Do you even know what that is? Don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of YouTube Music or don’t know anyone who uses it. Although a recent report states that Google enjoys a 5% share of the music streaming market, remember that this includes Google Play Music and YouTube Premium subscriptions, both of which include YouTube music. There is no way to determine how many of those subscribers are actually using YoutTube Music. We all know too well that just because we subscribe to something does not mean we use it. That number may not cause Google to worry, but it is clear that, since its launch in 2015 when YouTube music was set to replace Google Play, YouTube Music has failed to gain any traction or relevance. IPeople will always go to free YouTube for music before subscribing to (or even using the free version of) YouTube Music.
YouTube (real YouTube) is the most successful music streaming service in the world. Full stop. Google’s search preeminence and YouTube’s massive (and expanding) library mean that everything is available to everyone all the time for the price of a few ads (and having your data poached, but that is a discussion for another article). When a consumer is looking for a song (as opposed to a video), that person will be able to find the song most quickly on YouTube. Whether there is a video to accompany the song is not relevant. The music is instantly accessible. For free.
So why does anyone want the pay services? Why does Spotify sit atop the pile with 36% market share and over 108 million subscribers?
The answer is the manner in which the music is accessed. For those who care about the organization and content of a collection and for those who wish to make playlists for different occasions or activities, it comes down to that dreaded buzzword – ‘experience.’ The YouTube experience is not designed for a music collector. Oh sure, you can jury rig something with favorites or bookmarks, but the preexisting architecture of music collecting is well-settled. Elements such as artist, album, year, genre, and song title are the obvious ways to arrange music in any collection. To pursue that type of organization scheme on YouTube is akin to reinventing the wheel. YouTube Music attempts to address this issue, but the interface is clumsy and limited.
With all its resources, why can’t Google figure this out? Spotify is a product that works for a casual listener who just wants suggestions based on genre or mood. All the streaming platforms offer this function, but Spotify clearly does it best. A Spotify subscription, however, also enables a music collection to be assembled in much the same way you could using Google Play and Apple Music.
Apple offers the best interface to look at, but the search is unforgivably bad. Typos are not tolerated. Unless there is a perfect match, Apple Music can’t help you with search. Google Play, on the other hand, has the same mind-blowing search we have come to expect from all of Google’s products, but the interface, on both mobile and desktop is bland and way too orange.
It’s not hard to see why Spotify stays in first place year after year. And it’s a shame to see how, instead of making Google Play more attractive and functional, Google sought to leverage its biggest entertainment IP and came up with a product that no one uses.