Here’s one way to play catch-up in the competitive streaming music market: preinstall your app on millions of Android handsets. That’s what Google will now be doing with YouTube Music. The company announced today the app will come preinstalled on all new devices launching with Android 10, as well as Android 9, including its own Pixel series of smartphones.
The move comes at a time when the company’s music strategy is in need of change.
Since the launch of YouTube Music in November 2015, Google has operated two separate music services — the other being Google Play Music, launched in 2011. To add to the confusion, YouTube also offered a subscription tier, originally called YouTube Red and rebranded later to YouTube Premium, which would provide access to both Google Play Music and YouTube Music. Plus, Google Play’s subscribers would also receive access to YouTube Premium. Oh, and as of last May, Google also allowed you to buy YouTube Music separately, if you’d prefer.
Did you follow all that?
Okay, sure, this wasn’t as bad as Google’s bizarre messaging app strategy, but it was still a mess.
This April, Google finally confirmed that it would replace Google Play Music with YouTube Music, explaining that the closure of Google Play’s Artist Hub was a part of a broader strategy to merge the two music services.
But despite today’s news that YouTube Music is being added to the list of preinstalled apps that ship with Android, and is now the new default, the Google Play Music shutdown has not yet occurred.
Instead, the company says that Google Play Music listeners with Android 10 devices can continue to use the service by downloading the app directly from the Play Store, if desired.
And those without a new Android (9 or 10) handset can continue to seek out YouTube Music from the Play Store, if they choose.
YouTube’s streaming music service is fairly competitive (in terms of feature set) with its larger rivals, like Apple Music and Spotify. Like most in the space, it also offers the ability to discover and stream music, but in its case, this includes albums, live performances and remixes. With a paid subscription, YouTube Music users can listen ad-free and offline. It also just introduced its own version of Spotify’s Discover Weekly with the launch of its own Discover Mix.
But because YouTube Music has had to compete with Android’s built-in music app for subscribers, it’s been lagging in subscribers, compared with Spotify and Apple. This is made worse by the fact that there’s not been a way to import a Google Play Music user’s playlists and liked songs, curated over years, to YouTube Music.
YouTube Music, in May, had some 15 million subscribers. For comparison’s sake, Spotify said it had 232 million monthly active users and 108 million paying subscribers at the end of June, and Apple Music in June surpassed 60 million subscribers.
The plan to replace Google Play Music is still in the works, Google says. It just hasn’t happened yet.
“As we’ve previously announced, eventually we plan to replace Google Play Music with YouTube Music. As part of the transition, YouTube Music will replace Google Play Music and come preinstalled on new Android Q devices,” a YouTube spokesperson confirmed.