YouTube challenges Spotify with its new streaming service Music Key

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 November, 2014, 6:05am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 November, 2014, 6:05am

YouTube is taking on Spotify with a new streaming music service called YouTube Music Key.

It will offer audio and video streams, including full albums from artists signed to all three major labels, and hundreds of independent labels. It will be available in free and paid versions.

YouTube Music Key will sit alongside parent company Google's existing subscription music service, Google Play Music All Access. Anyone paying for Music Key will also get an All Access subscription, and vice versa.

Google is describing the six-month trial as a "beta", which for now will be restricted to Britain, the US, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Finland and Ireland. The beta will be invitation-only, focusing at first on heavy music-video viewers on YouTube.

"We want YouTube to continue to be the best place for fans and artists to connect," said YouTube's Angali Southward.

The new service will initially be available through YouTube's apps for Android and iOS devices, and on its website.

Paying subscribers will be able to download songs and videos to their phones and tablets, and listen to them in the background while using other apps.

YouTube Music Key's biggest rival will be Spotify, the streaming service that announced this week it has 50 million users, including 12.5 million paying subscribers.

Like Spotify, YouTube insists that labels who add their catalogues to Music Key must make them available to both free and paying users. "It is one YouTube. The videos are for everyone," said Southward.

That policy has been controversial for some artists, including Taylor Swift, whose entire back catalogue was removed from Spotify in November after the company refused to restrict her music to its premium subscribers only.

Swift's last two albums - 1989 and Red - will not be available on YouTube Music Key.

Even before its launch, YouTube Music Key has provoked arguments within the music industry. Independent labels body WIN has fiercely criticised YouTube, claiming it was offering worse terms to indies than to major labels.

YouTube has since signed a deal with another independent body, licensing agency Merlin, and retreated from threats to block labels from its service entirely if they did not sign up to Music Key.