Though it isn't yet ready for the big announcement, YouTube is gearing up to launch a subscription music service later this year, reports Billboard, citing anonymous sources.
It's a crowded marketplace, but the Google-owned company isn't straying too far from what it's best known for; the service will be "akin to a Spotify, but with video." Unsurprisingly, reports have emphasized the tough competition YouTube is adding to the field of other well-established streaming services. The company is "positioning it to compete with Spotify, Rdio and other digital offerings," reports The Los Angeles Times, while Mashable wonders if YouTube is "about to take on Spotify."
But YouTube's most formidable competition may well turn out to be itself. As The L.A. Times rightly notes, it's already "the most popular on-demand music offering in the world," shooting well past Spotify—which still struggles to turn its popularity into profits—and old-school radio as the number one way millennials hear music. A 2012 Nielsen study found that teens listen to music on YouTube more than any other source, which makes sense as far as instant-gratification stereotypes are concerned: it's faster than downloading (legally or otherwise), cheaper than paying, and more convenient than signing up for and navigating a service like Spotify, especially if you don't care about hearing full albums in sequence.
As Evolver.fm noted, whether or not you think of YouTube as a free music streaming service, plenty of its most active users do—and so do the big labels:
So, does that make YouTube a music service? Warner Music Group seems to think so. In its widely-circulated earnings report, the major label reported that 25 percent of its digital revenue came from streaming service in the last quarter—about $54 million, according to AllThingsD
All of which makes it little surprising that YouTube feels the need to charge directly into the digital music sphere, and potentially disrupt their own already lucrative business. Or will the new service take off by differentiating itself from competitors with its one unique advantage? (The videos.) If the launch arrives on schedule, we'll get a glimpse by the end of the year.