YouTube, whether intentionally or not, is the new MTV. Not long after the network once known as Music Television stopped playing music, Google’s video streaming service took its place as the preferred music video source for teenagers. According to a new report, Google is now ready to take the next step and sell subscriptions for its service.
According to Fortune, Google is preparing to launch a YouTube subscription service later this year. Rather than creating a paywall around existing YouTube content, though, the paid tier would simply let viewers enjoy copyrighted musical content ad-free.
The YouTube subscription service would be separate from – but overlap with – an (also-rumored) Google Play subscription streaming service. The Android version is expected to more closely resemble Spotify’s (and Rdio’s, Deezer’s, Rhapsody’s, etc.) on-demand audio model, while an ad-free YouTube would be more akin to a Spotify for music videos.
In its early years, the music industry viewed YouTube as an illegal threat to its business model that skirted around DMCA gray areas to make copyrighted content available for free. Today, though, record labels have resigned themselves to YouTube's inevitability, instead profiting from advertisements posted on copyrighted YouTube content.
An ad-free subscription tier could potentially work out for everyone. Labels get another way to make money off of their content, Google builds on its service’s status as a source of music, and subscribers get to enjoy their music videos without annoying interruptions.
Though Fortune predicts the service will launch later this year, it also adds that sources in the music industry are still wrestling with the pros and cons of advertising-based and subscription-based models.
Google hasn't announced anything official, but did grant Fortune the following non-denial:
No matter what direction record labels (and customers) go, the digital age has rocked the music industry at its very core. Napster, iTunes and the iPod, smartphones, BitTorrent, and now YouTube have all played parts in radically altering how customers get music. It makes the MTV era of some of our childhoods feel like an eternity ago.
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