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YouTube Music: Google finally gets music streaming right with Spotify challenger

Matthew Field
While YouTube Premium provides advert-free videos for a subscription fee, YouTube Music is much more of a challenger to Spotify or Apple Music in its own right.

Despite being an early leader in online music, Google's YouTube has never quite found its place in the music streaming era. While YouTube has always been a huge source of plays and views for music videos, as a pure music streaming tool it has always been lacking.

Which is why Google on Monday launched YouTube Music, its latest attempt to unseat Spotify from the top spot in music streaming. And it may well be its best effort yet.

YouTube Music is unlike Google's previous offerings, such as Google Play Music. While Google Play Music is familiar to many people who use Android smartphones, the service never had the user base that was enjoyed by Spotify and struggled to grow subscriptions.

YouTube said the service will include voice search, but also let users search making natural language requests.

YouTube Music, meanwhile, adds another layer to Google's YouTube Premium offering. While YouTube Premium provides advert-free videos for a subscription fee, YouTube Music is much more of a challenger to Spotify or Apple Music in its own right.

The service comes with a far-reaching free tier, which will allow users to listen to almost any track, supported by adverts. It then has a paid for tier at £9.99, which removes adverts and gives users access to a range of content. 

YouTube Music will also see the company attempting to outmanoeuvre Spotify by giving users access to a far greater range of music video content and recorded live shows.

The Telegraph had the chance to use  YouTube Music ahead of its UK release on Monday. The app is in many ways aesthetically similar to Spotify, but the addition of almost any music video from YouTube's own video archive gives it a powerful advantage over the more established player.

Google hopes to set itself apart through advanced features making use of its artificial intelligence expertise. YouTube said the service will include voice search, but also let users search making natural language requests. Asking YouTube Music to find a song with the lyrics "zig a zig ah", will, of course, find the Spice Girls' "Wannabe".

Google's other tweaks to make the service more personalised also stem from its smartphone technology and web of search knowledge. If you turn location services on, YouTube Music might say: "It looks like you are at work", and recommend a work-friendly playlist based on your tastes.

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YouTube and Googleare also considering giving YouTube Music as a pre-loaded app on Android smartphones, the Telegraph understands, which in theory could saturate the market in the same way Apple Music is pre-installed on iPhones.

The new music app can also take the lead from YouTube dominance of music videos, as well as among a younger audience. The Pew Research Centre suggests as many as 85pc of US teenagers use YouTube, making it by far the dominant platform even compared to social media services like Facebook and Snapchat.

The launch also comes at a buoyant time for music streaming. With Spotify's bumper $30bn IPO earlier this year, investors believe there is significant room to grow for all the major players. And, unlike Spotify, Google has the advantage that music streaming is only a small part of its business, while YouTube itself is already a $10bn operation.