BBC News - YouTube Music Key subscription service is unveiled
Google's YouTube is starting a subscription service that allows users to stream ad-free music videos and to download them for offline use.

The 9.99 monthly fee for Music Key also provides membership to Google Play All Access, the firm's existing "all-you-can-eat" song download facility.

It is set to pose a challenge to Spotify, Rdio, Beats Music and other audio-only "unlimited" music services.

The launch had been delayed by a dispute with independent labels.

However, Google said it had now signed deals with hundreds of indies worldwide.

That has enabled it to include tracks from artists including Billy Bragg, who had previously said YouTube was trying to "strongarm" labels into agreeing to "low rates" by threatening to block their material altogether if they did not take part.

He told the BBC his music had been included as part of an agreement signed by Merlin - which represents indie labels - but that he had not been informed about the details.

The BBC understands that the terms of the deal state that the more plays a video has, the bigger the share of the subscription pool its publisher receives.

Brad Nevin, chief executive of The Orchard group of indie labels, said he thought the deal struck was both fair and "a phenomenal opportunity".

Digital habits

Android devices will be first to be able to save clips, followed by Apple's phones and tablets, but the facility will not extend to PCs yet.

The mobile devices will also be able to continue playing music in the background when they switch to other programs.

In addition to album tracks, Music Key offers downloads of concert recordings, remixes, "unreleased" rarities and cover versions recorded by others.

YouTube describes itself as "the biggest music service on the planet", but Google Play is thought to lag far behind Spotify's 12.5 million paying subscribers.
One expert said the new offer might tempt a number to jump ship.

"If you are someone who only listens to Spotify and doesn't listen to YouTube, this won't be a good enough reason to switch," said James McQuivey, principal analyst at the Forrester Research consultancy.

"There is a certain comfort in the well-established digital habits that people already have.

"But if you - as many people do - listen to both Spotify and use YouTube for music, then this is genuinely a reason to switch, because you not only have all the unlimited music but also the ability to move from audio to video, which is a very compelling experience."

Those unwilling to pay can still access a new Music home page on YouTube's apps and web service, which:

  • Makes it easier to find and play albums from beginning to end. The album's cover is displayed for songs without a video clip
  • Can put together a playlist of all an artist's available songs
  • Provides next, previous, shuffle and repeat buttons, to help users switch between songs
  • Highlights trending songs and recommendations based on the user's previous activity