Google today launched YouTube Music, the app the company hopes will supersede Google Play Music while challenging Spotify and Apple Music. Available in 17 countries including the UK and costing £9.99 per month for the Premium version, it brings video and ad-free music into one app that changes its suggestions throughout the day for a highly personal experience.
Also launched was YouTube Premium, an £11.99 per month service with all the services of YouTube Music but added ad-free video, background play for video, video downloads and full access to original programming channel YouTube Originals.
Both apps launch on Apple’s iOS and Google’s own Android platforms. YouTube Music is also available for free but with ads, and no background listening or download features.
From today, new users will be able to enjoy YouTube Music Premium free for the first three months, with the same offer running for YouTube Premium.
Google’s tagline for the services is ‘It’s all here’, alluding to the availability of official streams of both music and video rather than the industry norm of one or the other.
The older Google Play Music app will continue to exist, but Google hinted it would start to bring the two together under the YouTube Music branding and phase out Play Music.
Though hoping to one-up Spotify and Apple Music by tapping YouTube’s immense library of music video content, YouTube Music is foremost an audio-first music app. Its differentiators are the integration of video into a Spotify-esque app layout and a contextual algorithm that takes in time of day and location to better suggest what you want to listen to or watch.
A notable feature is 'offline mixtape', a playlist that automatically downloads songs onto your device for those times you lose reception. It can be anywhere between 20 and 100 songs, takes in your listening habits and updates daily.
Notably both apps also allow audio from YouTube videos to continue playing after users have either exited the app or locked their phone.
A Google executive said at a UK launch event on Monday that the YouTube Music app is a “simple experience out of the box that gets to know your music taste really quickly”, in ways the company believes are better than rivals'.
With music pushed to the user in a series of ‘shelves’ (sections in the scrollable app) that learn your tastes and habits, video is lower down the priority list. Google said it understands that video only makes sense to suggest to a user at certain time of day or while not occupied at work.
Video in the app is all officially licensed music videos (unlike the regular YouTube app) or live performances from shows such as Jimmy Fallon and Later with Jools Holland. YouTube Premium subscribers can finally stream the audio from YouTube video after closing the app or locking the phone screen.
Also showcased at the launch event was the search function; typing ‘zig ah zig ah’ into the search bar successfully returns the Spice Girls’ ‘Wannabe’, while voice queries should accurately get you song X from the credits of film Y – an advantage Google has with Google Assistant, its voice assistant technology.