The long wait for YouTube’s revamped music service is nearly over: the company announced on its blog that it will debut the new YouTube Music on May 22. YouTube already has a service by the same name, but this new version overhauls the old one and introduces two new premium services into the mix: YouTube Music Premium and YouTube Premium.
Let’s break down YouTube Music first: the new music-streaming service will offer free, ad-supported music streaming through a new desktop and mobile app. YouTube emphasizes that “all the ways music moves you can be found in one place” in the new YouTube Music, as it gives users access to thousands of playlists, official songs and albums, remixes, covers, live versions, and music videos.
The new app will also have a “dynamic home screen” that provides listening recommendations based on your history, what you’re doing, and where you are. Users can also search for songs using YouTube Music search without knowing the song’s name. It’s likely that Google incorporates AI into this feature, allowing you to search for songs using descriptions or lyrics. All of that will be available through YouTube Music for free for anyone who can stand advertisements throughout, making it similar to free versions of other streaming services, including Spotify and Apple Music.
But YouTube Music Premium removes ads and offers a few extra perks—and it will cost $9.99 per month. In addition to everything included in the free version of YouTube Music, YouTube Music Premium enables background listening and downloads. That means users can listen to tracks without having the app open or playing the visuals of a music video, and they can also download tracks for offline listening.
If this sounds akin to Google Play Music, that’s because it is. Those who currently pay monthly for Google Play Music will get a YouTube Music Premium subscription as well, and nothing will change with Google Play Music for now. Current subscribers don’t have to worry about big changes or losing their playlists or downloads anytime soon, but it’s unlikely that the Google Play Music branding will stick around once the new YouTube Music takes over.
Red transitions to Premium
That takes care of the music side of YouTube, but that’s just a portion of the content on the video website. Since 2015, YouTube Red has been the option for those who want an ad-free experience on the entire website and are willing to pay $10 per month for it. While YouTube isn’t changing anything about the substance of Red, the service is essentially getting a new name—YouTube Premium. This all-encompassing service includes all the perks of YouTube Music Premium as well as all the existing benefits of YouTube Red: ad-free YouTube viewing, background playing, video downloads for offline viewing, and access to all YouTube Originals (like the new Cobra Kai series).
Premium takes the spot of YouTube’s top-tier subscription service, essentially giving users ad-free access to the entirety of YouTube’s video and music library. It will come at a cost of $11.99 per month—YouTube is charging an extra $2 to add the perks of YouTube Red to a YouTube Music Premium subscription.
It’s likely that the YouTube Red branding will eventually retire as YouTube Premium takes over, and that also means that users will not be able to subscribe only to YouTube Red anymore. The Premium tier will include all of YouTube Red’s benefits in addition to all YouTube Music Premium benefits, so you’ll be forced to pay $11.99 for the whole package even if you don’t want the special music features.
But that makes sense for YouTube’s bottom line. The original YouTube Music formed out of the music industry’s frustration with Google’s video website as it claimed it wasn’t getting paid enough from YouTube’s ad-supported system. Giving users just two options, with music as the foundation, gives YouTube the chance to generate more revenue around its music offerings while also seeing how many users are willing to pay an extra $2 per month for all of Red’s benefits and the company’s original content.
The company did include one perk for existing Red subscribers who currently pay $9.99 for that service—they’ll receive access to YouTube Premium at that lower price point once the service debuts. Users in countries where Red is available can sign up for $9.99 per month before Premium comes out next week to be locked into the lower price.
Rumors of this new YouTube Music have been swirling since last summer. The phasing-in and phasing-out of all these new services is a bit confusing, but undoubtedly YouTube hopes that it can make its music and online video subscription services friendlier through consolidation. The company doesn’t have much of a choice—it wants to compete with Spotify, Apple Music, and the like, and it could never do so properly with three different music services floating around, the differences between them a mystery to most users.
Those interested in YouTube Music, Music Premium, and YouTube Premium can sign up for alerts on the new website.