YouTube, the Google-owned media streaming giant, is tentatively slated to roll out a music streaming service later this year. While the details are still pretty hazy and no one seems to be speaking up yet, Fortune talked to some representatives to get the word. Read on to find out more about the future of music streaming.
1. Not Much Is Certain Yet
Much of the information about this future product remains to be seen, but what we know now can be summed up in this quote from a YouTube representative: “While we don’t comment on rumor or speculation, there are some content creators that think they would benefit from a subscription revenue stream in addition to ads, so we’re looking at that.”
2. It Will (Probably) Be Free
Like YouTube itself, this service is expected to be free to users, with a "freemium" option that will allow for extra features. Those extra features will probably include the removal of ad content, but the announcement is still so fresh that this information is yet to be seen. Industry experts aren't yet clear on whether or not a subscription-based revenue stream is more profitable than an ad-based one or not. Google is known for experimentation, so we'll leave that question up to them.
3. There May Be Overlap With Google Play
There are some features rumored to overlap with ones being introduced to Google Play, the company's music streaming and archiving service. Google Play recently added purchase buttons next to existing tracks, a sign some have taken as foreshadowing of a bridge between the two services. The key difference would be that anyone could listen to tracks with YouTube's service for free, whereas Google Play is meant more for storage and categorization of the user's existing music library.
4. YouTube Already Has a Hand in the Music Industry
A large percentage of content on YouTube is music-related--according to Fortune, 64% of teens said that YouTube was their music streaming platform of choice in a survey. YouTube's record industry liaison, Vevo, is yet another marker of their foray into the industry. Their Content ID feature, with which songs are tagged with an "audio fingerprint" that helps get royalties to artists more reliably, is what many are seeing as a positive marker of a better deal for the artist than other services are offering.
5. It Might Have a Better Payout for Artists
Spotify's payout for artists is notoriously low, and the same is true for many other streaming services. With YouTube's existing Content ID feature and the possibility for both ad-subsidized and subscription-based content, there's a much wider opportunity for artists to get paid more reasonably. Is it what the industry's been after for years? Possibly, but we'll have to wait for more details to be sure.