If you're of a certain age you probably don't think of YouTube when you think about listening to music, but YouTube claims it is the biggest music service in the world. Now the company wants to try to monetize music while helping you find the stuff you want to listen to easily.
There are two aspects of this new initiative. First is free, ad supported music. You can find that starting now at https://www.youtube.com/feed/music or on the new "Music" tab on the Android version of YouTube (iOS folks will have to wait a little longer). YouTube is starting simple by just having playlists of popular songs, but in a blog post they promise:
"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."
If you're a Google Play Music (the old Google Play Music All Access name has been retired) subscriber you'll find a "Google Play Music Recent Activity" selection in YouTube music but unless someone is breaking into my apartment and playing music I've never heard of while I'm sleeping, it does't seem to be working very well. Would I lose all my street cred (as if I had any to start with) if I admit I don't know who "China Anne McClain" is? I know I haven't been listening to Wham at any point in recent memory, but YouTube music is offering both China Anne McClain and Wham in my "Recent Activity" section. Oh well.
I was also disappointed to find that giving a song a "thumbs down" on YouTube didn't remove it from YouTube's suggestions. Hopefully that will come with time.
So the second aspect of YouTube's new music initiative is YouTube Music Key, which is a paid service. Music Key subscribers get an ad-free experience as well as the ability to store music offline on mobile devices and continue listening to YouTube music even when your phone is locked or another app is running in the foreground.
Right now you can apply to get into the beta and if you're picked you get 6 months free and then a promo cost of $7.99/month. Regular price will be $9.99/month. The best part (well, in my opinion) is that a subscription to YouTube Music Key comes with a subscription to Google Play Music as well. If you missed out on Google Play Music's introductory subscription price, here's a second chance to get it.
You might think that being a current Google Play Music would get you into the YouTube Music Key beta, but thus far that hasn't been the case for me. Maybe I just need to be patient. It doesn't make a lot of sense for Music Key to include Play Music and not have Play Music include Music Key, unless YouTube is being really ham-fisted about wanting big subscriber numbers for Music Key.
I originally wrote a grumpy old man final paragraph talking about how I can't see the appeal of this service, but then I thought about all the times someone has sent me a link to some wonderful unsigned artist sharing a great performance on YouTube. That's what I want YouTube Music to expose to me. I don't need to go to YouTube to listen to signed artists. Show me the best of the unsigned talent that YouTube has to offer, and I'll be happy.