Google hopes subscriptions will appeal more than adverts with its low-key YouTube Red music service.

Google's finally launching its answer to Apple Music, Spotify and other streaming music services - YouTube Red.

Actually, YouTube Red went live in the United States in October last year when Google took the Music Key service and bolted on a few bits and pieces.

That's okay, almost everyone missed the US launch of YouTube Red, not just you.

YouTube Red isn't just music, though. It fixes many of the problems that make the existing YouTube enervating to use, starting with the ads. They're gone in YouTube Red, but that bliss costs you $12.99 a month.


That's because Google makes money through ads, so if it can't sell you to advertisers, you'll have to take out a monthly subscription instead to pay for the service. YouTube Red puts Google's unskippable ads in context, in other words. Also, to an extent, the service is a response to the increased use of ad-blockers.

Google couldn't just take ye olde YouTube, remove the ads for paying subscribers and expect people to sign up. There's a new YouTube client for iOS that lets you turn off video when playing songs (good for battery life) and music now plays in the background and is no longer interrupted when you do something else on your phone.

Word of warning here: Google is warring with Apple over the latter taking 30 per cent of revenue from app vendors in iTunes App Store. If you subscribe to YouTube Red via an iOS App, you have to pay $15.99 a month.

Apple doesn't allow Google to warn against signing up for YouTube Red on the app's iTunes page apparently. Sign up from your desktop instead and YouTube Red will work on iOS after you've subscribed to it.

There's an offline mixtape feature as well as artificial intelligence powered recommendations in YouTube Red.

Google won't reveal how many subscribers YouTube Red has attracted since the October launch; it's unlikely to be very many, or Big G would've bragged about it for certain.

Both video and music are available for streaming, and you can download both for offline listening (forget about sharing it, though: the content goes into closed-off sandbox in the app).

The original video content is very YouTube-focused, which makes sense for Google but if you were hoping for a Netflix, HBO or similar service alternative, you'll have to wait longer.


Google was similarly coy about its song and album catalogue on YouTube Red, saying only it's about the size of its nearest competitor. That'd make it around 30 to 35 million songs, or the same as Google Play Music which is included in the YouTube Red subscription.

MySpace Music in comparison has over 50 million songs, and Soundcloud over 100 million.

There are heaps of songs and albums uploaded to YouTube without the musicians' permission, which may explain Google's reticence to boast about how many tunes are available.

I wouldn't be surprised if YouTube's automated ContentID copyright infringing content takedown system goes into overdrive as the Red subscription service becomes global.

YouTube Red does make sense for Google, though. The ad-supported YouTube has more than a billion users, Google claims, which makes it attractive for content creators.

Content creators get two bites at the apple too. Music and videos posted will appear on both the ad-supported YouTube and the Red subscription service, and the online giant promises to pay content creators "the majority of revenue from memberships".

How much that is exactly remains to be seen, as Google won't say.

In fact, given the huge number of YouTube subscribers for the ad-supported version, all the tech and global network capacity being there along with a vast amount of music, it's surprising that Google didn't cobble together Red earlier.

YouTube Red should also be relatively risk-free for Google even if the subscribers don't come rushing in, thanks to the ad-supported service's popularity. This is unlike Google Plus, the company's attempt at knocking Facebook off the board that has attracted few active users because nobody could figure out what to do with it.

Nevertheless, given how low-key Google has been in marketing YouTube Red (and the earlier Music Keys service), you have to wonder how keen the company is for it to be a hit.

This especially when you consider that Google is hugely wealthy and could have lit a fire under competitors by charging a really low loss-leading monthly subscription fee, and topping up artists' and content creators' earnings to quickly build up a catalogue.

Google is a late-comer in the streaming music market and will have to deal with subscriber inertia - few people will sign up for multiple $10 to $15 a month services, and there needs to be something special for them to switch, as most have very large catalogues. Perhaps that something will be ad-free YouTubes to go with the music?