What’s Really Going On with YouTube Music? Red vs. Premium vs. Music Premium

Google announced YouTube Premium and Music Premium this morning, but it’s a confusing, convoluted mess. Here’s what we know, what we don’t, and what we think is going to happen.

Right now, Google has one music service: Google Play Music. It also has YouTube Red, which is basically ad-free YouTube with access to original content.

YouTube Red is $10 a month on its own, as is Google Play Music—but if you pay for Play Music, you also get YouTube Red. No need to pay for both.

But next week, two new services will be released: YouTube Premium and Music Premium. Here’s what those are:

YouTube Premium ($11.99/month): This service appears to be the replacement for YouTube Red. It will offer ad-free YouTube access, background playback, downloads for offline playback, and access to YouTube originals.YouTube Music Premium ($9.99/month): This is kind of like YouTube Premium, but it’s only for music. It includes ad-free music, background listening, and downloads for offline playback. The key here is that it’s only for music. 

So, to clarify, YouTube Red is going away and being replaced with two new services, one of which overlaps with another existing service. How very Google.

This change will also bring about a much-needed overhaul to the YouTube Music app (Android, iOS), which will hopefully put it on-brand for the new streaming service.

At the current time, Google is saying that Play Music isn’t going away and nothing is changing, but this isn’t quite true. Nothing is changing with Play Music itself, but it’s unclear how this is going to affect YouTube Red, which is included with a Play Music subscription.

More specifically: which version of the new premium service will Play Music subscribers get? Many people have been asking this question on Twitter, with very mixed answers from Google support accounts:

So which is it, Google? YouTube Premium or Music Premium? There are two contradictory answers. One states that Play Music subscribers will get YouTube Premium, while the other states Music Premium will be included—so which is it? Who knows.

A big part of the problem here is Google’s issue with naming its own products. Both services here include the words “YouTube” and “Premium,” so it’s quite easy to get them confused—the word “Music” being the only qualifier leads to less than ideal product differentiation. Most people will hear “YouTube Premium” and confuse them for the same service.

Fortunately, we were able to get some clarification directly from Google:

Current YouTube Red and Google Play Music subscribers in the US, Australia, South Korea, New Zealand and Mexico will continue to get the features they already enjoy at the same price they pay today. Google Play Music subscribers in all other countries will automatically have access to YouTube Music Premium as soon as it becomes available there.

So the short story is that the transition should be fairly simple for Play Music subscribers—if we’re interpreting this correctly, it sounds like all current Play Music subscribers should have access to YouTube Premium after the change. That’s good news.

It’s been long rumored that Google is going to kill Play Music and absorb it into the YouTube brand. We’ve heard that this service will be called YouTube Remix, but now that branding is unclear.

But the point is still the same: Google Play Music will go away at some point—we suspect by year’s end. And when that happens, expect Google’s music service to be completely handled under the YouTube brand.

Whether it will be a part of YouTube Music Premium or come under a different moniker, however, is unclear. While we’d like to think Google will put it under the “Music Premium” umbrella, this is Google we’re talking about, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise if it gets a new name.

But all this speculation also brings even more questions. For one, once the Play Music branding is killed and the music service is handled under the YouTube brand, what will the price be? As we covered above, Play Music is $9.99 a month and comes with YouTube Red. Will Play Music subscribers be expected to pay two dollars more per month for YouTube Premium to get the same service they’re already getting with Play Music and Red? Again, it’s unclear.

And all this goes without even considering how this will affect Google Play Music’s family plan, which allows up to six users to have Play Music and YouTube Red access for just $15 a month. Will YouTube Music Premium offer a similar service? Will current Play Music Family subscribers be grandfathered into a family plan with YouTube Music Premium? Will it be YouTube Premium or Music Premium?

While there are no answers to those questions, we can make a few educated guesses. For one, we think the pricing scheme and plan features will not change for current Play Music subscribers. So, to clarify, when the day comes and Play Music goes away, we suspect all of its current users will be switched to a YouTube Premium account for the same price they’re currently paying ($9.99/month).

Users who were grandfathered into the $7.99 introductory pricing for Play Music may see a price increase, but it’s really hard to say how Google will handle that. The same can be said for family plan subscribers—there

just isn’t enough information available or historical evidence present to suspect how Google will handle such a transition.

Cameron Summerson is a die-hard Android fan, Chicago Bulls fanatic, metalhead, and cyclist. When he’s not pounding keys here at HTG, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, spinning legs on the bike, chugging away on the 6-string, or being disappointed in the Bulls.

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