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Why YouTube still reigns supreme as a music streaming service

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Written by: Jake Gable

Despite the current trends of streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music taking a large chunk of the market, one of the key assets any artist must learn how to master is the grandfather of all modern music streaming content: YouTube. Still ranked as the most dominant streaming platform in the music business, research from the IFPI’s global music report indicated that in 2017, the video streaming platform attracted 46% of all music streaming listening time around the world. So, why is YouTube still so popular? And how can you best master current streaming patterns when aiming music at your fanbase?

Video content

YouTube offers something that Spotify cannot compete with – video. Visual content is timeless and will always prove more aesthetically pleasing to the viewer than just a simple album artwork cover. More and more DJs and producers are creating wild in-your-face official music videos. A music video is a chance to get creative and work on those all-important marketing strategies. It also gives millions a chance to share the content, which could lead to viral success and a hugely improved exposure an artist.

In comparison, other video platforms, such as Vevo and Vimeo, were responsible for only 9% of listening hours, proving that YouTube is still firmly miles ahead as the world’s number one leader when it comes to video content.

The rush of anticipation

Perhaps one of the wisest techniques when leading up to the release of a new album, song, or live performance announcement, is to use short YouTube snippets to tease the upcoming release to fans. Not only can these snippets be easily shared via social media platforms, but they also provide a sense of anticipation to fans, and ultimately help boost sales of the final product. When EDM trio Swedish House Mafia released their ‘Leave The World Behind’ docu-movie in 2014, the weeks before the reveal of the film were spent with short promotional videos appearing online, urging fans to ‘experience’ each member of the group – a trio of videos highlighting some insightful video content that was scheduled to appear in the film.

The videos helped the trio’s fanbase to grow closer to them from a personal aspect, bringing a sense of warmth between their relationship with fans, and also boosted talk of the film’s impending release, helping to secure a lucrative payday at the box office.

Show me the money

Despite YouTube mainly being used as a free-to-stream service, it did launch the revolutionary YouTube Red. YouTube Red provides advertising-free streaming of all videos hosted by YouTube, offline play and background playback of videos on mobile devices, access to advertising-free music streaming through Google Play Music, and access to “YouTube Red Original” series and films. It has been met with a largely successful response since launching, with subscribers paying $10 per month for the privilege. With video platforms paying out $856m to artists last year, there is more money to be made for artists than first imagined via YouTube streams.

A YouTube spokesperson added: “In the last 12 months alone, YouTube has paid out over $1 billion to the music industry, just from ads and that number is growing year-over-year due to the licensing deals we have in place with the overwhelming majority of labels, publishers, and collecting societies.”

With the likes of Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group signing new global licensing deals with Universal last year, Sir Lucian Grainge, CEO & Chairman of Universal, said of the company’s renewed agreement: “This important step forward provides our recording artists and songwriters improved content flexibility and growing compensation from YouTube’s ad-supported and paid-subscription tiers, while also furthering YouTube’s commitment to manage music rights on its platform.“


What will happen in future?

YouTube has just announced that it will be taking on rivals including Apple, Spotify, and Amazon with a new subscription streaming service. The platform will launch in the US, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and South Korea before being rolled out in 14 additional countries, including the UK. Free, ad-supported accounts will be available, while the subscription tier, YouTube Music Premium, will cost $9.99 (about £7.40) a month.

Despite YouTube’s powerful position as the biggest music site in the world, with 1.3 billion users regularly watching videos, there is skepticism that it will topple the streaming music market leader, Spotify. “YouTube has done this to appease the music labels who like subscription models but it is not going to be a Spotify killer,” Mark Mulligan, an analyst at MIDiA Research, says. “YouTube is all about generating advertising; it has a strategic disincentive to make its music subscription service work because it is an ad-funded business.”The move, a bold advance into the market by YouTube, will certainly establish the site as a major player in the world of streaming, and as an artist, the best strategic action would be to take advantage of such plans now, uploading current catalogues to the site, before any chance of YouTube charging to do so in future.

Whilst many modern DJs and producers may scoff at the impact that YouTube can possess in a world dominated by Spotify, Apple Music, and new kid on the block, Tidal, YouTube possesses the power, finance, experience, and know-how in a crowded market, on what it takes to succeed. Despite the emergence of several new streaming options, it would appear that for artists, YouTube still reigns supreme.



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