One option being floated is keeping the music free for a certain amount of time before pulling it behind the paywall — like after an album release — but sources were quick to caution that it’s still early and nothing has been decided as of yet.
THERE COULD BE OTHER SUBSCRIPTION OFFERINGS FROM YOUTUBE DOWN THE ROAD
With two upcoming subscription services, YouTube, which pulled in $4 billion in revenue in 2014, could be on the path to finally turning a profit. But it will need to tread carefully in the transition away from a model where most everything has been free. YouTube suffered through a major backlash after it tried to sign up indie artists for Music Key last year, and threatened those who didn’t with the loss of their revenue-generating tools. The repeated delays around that service highlight the struggle YouTube has had launching even one subscription service, never mind a package of offerings across multiple kinds of content.
Universal Music, Sony Music, and Warner Music declined to comment. YouTube also declined to comment.