YouTube – perhaps the largest repository of free music on the planet – plans to introduce a paid music subscription service in March. What could go wrong?
YouTube Head of Global Music Lyor Cohen and Chance The Rapper. Image: Getty
Bloomberg reports the project, named “Remix” internally, may be an attempt to quell tensions with the recording industry. Publishers, labels and artists alike have long accused YouTube and other services of hurting their profits. To that end, Warner has already signed on to Remix.
Even with the significant resources at YouTube’s disposal, significant challenges stand in the way of Remix’s success. Previous attempts at music subscription services by YouTube’s parent company, Alphabet – Google Play Music and YouTube Key – were lacklustre at best.
Key became the equally unthrilling YouTube Red, another subscription play that removes ads from videos and makes available a catalogue of highly-produced original content from some of the platform’s best-known creators. Whatever promise Red may have held was greatly diminished by the circumstances under which two of its series were cancelled: The first, Toby Turner’s “I Am Tobuscus”, was pulled after a woman named April Fletcher accused him of drugging and raping her; less than a year later, relations between Red and the platform’s biggest star, Felix Kjellberg – better known as PewDiePie – were severed after he posted videos containing phrases such as “death to all Jews”, among other off-colour “jokes”.
Remix would compete against two overwhelmingly dominant services: Apple Music and Spotify. Further compounding matters, Spotify and Tencent Music Entertaining Group today announced a joint equity arrangement where each company would hold a minority stake in the other, further cementing Spotify’s position as the leading music service available today.
Alphabet may have near infinite resources at its disposal, but a string of failures and poor relations with the recording industry make it unlikely Remix – or whatever it’s named in the future – will have an easy time convincing users to abandon the platforms they’re on now.