Ad blitz will make listening to music on YouTube unbearable — on purpose


YouTube Music
A for-pay YouTube music service is in development, but free users have to be convinced to switch.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Freeloaders who use YouTube as a cheap alternative to Apple Music should get ready to be annoyed. YouTube is about to intentionally irritate users who treat the video site as a jukebox by increasing ads between songs.

The goal? Driving subscriptions to an as-yet-unannounced paid YouTube music service.

YouTube is a popular way to stream songs for free, making it a competitor to Apple Music (and Spotify’s paid tier). Listening to music videos on YouTube will remain free, but the ad blitz will make it far more frustrating — by design.

“You’re not going to be happy after you are jamming ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and you get an ad right after that,” Lyor Cohen, YouTube’s global head of music, told Bloomberg.

A second source told Variety that YouTube won’t increase advertisements for everyone who listens to music — just those who use the video service to play song after song after song.

The YouTube music value gap

Apple Music and Spotify pay musicians and songwriters each time one of their songs plays. YouTube does too, but at significantly lower royalty rates than dedicated music services. The situation frustrates musicians trying to make a living in the streaming era.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry wrote last year that the biggest threat to the music industry is “the value gap, the growing mismatch between the value that user upload services, such as YouTube, extract from music, and the revenue returned to those who are creating and investing in music.”

YouTube Music

Google, YouTube’s parent company, isn’t ignoring the problem. According to Cohen, a YouTube music service is in development to compete directly with Apple Music and Spotify. He promises lots of videos, playlists and more. It’s already being used by thousands of Google employees.

Part of the rollout will be to get people to stop using regular YouTube as a music streaming service. “There’s a lot more people in our funnel that we can frustrate and seduce to become subscribers,” Cohen said.

Apple Music and Spotify are battling it out for paid subscribers, with Apple pegged to surpass its rival in the United States later this year. Only time will tell if YouTube’s music service can stand up to the competition.


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