YouTube has announced a major shakeup in its premium subscription and music streaming services, ditching the YouTube Red brand and making a push to offer both paid and ad-supported versions of its offerings across the board. And it's all happening today. Here are the details.
On Wednesday, May 23, the Google-owned video giant will introduce a revamped YouTube Music in Australia, a new streaming service to challenge Spotify and Apple Music. Taking the form of both an app and a desktop player, the service features thousands of curated playlists and will make suggestions based on your tastes and location.
In addition to the library of albums and artist-specific radio stations, you'd expect from Google Play Music — which this service seems destined to replace — YouTube Music will, of course, offer countless official music videos as well as cover versions, live recordings and remixes direct from YouTube.
There's also a feature utilising Google's AI assistant that lets you find songs by entering some lyrics or a vague description.
The service will be available for free, but a premium version of YouTube Music will cost $11.99 per month, removing ads and allowing users to download tracks to their devices. You'll also need to subscribe if you want to continue listening on your phone in the background while you look at other apps or turn the screen off.
At some point soon, the company will also introduce YouTube Premium, a new name for the service that lets you remove ads from all YouTube videos, download videos to your device and get access to original programming like Cobra Kai. Users will be able to sign up for YouTube Premium, which also includes YouTube Music Premium, for $14.99 per month.
Combined, the new music service and premium video subscription replace YouTube Red, a service originally launched in Australia almost exactly two years ago. Currently, a Red subscription costs $11.99 per month and also includes full access to Google Play Music. YouTube says existing Red subscribers will get full access to all the Premium features but will not be made to pay the extra three dollars per month.
And speaking of Google Play Music, it's unclear how the long-running streaming service fits into these new plans. The company has confirmed that existing subscribers will be able to continue using Google Play Music even after the launch of the new services but has not specified if new YouTube Premium members will get access to the service as YouTube Red subscribers always have.
YouTube currently enjoys a user base of more than 1.5 billion people, but Google's various attempts to launch premium subscription versions and spin out a music streaming service have seen mixed success. Its latest reshuffle puts YouTube Music in direct competition with Apple (with 50 million subscribers) and Spotify (with 75 million paying subscribers, 170 million users total).