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News October 27, 2015

YouTube CEO discusses Music Key streaming service

YouTube CEO discusses Music Key streaming service

The soon-to-be-launched YouTube music streaming service Music Key will be different from Spotify, Apple and Rdio.

Speaking at Fortune's Brainstorm Tech event in Aspen, Colorado, CEO Susan Wojcicki revealed: “The music and purpose we have is different. It’s different because we have the music videos, which being able to see your favourite music artist perform a song and see what they imagine when they created that song, it’s really magical and so being able to have that… But to help with that, we have the user-generated clips of other people [covering that song].”

Wojcicki and other YouTube executives remain coy on a launch date, except to say it will be in 2015. But technically responding to consumer feedback from the beta version is the main reason, to get it right from the start with its 1 billion global viewers as music streaming soars in popularity with 164 billion songs streamed last year.

YouTube is already the largest streaming service in the US, accounting for 57% of its 135 billion streams in the first half of 2015.

"We have learned a lot of things" since launching in beta last November, Wojcicki explained. “We launched it to a set of very heavy music users. They’ve given us a lot of feedback and we’ve taken that feedback and we are readjusting it based on that feedback. We have plans to launch later this year."

The beta version, set to last until mid-September 2015 at least, showed that Music Key will allow free and paid listening of music videos, playlists and songs including a dedicated "Music" tab on YouTube for iOS, Android, and the web. Free users get access to ad-supported "endless mixes" of songs based on a listener’s song or artist choice.

With 50% of YouTube views on mobile, Wojcicki emphasised that its top three priorities are “mobile, mobile, mobile.” It’s working on issues relating to battery drain and data usage. It would also consider acquiring a company that could help reach its strategy quicker.

“A lot of our focus is on how we continue to make that better,” she said. “What are the UI experiences, what are the creation experiences, how do we make it really fast? I think mobile is changing everything and it will continue to change it more in the future.”

Wojcicki declined to answer a question on whether YouTube made $4 billion in 2014 but made no profit: “It’d make my life easier if I could talk about our financials… but (we’re seeing) really good growth of our partner revenue.”

Of rising competition from Facebook which claims 4 billion views per day in April, YouTube’s answer is it prefers to track “watchtime,” which is at hundreds of millions of hours a day.

And to ensure YouTube keeps its video stars, who have more influence on US teens than movie stars or rock musicians, “Sure, exclusivity would be nice, but I don’t think it’s necessary. YouTube is their home. It’s where they were born. They know that medium. It’s where they’re connecting with their audiences.”


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