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YouTube Music head talks premium subscription ambitions

YouTube’s Global Head of Music Lyor Cohen has discussed some of the plans for its upcoming premium subscription services.

Published onMarch 16, 2018

YouTube Global Head of Music Lyor Cohen has provided some details on its upcoming premium music subscription service. The comments were made during a keynote speech at the recent SXSW conference (via TechCrunch) in Texas.

YouTube was rumored to introduce a premium music subscription service—that isn’t YouTube Red, and that isn’t Google Play Music—this March, but it was apparently delayed. It’s already arriving many years after major rival Spotify.

“We know we’re late to the party. It’s okay,” Cohen said.

“There are plenty of leaned-in listeners that are willing to pay. We are going to convert them to paid subscribers…We’re making an enormous investment to launch a product that you will be proud of.”

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What this new subscription model will offer, how much it will cost, and when it will actually arrive isn’t yet known. However, Cohen believes one area where the service can be successful is with content recommendations powered by Google’s algorithms.

“Did you know that 80 percent of all of watch time on YouTube is recommended by a recommendation engine?” said Cohen, adding that the company now has a “division solely focused on building and growing the playlist ecosystem that users would love across both paid and [the] ad-supported tier.”

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Spotify has also been winning subscribers in parts thanks to its algorithms and recommendations system. It recently revealed that 30% of streaming on Spotify is “algotorial”—something which combines editorially curated playlists and algorithm-driven playlists.

Of course, there’s no denying Google’s prowess when it comes to algorithms (it has built an unbeatable search engine powered by them), but with Spotify already giving consumers what they want in this area, maybe being late to the party is a bigger problem than Google imagines.

There’s another area where Cohen believes YouTube’s music subscription can succeed, though, and that’s in the relationship between brands and consumers.

“Spotify and Apple are pure retailers. Snapchat and Instagram are simply social. The most powerful aspect of YouTube is our ability to let the artists, managers, publishers, songwriters, and labels to engage with their fans with no hoops to jump through,” he said.

What this will mean in practice, how these entities will interact with fans, remains to be seen.

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