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Google announces YouTube Music and YouTube Premium

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Goodbye, YouTube Red; hello, new premium services

Image: Google

Google is breaking up its premium YouTube Red service into two new offerings: a YouTube Music streaming service, available either for free with ads or for $9.99 per month, and a YouTube Premium for original video content, costing $11.99 per month.

YouTube Music is Google’s most direct competitor to Spotify yet, coming with “a reimagined mobile app” and a new desktop player, both of them designed specifically for music. The YouTube advantage, argues Google, is that it will combine all the official versions of songs with access to “thousands” of related playlists, remixes, covers, live versions, and of course, music videos. Google’s AI mastery is also being integrated into YouTube Music, with the promise that the app will discover songs either by lyrics or just a general description like “that hipster song with the whistling.”

Music discovery is literally front and center in the new YouTube Music, with the app’s home screen dynamically recommending new listening based on your history, location, and activity. Air travellers might get Brian Eno’s Music for Airports, for example, while gym rats would get something a little more dynamic to keep their pump going. Google is emphasizing its diversity of playlists, too, which will also be used to suggest and surface new music for the user.

In terms of pricing, YouTube Music will be a direct match to all the major music-streaming platforms already available, costing $9.99 for the premium version, which adds background listening, downloads, and an ad-free experience to the free option. Anyone who already has a Google Play Music subscription gets YouTube Music as part of that membership. Play Music isn’t going away yet, though it’s hard to see what future purpose there will be to Google sustaining two services and apps that overlap to quite such a degree.

Chart: Google

The $11.99 YouTube Premium gets you everything inside YouTube Music plus access to the YouTube Originals library of video content. Google promises it’ll expand the Originals selection with “more, bigger original series and movies,” including comedies, dramas, reality series, and action adventure shows from the UK, Germany, France, Mexico, and other countries. With YouTube Premium, you’ll be free of ads, able to play videos in the background, or download them for offline playback.

YouTube Premium is the new name for YouTube Red, and Google is doing something nice for existing Red subscribers by not asking them to pay the new higher price. In countries where Red is already available, you can secure the $9.99 price by signing up now, before YouTube Premium has rolled out. That includes the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and South Korea, all of which are getting YouTube Premium “soon.” With the new service’s rollout, the following new countries will be added: Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Google indicates that additional expansion will come later this year and beyond.

YouTube Music starts rolling out on Tuesday, May 22nd, to the existing YouTube Red markets, with the small addendum that in South Korea Google will only be offering a $9.99 YouTube Premium service. The other countries named will also get YouTube Music “in the coming weeks.”