Ten days ago, YouTube sent an email to users who signed up to use the beta version of the site’s Music Key service, which it first unveiled last November. In the email, YouTube announced its plan to extend Music Key’s beta period by four months; from that decision, outlets like The Verge inferred that YouTube needs some extra time to eliminate specific issues before it offers Music Key to the public.
For those of us who have followed Music Key during its long, drawn-out development period, the news of any delay is ominous. After all, the first time we heard about a Music Key setback, it was only supposed to last a few months, but YouTube didn’t officially announce its subscription-based streaming music service until almost a year later. Given that history, it’s easy to wonder how much fine-tuning YouTube actually wants to do.
Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s Head of Content and Business Operations, does not believe potential Music Key users should worry about the delay. “We’re still going through some development,” he told Music Ally. “The launch is coming in a few months from here: there’s a little bit of a delay, but nothing too serious. We got a lot of really great feedback, and thought it was better to address most of it than to launch without [addressing] it… We’re a lot smarter about the product from those heaviest users.”
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At the same time, Kyncl didn’t share many specific details about Music Key’s progress. “I can’t promise the date: it’s already going a little too far even saying ‘a few months’ – if you’re delayed another few months you keep getting asked about it,” he said.
Music Key, which will compete with existing services like Spotify (which has its own plans to step into YouTube’s territory) will offer its subscribers a one-stop platform where they will find YouTube’s massive collection of music videos. A free tier will provide users with basic access, while subscribers who pay $8-10 per month will unlock an ad-free streaming experience and other premium options.
This two-tiered model is also a feature YouTube will soon add to its main site. In a recent letter to its creators, it discussed its plan to remove ads for viewers who pay a monthly subscription fee. Music Ally asked Kyncl about those plans, too, but he mainly stressed the site’s focus on its current ad-supported model. “Our free ad-supported business is growing incredibly fast. We’ll always have that: that’s our core, and we’ll never stop focusing on it. It’s in Google’s DNA to be in the ad-supported business,” he said. “Subscription is an add-on. It’s an adjacent business that we’re building.”
While Music Key is not yet available to the public, interested users can submit their email addresses in order to receive updates as the service nears its launch.